Mayor Mark Sokolich made it pretty clear on Wednesday that he wasn’t interested in having Chris Christie visit Fort Lee, but apparently the governor hadn’t gotten the apologizing out of his system even after a two-hour press conference. Sokolich said Christie “respectfully insisted” on a meeting, so on Thursday afternoon, the governor drove up to Borough Hall in Fort Lee for a private chat with the mayor who was allegedly the target of his aides’ traffic retribution. And according to the New York Times, Christie’s apology tour caused another round of traffic jams in the borough. “I find it ironic that the governor chose the height of rush hour to do this,” said Fort Lee resident Sam Gronner, who was delayed on a supermarket run.
Christie and Sokolich talked for about 40 minutes, and both described the meeting as “productive.” Sokolich said he was glad the governor came, and accepted his apology – though he was more interested in a promise that there would be no further retribution against Fort Lee. “We were unconditionally, unequivocally provided with that assurance,” he said.
The two even shared a light moment, when Sokolich asked, “am I now on your radar?” in reference to Christie’s previous claim that the couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. “The governor chuckled and said, ‘Fort Lee now gets its own radar screen,’” Sokolich recalled.
Some cheered as Christie made his way from his motorcade into the building, but other residents definitely aren’t ready to forgive him. On Thursday, six Bergen County residents filed a federal lawsuit, which they hope will be granted class action status, against Christie and several aides. The commuters say they were “trapped on local roads” during the four-day lane closure in September, and were late or had to miss work. Some say they lost pay, and one claims she suffered a panic attack. “She was surrounded by other cars and there was nowhere to go. She had to get out of the car to throw up,” their lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, told the Post, adding, “It caused a lot of harm to a lot of people.”
This is the first civil suit filed over the closures, and it should not be confused with the state legislature’s inquiry, the Port Authority inspector general review, or the new federal probe. At least the family of the 91-year-old woman who died during the traffic jam isn’t mad.