The Mercury News

Witness: N.J., N.Y. governors agreed on bridge report

- By David Voreacos

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on a plan to issue a report that falsely blamed a communicat­ions failure at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for politicall­y motivated lane closings that tied up traffic near the George Washington Bridge in 2013, according to testimony in a New Jersey trial.

Cuomo agreed to back the fake report because he didn’t want the gridlock at the bridge to escalate into a problem for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also approved the plan, according to testimony from David Wildstein, a government witness at the trial of two of Christie’s former allies.

Wildstein pleaded guilty to participat­ing in a plot to create gridlock near the bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not backing Christie’s reelection. He said he was told in October 2013 the governors agreed that the report by the Port Authority, a bistate agency that runs the bridge, wouldn’t cite the true reason.

He said he was told that “if a report was issued that the Jersey side would take responsibi­lity for it, that would put an end to this.” Christie, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, appoint the top people at the powerful agency, which is often riven by political rivalries between the states.

Wildstein said he learned about the conversati­on between the two governors from former Port Authority Chairman David Samson, who pleaded guilty in a separate corruption case. But it wasn’t clear from Wildstein’s testimony how much, if anything, Cuomo knew about the real reason for the lane closings.

“The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: it was our executive director who blew the whistle,” said John Kelly, a Cuomo spokesman. “To be clear, no such conversati­on between the governors happened. In fact no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted Bridgegate architect thought or dreamt about New York’s involvemen­t has no basis in fact.

“Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it’s just false and delusional,” Kelly said.

Patrick Foye, the Port Authority executive director and a Cuomo appointee, ended the lane closings on the fifth morning in September 2013, saying they were a threat to public safety and illegal.

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