TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey's top official at the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey attempted to stop the agency's executive
director from ending closures of lanes that accessed the George
Washington Bridge, according to documents released Friday.
DOCUMENTS: Exhibit B | Exhibit C | Exhibit D
MORE: Exhibit E | Exhibit F | Exhibit G
ALL: The collection from the N.J. Legislature
Executive Director Patrick Foye - in a fuming Sept. 13 e-mail to
several authority staffers including then Deputy Director Bill Baroni
and Authority Chairman David Samson - complained about the lane
closures, calling the decision "troubling" and saying he believed the
action may have violated the law.
"I am appalled by the lack of
process, failure to inform our customers and Fort Lee and most of all by
the dangers created to public interest, so I am reversing this decision
now effective as soon as TBT and PAPD tell me it is safe to do so
today," Foye wrote.
The closures to the bridge that spans the
Hudson River between New Jersey and New York created traffic nightmares
for four days in early September, including the first day of school.
hasty and ill-advised decision has resulted in delays to emergency
vehicles," Foye wrote. "I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a
hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed. ... I believe this hasty and
ill-advised decision violates Federal Law and the laws of both States."
Foye also warned that he would pursue the matter aggressively.
be clear, I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which
violates everything this agency stands for; I intend to learn how PA
process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged to say
nothing of the credibility of this agency," he wrote.
minutes after Foye's 7:44 a.m. e-mail, the bridge's general manager,
Robert Durando, replied: "We have restored the 3 toll lanes to Ft. Lee."
But Baroni, then New Jersey's top official at the authority, balked at Foye's decision.
"Pat we need to discuss prior to any communications," Baroni wrote to
Foye at 8:40 a.m. just after Foye asked, "How do we get the word out?"
on reopening of the access lanes.
"Bill we are going to fix this fiasco," Foye replied at 8:55 a.m.
am on way to office to discuss. There can be no public discourse,"
Baroni wrote at 9:03 a.m. Baroni has resigned from the authority.
Those e-mails were among a 2,000-page trove of documents made public by the New Jersey General Assembly panel investigating the controversial closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
obtained the collection of e-mails and text messages under a subpoena
issued to David Wildstein, a former Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey executive and a central figure in the decision to close down the
Hundreds of other new documents were obtained from additional authority officials.
Jersey Rep. John Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly Transportation
Committee, said the documents "raise many more questions. It's obvious
that senior members of the governor's staff were involved in spin
control once this story broke."
The Port Authority's chairman battled with its executive director over the lane closures.
expressed anger at Foye in a series of e-mails to Scott Rechler, vice
chairman of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners, accusing Foye of
leaking information about the lane closures to the Wall Street Journal.
"I am told the ED leaked to the WSJ his
story about Fort Lee issues - very unfortunate for NY/NJ relations,"
Samson wrote to Rechler at 8:02 p.m. Sept. 17. New York Gov. Andrew
Cuomo appointed Foye to his position.
Rechler disputed Samson's accusation and said he did not think Foye was responsible for the Journal story.
"After my initial calls I don't think this is correct," Rechler said. "I also called Baroni who didn't think this was the case."
Samson insisted Foye was the source of the leak, and in an early
morning e-mail sent to Rechler on Sept. 18, he said Foye "made a big
"Scott: I just read it and it confirms evidence of Foye's being the
leak, stirring up trouble - this is yet another example of a story,
we've seen it before, where he distances himself from an issue in the
press and rides in on a white horse to save the day (if you need prior
examples I will provide) - in this case, he's playing in traffic, made a
As public pressure and media scrutiny mounted after
the September traffic jams, an e-mail to Wildstein indicated a push for
improving spin on the incident.
"Has any thought been giving to
writing an op-ed or providing a statement about the GWB study? Or is the
plan just to hunker down and grit our way through it,'' Philippe
Danielides, senior adviser to the port authority's chairman, wrote to
Another e-mail from Danielides to Wildstein underscored
tension between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's appointees and those
working on behalf of Cuomo, including Foye.
Foye was accused of ratting out the New Jersey side when he wrote a memo about the Fort Lee traffic tie-ups.
memo is strikingly over the top, no doubt he wrote it with the
expectation that it would reach the public eye,'' Danielides said in
e-mail to Wildstein.
In other e-mails, Port Authority Police Capt.
Darcy Licorish explained Sept. 6 and 13 that the bridge's general
manager had said Sept. 6 that a new traffic pattern would be in place
starting Monday. The manager was not able to say that day if the change
would be permanent or temporary and also couldn't say if Fort Lee had
The first of those e-mails noted that Wildstein was
scheduled to visit Sept. 9, the Monday the lanes closed; Assistant
Chief Gloria Frank wrote back, in part, "I will keep you updated with
any information regarding his visit."
The Monday traffic delays
were compounded because of an accident on the Cross Bronx Expressway in
New York, Licorish said. Tuesday's delays were also "severe."
were used at one intersection during the evening rush to help deal with
the traffic. The traffic continued until the original pattern was
reinstated Sept. 13, a Friday. Licorish said in an 8:11 a.m. Sept. 13
e-mail that Durando had just said he been instructed to reverse the lane
The likelihood of traffic problems was discussed within the Port Authority police in e-mails Sept. 8 before the closure.
Thomas Michaels of the George Washington Bridge Command asks Licorish
if a new traffic pattern will start Monday, is told yes, then asks,
"Will this affect our normal rush hour operation?"
Licorish wrote back: "Most likely. Concerns were made to no aval (sic) locally."
In an e-mail at 11:25 a.m. Sept. 10, Durando says: "Just got off the
phone with DW. He'd like to continue the test of (toll lane_ 24 through
tomorrow." DW is likely David Wildstein.
Wisniewski, the Assembly Transportation Committee chairman, said the documents raise new questions.
much of the full picture was the governor's senior staff given
regarding the development of this lane-closure project? With the tight
control this administration maintains, it doesn't stretch the
imagination that they were given more information than they let on,"
Wisniewski said. "When they were preparing spin control, how could they
not have been given the whole story?''
Wednesday's release of a
first batch of documents revealed that a chief aide to Christie knew
about the lane closings before they occurred and the massive traffic
jams the action was causing during the workweek.
e-mails, also subpoenaed from the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey, indicated a political motive to the lane closures.
governor announced two firings Thursday: Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy
chief of staff whose e-mails confirmed her involvement, and campaign
manager Bill Stepien, whose response to e-mails about the closings
contained disparaging remarks about the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., whose
community is on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge.
a former port authority executive who exchanged e-mails with Kelly and
was central to the decision to close the lanes, was scheduled to testify
before an Assembly committee Thursday, but he pleaded the Fifth
Amendment, refused to answer any questions and was found in contempt.
Contributing: Michael Symons, John Schoonejongen, Jean Mikle and Todd Bates, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
Players in Christie bridge scandal:
• William E. "Bill" Baroni Jr., deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey until last month.
• Philippe Danielides, senior advisor to the Port Authority's chairman, David Samson
• Robert Durando, George Washington Bridge general manager
• Patrick J. Foye, Port Authority executive director
• Bridget Anne Kelly, Gov.
Chris Christie's deputy chief of staff for legislative and
intergovernmental affairs from April to Thursday when she was fired
• Darcy Licorish, Port Authority Police captain
• Scott Rechler, vice chairman of the Port Authority's Board of Commissioners
• David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners
• Mark J. Sokolich, mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., a Democrat who did not endorse Christie's re-election bid
• David M. Wildstein, the Port Authority's director of interstate capital projects until last month
Bob Jordan, Asbury Park Press