Three months into the Bridgegate scandal, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked about it for the first time. “I don’t know anything more than basically what has been in the newspaper, because it was basically a New Jersey issue,” Cuomo said. He was talking about a disruptive traffic jam that had engulfed the bi-state agency he runs with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
But newly-released records stemming from a WNYC freedom of information request show Cuomo and his top aides responding instantly and far more intensely to the abrupt lane closures on the George Washington Bridge than had previously been known.
The records show Cuomo’s right-hand man immediately applauding the reversal of the lane closures on the world’s busiest bridge, frequent consultations on communications strategy between Albany and top New York appointees at the Port Authority, and Cuomo himself getting on the phone to discuss the response as the scandal got hotter.
“It was exactly what should be done,” a Cuomo spokesman said about the newly-released details of the administration’s response. The spokesman added that the governor’s office “was asking the agency to brief them on the facts.”
To be sure, there’s nothing particularly startling about a governor and his top aides frequently consulting with the leaders of a multi-billion dollar authority about a burgeoning scandal.
But the record of email and phone traffic on the New York side paints a different picture from what the two governors have led the public to believe about high-level response to the lane closures.
And it contrasts sharply with Christie’s claim that he was unaware and uninterested.
“My goodness, no,” Christie’s spokesman said early on. “The governor of the state of New Jersey does not involve himself in traffic studies.”
Five top-level officials from Trenton, Albany and the Port Authority have told WNYC that Christie’s nonchalant response was baffling. One described it as “consciously oblivious.”
What also has become more apparent are the gaps in the record on the New Jersey side.