Lonegan and his Newark supporters allege Booker paid hecklers
GOP nominee for U.S. Senate Steve Lonegan went to Newark yesterday afternoon to underscore Democratic nominee Cory Booker’s hypocrisy and failure.
A group of perhaps a dozen Booker supporters made sure Lonegan wasn’t heard by the press, no matter how hard the reporters present struggled to hear what the former Bogota mayor had to say.
Lonegan called a press conference at 130 Court Street in Newark, a home that Booker bought for $175,000 in November of 2009 and left in a state of disrepair until he sold it to Newark Now, a non-profit Booker founded, in March of this year for $1.00 The Record reported last weekend that the home has been a neighborhood nuisance since Booker bought it. The New York Post reported yesterday that squatters living in the home caused a fire last year.
From The Record:
To neighbors who’ve complained about the overgrown back yard and the squatters who live inside, the property stands as a marked contrast to Booker’s public image as an urban crusader, a politician building a national reputation by confronting inner-city blight.
“He bought it and promised to be a good neighbor, but that hasn’t occurred,” said Robert El, who owns the row house attached to Booker’s. “Shortly after he bought it, the squatters started moving in.”
James Wigfall, who lives in the housing project around the corner, said the squatters are not a surprise when “you leave a building vacant long enough.” Asked what he thought of Booker as a neighbor, Wigfall laughed. “No comment,” he said.
From The Post:
“No government should allow its citizenry, people who live next to these homes, to live next to a fire trap, to live next to drug dealing, to live next to prostitution,” Booker said in 2008 when he introduced the Demolition Task Force with plans to bulldoze 49 abandoned buildings.
Booker’s neighbors are still fuming over the fire that erupted in March 2012 at the three-story town house on Court Street, which is now padlocked and boarded up.
“I think Cory Booker needs to be ashamed of himself,” neighbor Betsy Smith told The Post.
“You buy a piece of property in Newark and you do nothing. You hold your head high with your chest stuck out and say, ‘I’m the mayor of Newark!’ What kind of example are you setting?”
“A piss-poor example, in my opinion.”
“Newark Now builds strong neighborhoods by investing in Newark’s most precious resource — Its People.” ~ Cory A. Booker, Founder.
Lonegan started his press conference by invoking the transformation that Rudy Giuliani initiated in New York City twenty years ago when he was elected mayor.
Before he could segue into a contrast of how Booker, who talks a good transformation game, has governed Newark and neglected his own property, the group of male hecklers shouted “Why are you here?” before breaking into a chant of “We don’t want you here, We don’t want you here” and “Go back where you came from.”
Lonegan said, ‘These are employees of Cory Booker,” and kept making his speech. A small group of female Newark residents, apparently Lonegan supporters, tried to shout down the male hecklers, to no avail. I couldn’t hear a word that Lonegan was saying. His lips and hands were moving.
If you haven’t viewed the video and photo slideshow above, come back when you have a few minutes to do so. The event was both surreal and hilarious. Contrast how serious the reporters are compared to the hecklers who are clearly having a blast. Even Lonegan is holding back laughter.
As the crowd was dispersing, Jean Spence, a Newark resident who says she supports Lonegan told me, “Booker paid those guys $100 each to do that.” “How to you know?” I asked. “That lady in the maroon pants told me that one of the guys told her,” Spence said.
The lady in the maroon pants was also wearing a white blouse and a bonnet in her hair. She wouldn’t give me her name and asked not to be photographed. “That guy over there with the dreadlocks told me Booker paid them all. He told me he doesn’t even know what this is all about today, but money is money. Booker is no good. This Lonegan (which she pronounced loan gan) is going get to it.”
The guy with the dreadlocks appeared to be he his late twenties. He was sitting on a bench in the shade with a middle aged man with short white hair. He said his name was Johnny. “Theyz lyin,” Johnny with the dreadlocks said when asked if he was paid $100 to heckle. “Why would Booker give me money?”
I didn’t ask him why the lady in the maroon pants would lie.
The middle aged man with white short hair backed Johnny up. “None of us got paid.”
“Why they making a fuss about this house for,” Johnny asked, “Why aren’t they talking about the murders?” “That’s what he was trying to talk about,” I said. “Really?! He should have set up two blocks away, that’s where those murders happened!”
I asked Johnny and the older guy if they have ever heard Booker tell the T-Bone story. “Who’s that?” asked Johnny. “You never heard Booker tell the T-Bone story?” I said. “Who’s that?” Johnny with the dreadlocks asked again.
“T-Bone was a drug dealer that threatened to kill Booker. Three years later he came crying to Booker looking for help with..” “Booker helped me,” Johnny interrupted, “he got me a job.”
“Really? What do you do?” I asked. “I would for the city, maintenance.” “What are you doing here?” I asked (it was about 3pm and Johnny had been present since I arrived around 2:30)
“I get off early,” Johnny said. “What time?” I asked and Johnny looked at his watch. “2,” he said. “You got here fast,” I said as he turned away from me and put his hand on his face.
Our conversation was over, but the older guy with the white hair who wouldn’t tell him his name jumped off the bench and out of the shade.
“Booker is alright, but Sharpe James was better,” he said, “they got me a job for $15 an hour when I got out of prison.” “Which one got you the job when you got out of prison?” I asked.
“They both did.”