Politics

 

In New Jersey, There's No Exit for Chris Christie's Bridge Trolls

In New Jersey, There's No Exit for Chris Christie's Bridge Trolls

The most infamous traffic cones in America sat on a curb by the Fort Lee entrance to the George Washington Bridge on Wednesday.

These were the very orange cones that had been arrayed across the entranceafter a senior troll to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie emailed a Port Authority official.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly emailed at 7:34 a.m. on Aug. 13, 2013.

The recipient, a Christie troll at the Port Authority named David Wildstein, emailed back at 7:35 a.m., only a minute later.

“Got it.”  

But Wildstein’s almost-instant response was not out of any hurry to proceed with the scheme. 

Just as true trolls might, they waited three weeks to the morning of Sept. 9, the first day of school.

The scandal is not just that the lanes were closed, but that the closing was timed to blindside kids as they waited excitedly and maybe already a little nervously for the bus in their back-to-school clothes and their new backpacks and fresh notebooks.

One of those kids was the son—then aged 3, now 4—of the dad who works the counter at E-Z Car Rental just two short blocks from where the lanes were closed. The boy was forced to wait two hours for the bus on his first day of school, before he even had a chance to then sit in traffic. 

Dad in the meantime called the school, which truthfully pronounced itself mystified.

“They just had no idea at all,” he recalled on Wednesday.

He also called the bus company. 

“They just said, ‘Our driver’s stuck somewhere, it’s a complete mess,’” he remembered.

The dad, who asked to not be quoted by name, was still amazed that anybody would deliberately do that to school kids.

“It was something extraordinary,” he told me. “It was something completely different… Bad.”

He had read the emails and texts that had surfaced in the news Wednesday morning, including a message from Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich to Christie’s most senior troll on the Port Authority, the then-deputy executive director, Bill Baroni.

 “The bigger problem is getting kids to school,” Sokolich wrote. 

Wildstein saw the text and there was an exchange between him and another person, who is identified in some accounts at Kelly.

 “Is it wrong that I am smiling?” one of them asked, but adding with correct grammar and even a stirring of conscience, “I feel badly about the kids.”

“They’re the children of Buono voters,” the other one said, referring to Christie’s Democratic challenger, Barbara Buono

That line so outraged the dad at E-Z Car Rental that he repeated it aloud on Wednesday afternoon. He then said simply, “It was uncalled for.”

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