Booker touts Newark development during annual state of city address

More than $1B in projects in the pipeline, near the highest amount in 40 years, mayor says
By David Jones | March 02, 2012 11:30AM

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said the city has more than $1 billion in new development projects in the pipeline, which would result in several new companies relocating to the city, during his annual state of the city address yesterday.

Booker, citing more than $700 million in construction projects currently underway, said the city is close to its biggest wave of growth in more than 40 years, noting that some of these talks will lead to the development of new office towers, but will not be announced until the details are finalized.

“In the worst economy in 70 years, Newark is producing an economic development boom not seen in our city in well over a generation,” Booker told hundreds of public officials, business leaders and city residents at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

As The Real Deal previously reported, Panasonic Corp. is relocating its North American headquarters to Newark from Secaucus, N.J., brining 1,000 employees, while Manishewitz is moving its global headquarters to Newark. In May 2011, the Brick City Development Corp., the economic development arm of the Booker administration, announced a plan to lure additional companies to the downtown area.

The development is part of Booker’s effort to transform Newark’s downtown area into a 24/7 neighborhood, featuring a mix of market-rate and affordable housing for residents, and drawing on the thousands of visitors who either work or go to school in the downtown area or the arts district near Rutgers University.

Last month, Booker helped break ground on Teachers Village, a $149 million, Richard Meier-designed community from New York-based RBH Group, which will include 70,000 square feet of retail space, housing for local teachers and several on-site charter schools.

Booker announced in Thursday’s speech that the Morris Cos., based in Rutherford, N.J., would break ground on a new 250,000 square foot distribution center on Lister Avenue, bringing hundreds of jobs to the Ironbound section of Newark.

He also noted that Newark will open a 15 acre public park on the Passaic River waterfront later this year, and is launching a multi-million refurbishment of Military Park, located two blocks from Newark Penn Station.

All of this optimism was overshadowed during the speech, however, as Booker ratcheted up the pressure on the city council, which is batting Booker over a lingering budget gap that led the city to cut 25 percent of city workers. Booker called on the city clerk to move forward with $4 million in cuts he proposed in his annual $571 million budget, warning that without any action, the state might step in and mandate cuts or higher taxes on the city.

“I’ve asked [the clerk and council] to keep pace with the administration’s cutbacks in salary, expenses and personnel,” Booker said. “I’ve asked them to lead instead of sitting back and criticizing our leadership without offering their own.”

He then praised council members Anibel Ramos, Carlos Gonzalez and Augusto Amador for “not trying to defend the indefensible” and asked other council members to “follow their lead.” Hearing what some considered highly personal attacks, council members Mildred Crump and Ras Baraka walked off the stage.