NationNational PoliticsPolitics Now

Gov. Chris Christie's apology for a N.J. traffic jam causes new one

CommutingChris ChristiePolitics and GovernmentHudson River

FORT LEE, N.J. – Traffic is bad on a normal day in this town, a hodgepodge of single-family homes and big apartment towers on the banks of the Hudson River across a bridge from Manhattan. Small one-way streets pass by Korean groceries, banks and real estate offices, dumping traffic onto streets already packed with cars and buses.

During the September days when access ramps to the George Washington Bridge were closed because of what was revealed to be a vendetta against the popular mayor of this Democrat-leaning town, it didn’t move at all.

And traffic again came to a standstill Thursday evening, as a growing crowd of reporters, residents, and even a man dressed as a hamburger flocked to the town’s Borough Hall to await the arrival of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in town to personally apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich and the town’s residents for the  incident.

Police closed one lane on Main Street, and rush-hour traffic sat at a stand-still as cars waited to get onto – and off of – the George Washington Bridge and the maze of one-way streets leading to it.

READ: Controversial Christie staffer emails

Curious onlookers wandered over on foot and bike to see what the fuss was about, while in the banks and real estate offices nearby, employees watched from the windows, bemused by the commotion.

Nearby, a crowd of elderly men played rummy in the VFW hall, bickering over whether the scandal should be a big deal or not.

“You try to tell me the guy’s in charge and he don’t know?” said Democrat August Caccavone, 88. “If you rob a bank, are you going to say you did it?”

Some in the crowd waiting outside said they wanted to hear Christie  apologize to residents; others said they wanted to show their support for the Republican governor, who won a majority of votes in this town in November.

“I think he did the right thing in getting rid of the woman who was responsible,” said Christian Lasval, a 15-year-old Christie supporter who stood outside in the cold with his father, Julio, to catch a glimpse of Christie.

Though some people in the crowd were supporters like the Lasvals, others came to boo Christie, including a man who declined to give his name, but said he was “insulted” by Christie’s actions, and was convinced Christie knew of the lane closures before they happened. (The person dressed as a hamburger did not indicate whether he was a Christie supporter.)

Some Fort Lee residents, like Sam Gronner, are conflicted. Gronner voted for Christie in November but said he did so “holding my nose.” But unless a “smoking gun” links Christie to the closures, he thinks the governor will emerge unscathed. Whether that’s fair or not is another question, he said.

“If you’re a skeptic, this definitely has shades of – I lived through Watergate,” he said.

PHOTOS: Scenes from “Bridgegate”

When Christie arrived at Borough Hall a little after 4 p.m., he stepped out of the passenger seat of a black SUV and walked up to the building, passing barriers holding back the dozens of journalists snapping pictures and yelling out questions. There was a smattering of applause, and a few boos.

When he emerged an hour or so later, he said  that he and the mayor had a “very good, productive meeting” and that he looked forward to working with the mayor in the future. He signed a few autographs and, mobbed by cameramen, climbed back into the car. He did not publicly apologize to residents during the visit – either about the September closures, or about the traffic headache he had caused that very evening.

Twitter: @alanasemuels


2014: A year in photos

Great Read: Hoffman death brings attention to heroin

The year's top political photos

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
CommutingChris ChristiePolitics and GovernmentHudson River
  • Senators want power plants secured
    Senators want power plants secured

    WASHINGTON -- Alarmed by the shooting attack on a Silicon Valley-area power station last spring, several senators called on regulators to review security operations at electrical utilities and consider imposing new rules to protect against future attacks.

  • Obama touts, signs bipartisan farm bill in trip to Michigan
    Obama touts, signs bipartisan farm bill in trip to Michigan

    EAST LANSING, Mich. – Keen to not let a rare legislative accomplishment go unnoticed, President Obama jetted to an agricultural research hub in Michigan on Friday to sign into law a long-delayed farm bill and tout the importance of rural America to the economy.

  • Christie Texas trip highlights damage of bridge scandal
    Christie Texas trip highlights damage of bridge scandal

    For the first time in two decades, Texas is electing itself a new governor, making the contest — featuring liberal heroine Wendy Davis — one of the marquee races of this election year.

  • 2014's political moments
    2014's political moments

    Including battles between Congress and the White House, as well as over gay marriage and road closures in New Jersey, these are the moments that capture the politics of 2014.

  • EPA expected to propose stricter ozone limits
    EPA expected to propose stricter ozone limits

    After years of inaction, the Obama administration is expected to propose tougher limits on smog Wednesday, according to people with knowledge of the rule-making effort. The new rule would be a major victory for public health groups, but it is sure to further stoke the partisan clashes between...

  • Middle Easterners crossing border from Mexico? It's rare
    Middle Easterners crossing border from Mexico? It's rare

    For months, some conservative members of Congress and their allies have warned that people from the Middle East could use the Mexican border to gain illegal entry to the U.S. and pose a terrorist threat. Obama administration officials have said such a scenario is unlikely and border agents...