Chris Christie’s deputy, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, has denied claims that they threatened to withhold disaster funds from Hoboken, a New Jersey city hit by Superstorm Sandy.
New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno told reporters the accusation was “wholly and completely false”.
Hoboken’s mayor alleges she was told her city could lose out on federal money unless she backed a real estate project favored by Governor Chris Christie.
It is the latest claim of corruption to hit the Republican governor.
Chris Christie is often tipped as the party’s top contender to take back the White House in 2016. According to some pollsters, he is one of the only Republicans who could beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, if she decided to run for president.
But communications made public earlier this month suggest Chris Christie’s senior staff orchestrated traffic gridlock in an act of political retaliation against another mayor who refused to endorse the governor’s re-election.
Separately, federal officials are investigating whether Chris Christie misused recovery funds in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to finance an advertising campaign during an election year.
Then on Saturday, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that Lt Gov Kim Guadagno had approached her in a car park in May last year and told her recovery funds would be disbursed to her city on condition she approved a property development by the New York-based Rockefeller Group.
Chris Christie’s deputy, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, has denied claims that they threatened to withhold disaster funds from Hoboken
The mayor – who has offered to take a lie-detector test or testify under oath about her claims – recalled Lt Gov Kim Guadagno saying that it was “a direct message from the governor”.
But at Monday morning’s event in Union Beach, New Jersey, Lt Gov Kim Guadagno said that as a victim herself of Superstorm Sandy she found the Hoboken mayor’s allegations “particularly offensive”.
“Mayor Zimmer’s version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined,” she said.
“Any suggestion, any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false.”
A spokesman for Chris Christie issued a statement late on Saturday denying the alleged political strong arm tactics.
Hoboken, a low-lying city across the Hudson River from New York City, was inundated with flood waters when Sandy struck in October 2012. Chris Christie’s handling of the recovery effort greatly boosted his popularity.
The city received $342,000 out of an initial $1.8 billion of federal aid distributed by the state, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said. Another rollout of funding is due to disburse $1.4 billion.
The Hoboken mayor said at the weekend that she had decided to speak out now in the hope that her city would not lose out on the second tranche of aid, and because she thought no-one would have believed her beforehand.
The Rockefeller Group has denied the claims, which relate to plans for a 40-storey office tower and commercial development in Hoboken.
One year ago, Superstorm Sandy hit the US east coast, killing at least 117 people.
Sandy was the most destructive storm in the US since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
On Monday, historical immigration landmark Ellis Island reopened for the first time since the storm flooded low-lying areas in New York City.
But many communities are still struggling to rebuild amid complaints emergency funds have failed to reach the hardest-hit.
As of August, just under a quarter of the $48 billion earmarked for rebuilding had been committed to local governments, according to Reuters news agency.
Federal officials have unveiled plans for a second round of disaster relief amounting to $5 billion for five states and New York City, and they pledged that the pace of spending would pick up after a slow start.
“In year one, we all agreed the aid flowed too slowly,” Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters.
One year ago, Superstorm Sandy hit the US east coast, killing at least 117 people
“The second year will be a lot better. The spigot is now open.”
The shorelines of New Jersey and New York still bear deep scars from Sandy, with empty lots where family and vacation homes used to stand, and businesses are closed down and boarded up.
Many owners are still battling to receive pay-outs from their insurance companies, while others are still waiting to find out whether they will receive compensation from the government for wrecked properties that are now uninhabitable.
Almost two-thirds of the people who applied for federal disaster aid have not received any, our correspondent says.
In New York City, as work repairing the last subway line to be damaged by flooding continues, transit officials were offering free subway rides on Tuesday from hard-hit areas of the Rockaways and Howard Beach.
Meanwhile, homes in Oakwood Beach, Staten Island, have been bought out under a state programme that promises to turn neighborhoods wrecked by Superstorm Sandy into perpetual green space.
Events are being held to mark the anniversary of the storm, including a state-wide prayer service in New Jersey.
At least 117 deaths have been blamed on Sandy in the US, according to officials.
Extravagant displays of 4th of July fireworks lit up the skies around the Unites States, including 19 single bursts in Arizona to remember the firefighters killed in a wildfire.
The Statue of Liberty reopened eight months after it was shuttered by Superstorm Sandy, and President Barack Obama urged citizens to live up to the words of the Declaration of Independence.
