15 Sep 2014
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Fort Lee Mayor: I Accept Christie's Apology

'I take him for his word,' Mayor Mark Sokolich said after accepting governor's in-person apology late Thursday afternoon.

Fort Lee Mayor: I Accept Christie's Apology

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich accepted Gov. Chris Christie's  apology for punitive lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, but he also said Thursday afternoon that he believes the governor had no role in the closures.

"The most important concern that we had was that this never, ever happens again in the future. We were unconditionally and unequivocally given that assurance," Sokolich said after a closed meeting with Christie in Fort Lee.

Sokolich had  said earlier in the day he thought Christie should wait to come to Fort Lee until a full investigation was completed, but said that it had been a productive meeting.

"It is an ongoing investigation," Sokolich said. "There is a lot more information that I think needs to be reviewed. ... To a certain extent, we have to wait and see what transpires."

"I take him for his word," Sokolich said. "He said he had nothing to do with it."

Christie had few words for reporters after the meeting, but said that he and the mayor "had a very good, productive meeting and I look forward to working with him in the future."

Fort Lee residents waiting outside to hear from the governor had mixed reactions. Some shook Christie's hand, while others heckled the governor and demanded he take a lie detector test.

The September lane closures caused heavy traffic delays in Fort Lee and  slowed emergency response time to at least four incidents, including reaching an unconscious 91-year-old woman who later died of cardiac arrest.

Fort Lee resident Julio Balmaseda said he wasn't sure if the governor had known about the closures, but was happy Christie took action against those he knew were involved.

"It means he's going in the right direction, but I hope that they don't find out he knew about it," Balmaseda said. "I had high hopes for him, and for him to be involved in something so disgraceful, it's not nice."

Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly,  was fired Thursday morning one day after email messages surfaced that she sent prior to the lane closures, including one saying it's "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The traffic during the closures had been "impossible," Balmaseda said. It took him 45 minutes to drive his son to school at the time, he said.

"The traffic here is bad as it is," Balmaseda said. "For somebody to do something intentionally that disrupts that even more, it's not nice. And what do they have to gain by it? They're not punishing the mayor. They're not only punishing the people of this town, but people from all over. I mean, this is the busiest bridge in the world."

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