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Manhattan DA Probing Pulaski Skyway Financing Deal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Another potential legal mess could be coming for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

As CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported, prosecutors have begun investigating whether the unusual deal to rebuild the Pulaski Skyway may have violated the law in New York.

New Jersey residents are inclined to say they know where the Pulaski Skyway leads.

"Straight to the Holland Tunnel – it takes you straight out to the Holland," one driver said. Another said the same.

But that was a problem for the Christie administration, which wanted the Port Authority to pay for the $1 billion skyway rehab with bridge and tunnel toll money.

For complicated legal reasons that date back to the 1930s, the Port Authority is not supposed to spend money to improve access to the Holland Tunnel.

But the Port Authority can pay for improved access to the Lincoln Tunnel four miles north of the Holland. So after much arm-twisting from the Christie administration – outlined in documents obtained by the news media – the Port Authority simply declared the Pulaski Skyway was actually a Lincoln Tunnel access road and paid for the rehab.

"The Pulaski is a state asset," said Tom Wright of the Regional Plan Association. "It should have been paid for out of the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund."

Wright was not surprised the deal is now being scrutinized by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. for possible violations of the New York State Martin Act. The act prohibits the deceit in the sale of stocks and bonds.

"The Port Authority gets its funding from private citizens; from bondholders," Wright explained.

Christie and New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo run the Port Authority jointly, and critics said there is too little scrutiny over how they use Port Authority money.

"Cuomo's thinking, 'Let me do what I want to do at Ground Zero, and Christie, you do what you want to do on the other side of the river and we'll just stay out of each other's hair,'" said Richard Hughes of the Twin Towers Alliance.

All involved said the Pulaski Skyway deal was legal and proper. What the Port Authority calls an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel will reopen in two years – for drivers heading to the Holland Tunnel.

The New York Times reported the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission has also launched a probe of the Pulaski Skyway funding deal.

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