According to a new report from the Star-Ledger, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie helped direct $6 million in federal aid for Superstorm Sandy to a project in Belleville that long predated any damage from the storm.
The project in question is an $18 million senior center and housing complex in Belleville, supported by Belleville Mayor Raymond Kimble, and intended to ensure the town's seniors don't leave. Of the project's $18 million cost, a full third is coming from the $1.8 billion given to New Jersey by the federal government in order to repair damage wrought by Sandy.
The Star-Ledger reports Christie administration officials claiming the Belleville senior center will aid people in the surrounding area who were displaced by the storm, and was approved due to its already being far along in planning. But the Star-Ledger found that during the project's unveiling, Christie and other government officials said precious little about Sandy or Sandy-related relief.
The funds for the project were approved by the Christie administration less than two weeks before Belleville Mayor Raymond Kimble formally endorsed Christie's reelection.
The project, which had been in the works for years, was jump-started in the spring. In late April, Belleville Mayor Raymond Kimble had a breakfast meeting with Christie and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo at McLoone’s Boathouse in West Orange. It was the same restaurant where the two men, along with many other Essex County Democrats, would endorse Christie on June 11.
On May 1, when The Star-Ledger asked about the breakfast meeting, Kimble said he planned to endorse Christie and "I think the governor is going to help the town of Belleville with certain projects we need."
Kimble praised the governor at the event. "Because of Gov. Christie’s commitment, senior citizens will be able to remain in their hometown, where they belong," Kimble said.
Christie then described his direct involvement.
"When Joe and the mayor and the council came to the state, came to Commissioner Constable, came to the HMFA and said ‘can we help?’ This project was so worthy and to be honest so overdue that I felt like there was no time to wait," Christie said. "...I start calling (Department of Community Affairs Commissioner) Rich Constable and (New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency Executive Director) Anthony Marchetta every day and we get on them and things get done, and I think that’s what people expect of government now," Christie said.