Star Ledger: Booker is bullish on Newark’s future
Booker’s sweeping address on the city’s development is the most comprehensive since the mayor took office more than 18 months ago. A crop of building projects came to a halt in 2006 when Booker, as a candidate, challenged the city’s land sales under the James administration. The former administration sold city-owned parcels for $1 to $4 per square foot.
James is awaiting trial on some of those deals.
Booker’s lawsuit, however, froze all sales of city land at discounted rates. At the end of last year, the mayor’s office finally unveiled its long-awaited land disposition policy. Among other things, the city is asking developers to offer more affordable housing, use environmentally friendly materials and employ union workers.
The city also is focusing on pushing affordable and work force housing. The city recently teamed up with a New York-based real estate investment firm to offer discounted rent to teachers, police and firefighters. The firm, Apollo Real Estate Advisors, purchased 724 new units in the city’s Weequahic section, but fewer than 25 were actually vacant.
“No longer are we going to give land away,” Booker said. “We are opening doors and inviting development that truly benefits our community and reflects our values.”