After days of rampant speculation about why Gov. Chris Christie's top staffers -- many of whom have quit or been fired -- ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee, NJ, Fred Sokolich said he is still unsure why Fort Lee was the target.
Fred Sokolich is a real estate broker in Fort Lee. He is also the brother of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who is a real estate attorney. The brothers are close and work together in the same office building. But even now they do not have a concrete reason for why the four-day lane closure was ordered. Fred Sokolich disputes theories that say judicial nominations and confirmations were the cause, just as he disputes that the Hudson Lights development project was the cause for retribution.
"My suspicion is that it's because my brother did not endorse the governor in the election, and I don't know why the development project would be part of the deal. That piece of land has been dormant for 40 years. It's been through much litigation, many changes of ownership but now it's up and going with two 50-story buildings going up. Who wouldn't want to see that project move along? It's going to bring a renaissance to Fort Lee with shops and restaurants and a hotel,'' Fred Sokolich said.
The theory about sabotage to the real estate development on the 16-acre Hudson Lights lot at the foot of the GW Bridge was brought to light this weekend. Steve Kornacki of MSNBC advanced the idea of potential sabotage to the access lanes in Fort Lee. The billion-dollar project, whose financing was being wrapped up at the same time as the Sept. 9-12 lane closure mess was playing out, depends on access lanes in the city of Fort Lee that feed directly to the bridge.
But Fred Sokolich said that while access lanes in Fort Lee are important to the developers of the site, it's wrong to consider those lanes specifically designated to Fort Lee.
"That's a misnomer. Those lanes serve people from 40, 50 or 60 towns nearby that all feed through Fort Lee through main arteries. The percentage of drivers from Fort Lee that use those lanes is like 2.5 percent. People are coming from many other towns to use those lanes,'' he said.
Sokolich and his mayor brother have discussed the scandal numerous times, he said, but Fred said they're no closer to understanding the real reason why Fort Lee was targeted.
"It's going to come out. We'll know soon enough. There are too many eyeballs, too many people looking into this now. There are investigations being run, including one now by the Department of Transportation. There is no logical explanation for why it happened, but the truth will come out. The truth will set you free,'' Sokolich said.
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.