NJ development group allegedly swapped construction jobs for Booker donations

Newark Mayor Cory Booker
Newark Mayor Cory Booker

The Newark Downtown Core Redevelopment Corp., an organization founded in 2005 to develop the area surrounding Newark’s Prudential Center sports arena, stands accused of earmarking multi-million dollar construction contracts to companies that donated to Newark Mayor Cory Booker‘s campaign.

“The group was plagued with cronyism, overpaid political hacks and mismanagement, leading to tens of millions of dollars in wasted public and private funds,” Ken Boehm, chairman of ethics watchdog group National Legal and Policy Center, told the New York Post.

One such enterprise, Mazzocchi Wrecking, the largest demolition company in New Jersey, pulled in $4.7 million from the NDCRC in 2007 and 2008. Before the company landed the contract, owner Nicholas Mazzocchi donated $5,000 to Booker’s Newark Now charity in 2006 and $2,000 to Empower Newark, a political action committee tied to Booker, in 2007.

Booker’s deputy mayor Ronald Salahuddin was caught telling Nicholas Mazzocchi that he would get him work in the Prudential Center area if he donated to certain causes and hired a specific contractor, according to FBI wiretaps from a 2010 corruption case involving Salahuddin.

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Booker is currently running for the late Democrat Frank Lautenberg’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Pablo Fonseca, Booker’s former campaign manager, was a NDCRC board member in 2007 and 2008, while Booker’s campaign treasurer Jermaine James was the organization’s director of real estate development in 2010. Fonseca pressured the group to give the companies work, court papers cited by the Post allege.

William Crawley, former head of the NDCRC, did not return the Post’s call for comment. [NYP]Julie Strickland