Four barges carrying 40,000 shells on the Hudson River on Thursday night unleashed a barrage of brilliant reds, whites and blues – some in shapes and smiley faces – as spectators marveled at the classic New York over-the-top fireworks display, snapping videos and pictures on their cellphones.
In Arizona, a fire chief read the names of the 19 firefighters killed last weekend battling a wildfire while 19 single fireworks burst overhead.
“Less than 100 hours ago, the city of Prescott, the state of Arizona and the nation lost 19 of the best, the bravest firefighters ever dispatched into the forest,” fire department division chief Don Devendorf said.
The commemorative starbursts were followed by a raucous 20-minute display choreographed to patriotic pop songs, which drew cheering, grins and shouts of “America!”
In California, at least 14 people were injured by malfunctioning fireworks at a large community park in Simi Valley. Officials say more than a dozen people were taken to area hospitals with minor to moderate injuries. No other details were immediately available.
Earlier Thursday, hundreds lined up to be among the first to board boats destined for Lady Liberty.
Nationwide, Boston hosted its first large gathering since the marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds, and Philadelphia, Washington and New Orleans hosted large holiday concerts. A Civil War reenactment commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg drew as many as 40,000 people to Pennsylvania. In Arizona, sober tributes were planned for 19 firefighters who died this week battling a blaze near Yarnell.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, speaking at the reopening of the Statue of Liberty, choked up as she told the crowd she was wearing a purple ribbon in memory of the fallen firefighters.
“Nineteen firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty, and we as a nation stand together,” Sally Jewell said through tears.
Fourth of July has been celebrated with fireworks, parades and parties
The island was decorated with star-spangled bunting, but portions remain blocked off with large construction equipment, and the main ferry dock was boarded up. Repairs to brick walkways and docks were ongoing. But much of the work has been completed since Sandy swamped the 12-acre island in New York Harbor, and visitors were impressed.
The statue itself was unharmed, but the land took a beating. Railings broke, docks and paving stones were torn up and buildings were flooded. The storm destroyed electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers. Hundreds of National Park Service workers from as far away as California and Alaska spent weeks cleaning mud and debris.
“It is one of the most enduring icons of America, and we pulled it off – it’s open today,” National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said. “Welcome.”
The statue was open for a single day last year – October 28, the day before Superstorm Sandy struck. It had been closed the previous year for security upgrades. Neighboring Ellis Island remains closed and there has been no reopening date set.
Elsewhere in New York, throngs of revelers packed Brooklyn’s Coney Island to see competitive eating champ Joey Chestnut scarf down 69 hot dogs to break a world record and win the title for a seventh year at the 98th annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Sonya Thomas defended her title with nearly 37 dogs.
In his weekly radio address from Washington, Obama urged Americans to work to secure liberty and opportunity for their own children and future generations. The first family was to host U.S. servicemen and women at the White House for a cookout.
Atlanta and Alaska planned holiday runs – thousands were racing up a 3,022-foot peak in Seward. In New Orleans, the Essence Festival celebrating black culture and music kicked off along the riverfront.
The celebratory mood turned somber in Oklahoma and Maine with fatal accidents during parades. In Edmond, Oklahoma, a boy died after being run over by a float near the end of the town’s LibertyFest parade. In Bangor, Maine, the driver of a tractor in the parade was killed after the vehicle was struck by an old fire truck.
In Boston, attendance for the city’s celebration appeared to be down early, but increased as the start of the festivities approached. Crowds on the Charles River Esplanade seeming smaller than in recent years, while a robust law enforcement presence greeted revelers gathering for a performance by the Boston Pops and a fireworks display.
Among those at Boston’s festivities was Carlos Arredondo, the cowboy hat-wearing marathon attendee who became part of one of the indelible images of the bombings’ aftermath: helping rush a badly wounded man from the scene in a wheelchair, his legs torn to pieces.
Carlos Arredondo said the July 4 celebration – an event authorities believe the bombing suspects initially planned to target – is an important milestone in the healing process, not just for him but also those who were stopping to tell him their own stories of that day.
“I think there’s no better place to be,” said Carlos Arredondo, wearing his cowboy hat and a “Boston Strong” shirt in the marathon’s blue and yellow colors.
