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Report: Developer at heart of Hoboken controversy dismisses Wolff & Samson

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Port Authority Chairman David Samson is a founding member of Wolff & Samson.
Port Authority Chairman David Samson is a founding member of Wolff & Samson. - (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

The Rockefeller Group, the developer embroiled in controversy over a politically connected Hoboken real estate project, has dismissed West Orange-based law firm Wolff & Samson as of last week, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Rockefeller came under fire earlier this month when Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged that aides of Gov. Chris Christie threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy relief aid to the city if Zimmer did not give approval to a major Rockefeller redevelopment project in Hoboken's North End.

Rockefeller spokesperson Dwayne Doherty told the Times that if true, Zimmer's allegations were "deplorable."

"Given the investigation, we've decided to shift our work on the project to another firm," Doherty told the Times.

Zimmer has claimed that she received pressure to approve the project from Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, state Department of Community Affairs commissioner Richard Constable, executive director of the Governor's Office of Recovery and Rebuilding Marc Ferzan and former Christie cabinet member and now Wolff & Samson attorney, Lori Grifa.

Through statements, both the Christie administration and Wolff & Samson have disputed Zimmer's claims and have denied being involved in any wrongdoing in Hoboken. Christie himself has not spoken with reporters since Jan. 9, several days before Zimmer came forward with her allegations.

Wolff & Samson, which began its relationship with Rockefeller in 2007, has deep ties to the Christie administration.

Former state Attorney General David Samson, a founder of the firm, has served since 2011 as chairman of the Port Authority after being nominated by Christie. Prior to his role at the Port Authority, Samson, who has been allegedly implicated in the scandal over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in September, also served as counsel to Christie's 2009 campaign and later as chairman of his transition team.

A report last week by WNYC showed that Wolff & Samson benefited tremendously from Christie's tenure in Trenton, as the firm's lobbying business went roughly $40,000 annually prior to Christie's first election to over $1 million per year afterwards.

The firm also went from handling $2.4 billion worth of band sales under Gov. Jon Corzine to $10.1 billion under Christie.

In addition to Grifa, Wolff & Samson also currently employs former U.S. Sen. Jeff Chiesa, who rejoined the firm last November after serving a Christie-appointed term in the U.S. Senate following the death of former U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Prior to his stint in Washington, Chiesa served as the state Attorney General under Christie.

Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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