Cory Booker, Slumlord?

Between running his city and running for Senate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been a little preoccupied recently. Enough, apparently to forget that he owned a house on Court Street in Newark (and another on Longworth):

To neighbors who’ve complained about the overgrown backyard 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,’ Robert El, who owns the row house attached to Booker’s, told The Record of Woodland Park. ‘Shortly after he bought it, the squatters started moving in.’

To be fair, though, Booker no longer owns the house. To be even fairer still, he sold it less than three weeks after Frank Lautenberg announced his retirement from the Senate, opening the race in which Booker has been running so hard. He, of course, sold the property to Newark Now, Booker’s own nonprofit, as an “opportunity to give back to Newark.”

But with the Senate race now reaching it’s critical period, Booker’s Court Street house is being touted as “inconsistent with his image,” that image being an inner-city crusader. The $346,000 he spent buying homes in Newark only to leave them vacant while renting an apartment elsewhere say otherwise.

Meanwhile, though, in the Steve Lonegan camp:

Booker’s opponent, Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate, also owns several properties, including two residential buildings. Both of those buildings – one in Bogota and one in Teaneck – are rented out, according to Lonegan’s tax returns. He earned more than $500,000 in rent last year, although he spent about as much on the buildings. All together, he lost money on them two of the past three years.

Let the battle begin. []