Not everyone was welcoming the masses – Hermosa Beach, California, was ramping up police patrols after years of drunken and raucous behavior from revelers. Hartford, Connecticut, postponed fireworks because the Connecticut River was too high.
Nationwide, anti-surveillance protests cropped up in a number of cities on Independence Day with activists speaking out against recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been secretly logging people’s phone calls and Internet activity. In Philadelphia, more than 100 people marched downtown to voice their displeasure, chanting, “NSA, go away!”
But in Union Beach, New Jersey, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, residents had something to celebrate. The working-class town won a party and fireworks contest from the television station Destination America and USA Weekend magazine.
The Statue of Liberty, shut last year after Superstorm Sandy, has reopened to the public on Independence Day.
Crowds are flocking once again to see the New York monument, which was swamped by tidal surges during post-tropical cyclone Sandy in October.
Events are also being held in Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Philadelphia and New Orleans to mark the US holiday.
Security precautions will be tight at major parades and fireworks displays.
The 151-ft Statue of Liberty reopened on Thursday morning at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by New York’s mayor.
Most of Liberty Island, the attraction’s home off lower Manhattan, was deluged by last autumn’s powerful storm.
Although the 127-year-old Lady Liberty herself was unscathed, there was widespread damage to her 12-acre site.
Railings, docks and paving stones were smashed, while electrical systems, sewerage and boilers were wrecked.
Hundreds of National Park Service workers have been cleaning up the mud and debris, with some repairs still under way.
The neighboring Ellis Island, once the nation’s busiest gateway and home to a famous immigration museum, suffered far worse in the storm and remains closed.
The damage to both islands has been estimated at $59 million.
The Statue of Liberty, shut last year after Superstorm Sandy, has reopened to the public on Independence Day
“This to us, Liberty Island, is really about a rebirth,” Heather Leykam, who came to see the statue with her husband and three children from their home in Brooklyn, told the Associated Press news agency.
“It is a sense of renewal for the city and the country.”
New York City will later stage its annual fireworks display over the Hudson River with live performances by Taylor Swift and others.
At nearby Coney Island in Brooklyn, hungry competitors gathered for the annual Nathan’s Famous hotdog-eating contest.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut devoured 69 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes to beat his own world record, successfully defending his title for the seventh time.
The women’s event was won by Sonya Thomas, who scoffed nearly 37 hotdogs and buns in the same time.
Across the country, star-spangled bunting will be rolled out for celebrations, picnics and barbecues.
Boston is to stage its first major public gathering since the deadly bombings at the city’s marathon on April 15. Law enforcement officials have said those blasts were originally intended for 4th of July.
A US national security official told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that intelligence agencies were unaware of any plot timed to coincide with the holiday.
Police will use hand-held chemical detectors, radiation scanners and camera surveillance to screen crowds at some of Thursday’s events.
In Washington, a 17-minute fireworks display will take place on the National Mall with live music by Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond.
Independence Day commemorates the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 from Great Britain during the war of the American Revolution.
The US Congress has passed an emergency aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, days after an outcry over a delay in approval.
The $9.7 billion bill will prevent a flood insurance fund from running out of money by next week.
House Speaker John Boehner agreed to hold two votes on a total $60 billion request, after politicians from the hardest-hit areas spoke out.
The October storm flooded East Coast areas and killed at least 120 people.
It was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.
Politicians from New York and New Jersey, the areas hardest-hit by Sandy, had complained that it took just 10 days for Congress to approve $50 billion in aid after Katrina.
More than 60 days have passed since Sandy made landfall on the US eastern seaboard.
Lawmakers remained angered by the delay even during debate on Friday.
“How dare you come to this floor and make people think everything is okay?” New Jersey Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell demanded of Republicans skeptical of the bill.
The House passed the measure by a 354 to 67 vote, while the US Senate approved it on Friday afternoon by unanimous consent.
The US Congress has passed an emergency aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, days after an outcry over a delay in approval
“While we are pleased with this progress, today was just a down payment and it is now time to go even further and pass the final and more complete, clean disaster aid bill,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a joint statement.
Superstorm victims have filed about 140,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims, but many have not been fully paid out, US emergency officials have said.
“People are waiting to be paid,” Representative Frank LoBiondo, whose district includes Atlantic City and other coastal communities, said.
