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Booker Defends Public Feud with Devils Owner

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is taking a long-simmering dispute with New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek public. 

The fight got ugly last week after the city of Newark lost a phase in its legal battle with the hockey team over parking revenue from the team’s new arena, the Prudential Center.

An independent arbitrator ruled that the city owes the Devils almost $15 million, which essentially erases a back-rent bill the team owes the city. Booker then called Vanderbeek a "high-class, highfalutin, huckster and hustler."

The argument goes beyond the recent legal matter, Booker said, and has more to do with his anger about Vanderbeek not making donations to support the city.

“He wrote into the original agreement that he would be making philanthropic contributions, job training contributions, building a rec center, all of these things during a period that he was convincing the city to invest over $300 million.”

Calls to the New Jersey Devils went unreturned Tuesday.

The feud heated up when an emailed request from Booker, who wanted to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Prudential Center, was turned down. The Star Ledger reported that Booker had cut back on police security at hockey games.

But Booker scoffed at the press coverage on the spat. Some 20 police officers provide security and traffic control for Prudential Center events, and the only change is that Mulberry Street will not be closed to cars during hockey games, he said.

“All of that is staying except for the crew that closed down the street which amounts to about six officers but it remains the safest facility, or one of the safest facilities and well protected facilities in the city,” Booker said.

Listen to the full interview above.

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