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Grapevine

Long road for longer school day

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Chris Christie made his case for a longer school year full of longer days.

His logic? As times change, so should schooling requirements.

"If my children are living under the same school calendar that I lived under, by definition, that school calendar is antiquated," he said.

Most reporters expected to receive a press release from the New Jersey Education Association detailing why Christie was out of his mind.

But it never came.

Instead, the NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer put out a statement saying that he'd "welcome the opportunity" to sit down with Christie and hash out the pros and cons of lengthening the school year and the school day.

Even the business community came out in support of the idea, saying that upping education standards would lead to a better-trained workforce.

But don't be fooled into thinking it will actually happen, says one insider, as a longer school year presents an obvious conflict to tourism at the Jersey Shore.

"It's been a perennial issue that's been raised, and it hasn't gone anywhere," the insider said. "Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. But, is it probable?"

Christie keeping friends ... so far

It's too early to tell if the Gov. Chris Christie's friends on both sides of the aisle will be jumping ship anytime soon.

"Probably not in the short-term," an insider said.

And that's not hard to believe, either. Last week, former governor and current State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) told MSNBC that some powerful Democrats led a concentrated effort to disrupt the investigation and prevent the story from escalating.

Codey refused to name names but called them "power brokers" who "deliver him votes." (Hint: George Norcross and Joe DiVincenzo.)

So until there is a so-called "smoking gun" in the case against Christie, don't expect his circle of friends to be any thinner, the insider said.

"In the short-term, people are probably taking a wait-and-see approach," the insider said.

Real estate rumor just that

Week two of "Bridgegate" gave birth to a new theory: that the lane closures near the George Washington Bridge were meant to harm the high-profile redevelopment underway in Fort Lee.

But real estate observers aren't buying it.

"I just don't understand that theory," said one industry source after MSNBC host Steve Kornacki floated the idea on Jan. 12. Kornacki said choking off Fort Lee's access lanes to the bridge may have been done to scare investors away from a $1 billion redevelopment effort at the foot of the span. That project is dear to Mayor Mark Sokolich after local officials spent four decades trying to build there.

The 16-acre site has two key components: two 47-story residential towers that anchor a project led by SJP Properties, along with a mixed-use, 1 million-square-foot project helmed by Tucker Development Corp.

"I think people are bringing it up because real estate is sexy, and those projects are pretty sexy," the person said, also noting the proximity to the closed lanes.

And while Kornacki said financing for Tucker's component was still not yet finalized by the time of the closures in September, both projects had been fully approved by then. The SJP portion had been under construction for nearly a year.

"If it was September 2012, maybe then I could make some assumptions," the person said.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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