“They’re sleeping in rented rooms on cots somewhere, and they’re not happy. They want to get their lives back on track, and it’s cold outside. They see no prospect of relief.”
Republican Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who ultimately voted for the bill, said Sandy-related claims with the National Flood Insurance Program “need to be paid, and paid now”.
But Jeb Hensarling said the government programme was “beyond broke” and called for a bill to “transition to a private innovative, competitive, sustainable flood insurance market”.
Congress created the federal flood insurance programme in 1968 because few private insurers cover flood damage.
The vote came after John Boehner endured pointed criticism from both Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday for House leaders’ announcement the body would hold no further votes before the new Congress was sworn in.
The Senate passed a $60 billion package last week, but with the congressional term expiring on Wednesday, any Sandy-related aid legislation needed to be reintroduced.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was particularly outspoken. He said he had been repeatedly assured that the Sandy aid package would come to a vote before Thursday.
“There is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they tell me,” Chris Christie said on Tuesday, adding Congress had shown “callous indifference” towards his state.
After John Boehner met with New York and New Jersey lawmakers on Wednesday, Congressman Peter King announced a two-part vote had been agreed.
A second vote on the rest of the Sandy aid package, including longer-term projects, will be held on January 15.
Superstorm Sandy hit the New Jersey shore town of Mantoloking hard – 60 homes were demolished when waves crashed over the sand dunes and swept into the small community.
The water washed away the road leading to Ed Wright’s house and pummeled ten of his neighbors’ homes in a 200-foot radius.
But Ed Wright’s house endured. It was the only house in his immediate neighborhood left standing by the ferocious storm and it sustained only minor damage.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger calls Ed Wright’s house “the Mantoloking Miracle” – but closer examination reveals that the house remains standing because Ed Wright took special care when building it and used design features meant to withstand a hurricane.
Now, FEMA and the town of Mantoloking are studying the home and could make some elements of its construction mandatory for all new houses that are built in the beach community.
“The goal is to construct things that will stay around awhile,” Ed Wright told the Star-Ledger, “and hopefully outlive you”.
Unlike his neighbors, Ed Wright elevated his home and built it on top of 34 treated pine pylons that were driven 20 feet into the sand. The first inhabited floor is eight feet above the beach.
And the walls in the ground floor, used as a garage and for storage, were made to collapse easily under the force of waves – saving the rest of the home.
Ed Wright’s house was surrounded on all sides by water after Superstorm Sandy breached the protective sand dunes in his community
Even the roof is designed with a hurricane in mind – long and sloping it faces north to ‘shoulder the prevailing win,’ the Star-Ledger reports.
When the storm came, the home did exactly what is was supposed to.
The walls on the ground floor gave way and allowed the water to wash around the pilings – leaving the living spaces of the house mostly untouched.
While his neighbors’ homes were swept off their foundations or blasted to splinters by the water from the storm, which hit the New Jersey coast on October 29.
Most of Ed Wright’s neighbors had only a small crawlspace beneath their houses, which provided no protection against the force of water.
While his neighbors lost everything, Inside Ed Wright’s house it barely looked as though a storm had ever hit.
The refrigerator was ruined by water and a few floorboards were damp. Houseplants had been toppled over and a few pictures were knocked off the wall. Otherwise – the living space was untouched.
“It was all in one piece, like we had just gone to eat, as if we had just gone out,” Ed Wright said.
As the East Coast is still reeling from the devastation brought on by Superstorm Sandy forecasters are already warning of a powerful new nor’easter storm front coming in from the Atlantic, bringing 45 mph gusts of wind mixed with snow and rain.
The beleaguered coast line is expected to face the storm from Tuesday to Thursday – potentially casting a shadow over Election Day.
At least New York City and the surrounding area may escape a beating, as forecasters expect most of the severe weather will hit northern New England – meaning it should land hundreds of miles north from where Sandy reached the continent.
However, New York and New Jersey can expect frigid winds and rain as hundreds of thousands remain without power and homeless.
A nor’easter is a powerful storm that thrives on cold air. Severe nor’easters can bring hurricane-force winds and blizzards.
AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist Henry Margusity said: “For millions of people still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, this is not welcome news.
“Thousands are projected to still be in the dark on Election Day, following Sandy’s impact.
