TRENTON - A developer whose project hits ground zero of the George Washington Bridge fiasco secured state pension funds as part of the financing for his development project.
According to documents found through research at the office of the Bergen County Clerk, the State of New Jersey Common Pension Fund E holds a majority 55 percent ownership interest in the Tucker Development and Acquisition Fund, L.P.. The documents were hand-dated on March 15, 2012 and officially recorded by the county clerk on May 16, 2012.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company holds a 27.5 percent ownership interest, Prudential Insurance Companies of America holds a 16.5 percent ownership interest, and Tucker Managers, LLC holds a one percent ownership interest.
According to the Division of Pensions and Benefits’ Comprehensive Audited Financial Report for Fiscal 2013, under the portfolio of investments, the pension funds invested in Tucker Development and Acquisition Fund. It was just one of numerous investments the state made in various real estate funds that fiscal year.
The developer's application pre-dates the Christie Administration.
The Treasury Department reported that the original commitment was for an investment of up to $50 million, and that as of October 2013 $48.8 million had been contributed to Tucker Development.
The current market value of that is listed in Treasury’s report of October 2013 as being $46.5 million. The inception date of the investment goes back to October 2007.
According to the Division of Pensions and Benefits’ Comprehensive Audited Financial Report for Fiscal 2013, as of June 2013 that investment had a fair value of $46,015,125.
The estimated $1 billion development project in Fort Lee now commands attention in part because of its proximity to the George Washington Bridge, where a Port Authority official on September 9, 2013 closed two traffic lanes following his receipt of a communication from a top official in the Christie Administration: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
The developments and the traffic scandal may or may not be connected.
But as first reported by PolitickerNJ.com, embattled Port Authority Chairman David Samson, who stands at the center of emailed communications throughout the course of the GW Bridge debacle, has retained Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster, the same firm that represents Tucker Development.
Four days after the traffic lanes reopened, Tucker Development formally announced $218 million in financing for Phase I of Hudson Lights, a large-scale, 1-million-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment, according to Multi-Housing News Online.
Also on Sept. 17, Tucker made public his partnership in the Hudson Lights project with Murray Kushner of Kushner Real Estate (KRE), a Bridgewater developer who over the last five years has given more than $100,000 to Christie and the NJGOP.
Legislation struck during the era of Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s Democratic predecessor ironically helped enable the deal.
During Gov. Jon Corzine's term, the Democratically-controlled Legislature passed a bill that allowed greater flexibility for the state to invest state pension funds to diversify the state’s pension portfolio and, so ran the argument, increase the potential for positive return.
The fact that Tucker secured financing from the state pension fund for a development project now under scrutiny because of the bridge mess threatening to short circuit the governor comes with another ironic twist.
In a much publicized standoff, Christie jousted with public workers when he overhauled the state pensions and benefits system in 2011 over critics’ claims of his rejection of collective bargaining. A bipartisan accomplishment, Christie made pension and benefits “reform” the legislative cornerstone of his first term as governor.
In his State of the State speech last week, he again turned his attention to the pension system.
"If we continue in an era where we believe we can choose everything, let me suggest to you that we are really choosing nothing," Christie said, referring to a projected $1 billion rise in the state’s pension and debt payment obligations. "We need to have the conversation now about further changes to our pension system and about adding further to our state’s already-burdened debt load. The time to avoid this conversation and avoid these choices is nearly over, everybody."
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"Enlisting Fox is another reminder of how much Christie has truly relied on insiders, including Democrats, to bolster his agenda or bail him out of trouble. Not long after arriving in Trenton in 2009, Christie began collaborating with George Norcross, the deeply entrenched Democratic Party kingmaker, to help him cut deals with a Democratic-controlled Legislature.
When his close ally David Samson resigned as chairman of the Port Authority over conflict-of-interest questions earlier this year, Christie replaced Samson with John Degnan, a pillar of the Democratic Party establishment. And now, confronted with a crisis, Christie has turned to “Jamie,’’ as Fox has been known throughout political circles since he began as an aide in the Democratic Senate in the 1980s." - columnist Charles Stile
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