Deep in Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s criminal complaint accusing three New York Police Department officials of accepting bribes was an intriguing nugget. The cooperating witness, known to be businessman Jona Rechnitz, had said that fellow businessman and alleged conspirator Jeremy Reichberg “was able to arrange for the closure of a lane in the Lincoln Tunnel ...” to allow a police escort for another businessman who was visiting town.
It was a stunning claim and echoed 2013’s Bridgegate, in which lanes were closed leading to the George Washington Bridge. A member of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and a former Port Authority official are facing charges.
Since Bharara dropped his bombshell on Monday, some reports say the escort was for Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who is in the diamond and real estate businesses.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a letter Tuesday to the Port Authority, called the allegation “deeply troubling” and ordered an investigation into that part of the case, suggesting there could be “immediate and severe consequences.”
There’s just one problem. A lane of the tunnel never closed.
A source familiar with the situation told The Point that there was a police escort which involved the participation of Port Authority police inside the tunnel itself, but neither the tunnel nor any of its lanes was ever closed.
It’s “regular practice” for the NYPD or New Jersey State Police to contact Port Authority police when there’s a need for an escort – for a celebrity, dignitary or even a politician who’s crossing a Port Authority bridge or tunnel, the source said, adding that it doesn’t usually include a discussion of who is being escorted – or why.
But when that happens, lanes of traffic aren’t closed, and other traffic continues to flow. That, the source says, is what happened here.
The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
But we’re left to wonder whether there’s anything else in the complaint attributed to the cooperating witness that might be an exaggeration. And whether there is a need for anyone not responding to an emergency to have traffic stopped so he or see can move to the front of the line on a bridge or in a tunnel.
This item originally appeared in The Point, a daily newsletter about New York politics. Click here to subscribe.