“The weather pattern remains volatile for another storm to form on the East Coast, but nothing like Sandy. A storm that would be more normal for early November.”
Meanwhile, NBC News meteorologist Al Roker said: “This is just what we don’t need.
“You look at those winds coming counterclockwise, bringing in with it the potential for one to two more inches of rain, wind gusts of 45 miles per hour and wet snow inland just along the New York/New Jersey border. We’re talking about wet snow mixing in.
“The problem with this, with these winds of 45 miles per hour and already compromised beaches along New Jersey and Long Island waves of any consequence could cause big problems.”
He added: “It’s just a matter of how strong this system is going to be.”
East Coast line is expected to face a nor’easter winter storm from Tuesday to Thursday, potentially casting a shadow over Election Day
The European Centre Medium Range Forecast predicted the storm will form off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina on Tuesday.
EURO detected Hurricane Sandy and predicted its devastating landfall 8 days before it hit.
By Wednesday, the storm is expected to hook into southern New England.
Forecasters said that the storm will have nowhere near the strength of Sandy and the winds will likely not be powerful enough to be damaging.
However, the storm will bring more rain and bad weather to a region that has not even begun to recover from Monday’s onslaught.
“Snowfall would be confined to northern New England. Also, this system will not be anywhere as impactful as Sandy,” Tom Niziol, the winter weather expert for Weather.com, wrote.
Forecasters still don’t know the exact impact or path of the storm, and cautioned that it could hit other parts of the coast – potentially even New York.
Consolidated Edison, which handles New York City and the Hudson Valley, still has 650,000 customers without power – and said many of them won’t have electricity restored for another ten days.
Two of New Jersey’s largest utility companies reported more than 2million customers still in the dark.
What is a nor’easter?
The nor’easter is a winter storm conceived by the meeting of cold arctic air with the warmer ocean air from the Gulf Stream.
The storms usually develop from a low-pressure system in the south, typically in the Gulf of Mexico, and then pushed upward.
They often cause severe flooding along coastlines, erosion, and blizzard conditions – but just as dangerous is the bitter Arctic air that gets dragged along by the weather system.
They storms can come at any time of year, but are mainly seen in winter, where the conflicting wind conditions can quickly spiral into a hurricane.
Nor’easters usually bring massive amounts of precipitation, high winds and large waves and with a full moon, when tides are at their highest, the storm surge could reach as high as 6 to 11 feet.
“The total is greater than the sum of the individual parts,” said Louis Uccellini, the environmental prediction chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologists about the dramatic weather.
New York City looks like the set of a disaster movie this morning after a night of being battered by Superstorm Sandy.
It hit the mainland at 6:30 p.m. local time last night having laid waste to large parts of the coast during the day. The US city shut its mass transit system, schools, the stock exchange and Broadway, and ordered hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to leave home to get out of the way as Sandy zeroed in.
A 13 ft wall of water caused by the storm surge and high tides resulted in severe flooding to subways and road tunnels. Torrents of water poured into building works at Ground Zero, cars were swept down streets and power was cut across lower Manhattan in a bid to minimize damage to infrastructure.
Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to at least 6.2 million people across the US East, and large sections of Manhattan were plunged into darkness by the storm, with 250,000 customers without power as water pressed into the island from three sides, flooding rail yards, subway tracks, tunnels and roads.
New York City’s 911 dispatchers were receiving 20,000 calls per hour. An extraordinary 24 hours saw what was originally classed as a hurricane close in and converge with a cold-weather system that turned it into a superstorm – a monstrous hybrid consisting not only of rain and high wind, but also snow.
Cars were swept down streets and power was cut across lower Manhattan in a bid to minimize damage to infrastructure
Hurricane Sandy smacked the boarded-up big cities of the Northeast corridor, from Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York and Boston, with stinging rain and gusts of 85 mph. Sixteen deaths were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
Seven New York City subway tunnels were flooded by the morning. At least five deaths were reported in New York. Some of the victims were killed by falling trees and at least one death was blamed on the storm in Canada
Storm damage was projected at up to $18 million, meaning it could be one of the costliest natural disasters in US history. Nineteen workers were trapped inside a Consolidated Edison power station in east Manhattan by rising floodwaters, with a rescue worker saying it had suffered an explosion inside.