New Christie questions emerge: Why a last-minute revision to Sandy project’s press release?

County official confirms to Salon that Sandy-related promise was spiked from Belleville senior center press release

Topics: Chris Christie, Belleville, Scandal, Essex, Housing, Star-Ledger, Governor, Franklin Development Group, , , , ,

New Christie questions emerge: Why a last-minute revision to Sandy project's press release?Chris Christie (Credit: Reuters/Andrew Kelly)

A promise that “a portion of the units will be available” to Sandy-affected seniors was removed from a press release announcing a newly controversial Belleville, N.J. senior center project, a county official confirmed to Salon.

A prior version of the May 29 project press release – still posted on the developer’s website – stated that, “As an added benefit, a portion of the units will be available to assist senior citizens affected by Hurricane Sandy.” In the final version, posted on the website of Essex County, that sentence – the only one mentioning the hurricane — has been replaced with a different one: “Since the project is located in one of the nine counties most impacted by Sandy, the project may assist senior citizens affected by the storm.”

The Belleville senior center has brought a new wave of scrutiny to the Christie administration — which already faced investigations over apparently retaliatory lane closures and allegedly tying Sandy cash to a development project – since a Jan. 28 Star-Ledger story. The paper wrote that Christie “helped channel $6 million in federal Hurricane Sandy recovery dollars” to building the senior center – providing a third of the project’s budget — even though the town “was not particularly hard hit.” Reporter Matt Friedman noted that “statements from the governor and officials from Essex County and Belleville at the project’s unveiling barely mentioned storm recovery, focusing almost exclusively on how the 137-unit housing project would help keep Belleville’s seniors in town.”

Belleville Mayor Raymond Kimble and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo endorsed Christie at an event 13 days after the May 29 unveiling. “It’s incredible,” Fair Share Housing Center attorney Adam Gordon told Salon, that “getting projects done for political reasons extended to how Sandy funds are spent.”

Essex County Public Information Officer Anthony Puglisi described the differently worded press release on the developer’s site as “an earlier version.” Asked why the prior language had been removed, he told Salon, “It was just changed, that’s all. Just different language. It says the same thing.” But, asked whether there was anything in the previously drafted sentence that was not true, Puglisi said, “You’d need to talk to the developers regarding the funding sources, the other fundraising sources that they received.” Representatives of Franklin Development Group, the Mayor of Belleville and Governor Christie did not respond to Thursday requests for comment.

Asked about the meaning of the original, drafted-and-deleted sentence in the release for that May 29 event, Essex County’s Puglisi told Salon it had meant “if you’re a victim of Hurricane Sandy, you can apply to reside there once the building is done.” Asked whether anything about the project would involve any particular preference towards or attention to those affected by Sandy, Puglisi repeatedly referred such questions to the developer, and noted that the funds provided by Essex County came from a fund devoted to creating affordable housing. Asked who had made the decision to change the line stating that “a portion of the units will be available” to Sandy-affected seniors, Puglisi told Salon, “Press releases go through heavy editing processes, so it was just changed as a matter of course.”

“It’s a reasonable question to know who edited that and why,” argued Fair Share’s Gordon. “It’s as if someone felt that even, you know, a mild mention of having some benefits to people impacted by Sandy was too much.” He charged that it was “not an accident” that Christie made no mention of Sandy in his speech at the unveiling or his quote in the day’s press release. “Someone probably told him, politically, that there were a lot of people in the town who didn’t want anybody else moving there,” said Gordon. Christie told those assembled at the unveiling, “you shouldn’t have to leave the place where you raised your children and lived your lives in order to be able to have affordable housing for yourself as you get older.”

The “impression he gave to people in Belleville,” argued Gordon, was “that in fact this is something that’s just for Belleville.” He noted that the Sandy-impacted area closest to Belleville was the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark, “a very diverse community” from which he suggested some Belleville residents may have been particularly averse to welcoming an influx of Sandy-spurred newcomers.

Some local press stories published soon after the project’s unveiling suggest misgivings in Belleville about outsiders’ use of the senior center. County Executive DiVincenzo told the local Observer that although “the priority is going to be for [accepting] Belleville seniors, when you take money from various levels of government, you can’t stop people from outside Belleville from coming in and using the facility [if eligible].” The same month, Belleville resident Eleanor Strollo told the Belleville Times, “Many residents are fearful ‘our own’ will be neglected in being accommodated and that ‘others’ will take precedence. The governor made it clear that wouldn’t be the case, but it does remain to be seen.”

“Every time that we hear things like, you know, ‘this isn’t for people from this town,’” said Gordon, “in New Jersey, that usually has a racial undercurrent.” Gordon added that it would be “really wrong” to direct Sandy-focused funds to comparatively unscathed Belleville, and then take “pains to avoid mentioning” any way the facility could support people from harder-hit, more-diverse areas. “I think it’s really troubling,” Gordon told Salon, that “Christie used federal funds – and federal disaster relief funds – to play into that dynamic.” Asked by a FiOS1 News reporter at the groundbreaking why the senior center project, conceived years earlier, was finally getting off the ground, Mayor Kimble answered, “I think because of our rapport with the governor, and the county exec.”

As Salon has reported, Fair Share Housing Center is also among the groups questioning the Christie administration over data – obtained through a lawsuit – showing stark racial disparities in approvals and rejections of Sandy aid applications from New Jersey residents. “For a governor who says he governs with ‘the spirit of Sandy,’” Gordon told Salon, “he governs with the spirit of Sandy when it helps him politically.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...