Sharpe James corrects NY Times reporter on Newark history

Branch Brook Park & cathedral
Branch Brook Park

Today I came across this letter from former Newark mayor Sharpe James to the author of a front page December 2012 New York Times article about Cory Booker: Promise vs. Reality in Newark on Mayor’s Watch. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter author Kate Zernike, the article presents an unflattering view of Booker, but it also refers offhandedly to Mr. James as corrupt. In this statement, Mr. James rebuts that characterization and shares some history about Newark and its governmental accomplishments.

The letter is posted on the Newark Speaks forum posted by user J. Sharpe James, J.D.

Sharpe James
59 Wilbur Avenue
Newark, NJ 07112

December 15, 2012

Kate Zernike, Writer
New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, New York 10018-1405

Re: NY Times Article December 14, 2012
Promise vs. Reality in Newark on Mayor’s Watch

Dear Ms. Zernike:

It is always interesting that you, the Newark Star Ledger and other media outlets feel a need to bash Sharpe James, distort my legacy in office and to label me with “corruption” when writing about Mayor Cory Booker who has been in office for six years. The obvious aim is to soften, deflect and render him less vulnerable to the issues you raised, or more succinctly stated, “James was worse.” You are apologizing to Mr. Booker, strangely enough you have a fear of him.

It is totally disingenuous for you to write that, “And few people deny Mr. Booker’s accomplishments, particularly compared with those of his predecessor, Sharpe James, who went to federal prison for corruption. Mr. Booker has reduced the city’s structural deficit. Downtown has had a building boom, including the city’s first two hotels and first new supermarket in decades,” is all hogwash in being polite.

By simply calling me “corrupt” you then dismiss the Sharpe James record of building five new schools in Newark, brought Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance Company back to Newark after ten years, the award winning Society Hill at University Heights Housing, demolished every failed high rise in public housing and replaced them with state of the art townhouses, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), the Bears/Eagles Riverfront Stadium, new FBI Headquarters, Home Depot to Newark, Applebee’s, Starbuck and other restaurants, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. office building and federal courthouse, Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Rink, brought IDT and MBNA to Newark, 1 Washington Street restoration , Gateway 2 and 3, The Legal Center, The Newark Center, Newark International Airport billion dollar expansion, New Rutgers and Seton Hall Law Schools, new PSE&G Headquarters, Expansion of our Newark Museum and Library, new James/Gibson Aquatic Center.

From the train to the plane rail link, The Newark Theater, Hope V1 Project that changed the central ward (drive Prince Street), Berkeley College to Newark, 1180 Raymond Boulevard Townhouses, three to four new neighborhood supermarkets, 10,000 units of new and rehab housing throughout every ward and neighborhood and Prudential Center, just to name a few. Even the judge at my trial made note of my accomplishments (see later), which you ignore to buttress your flawed story.

In retrospect, the reality is that you never attended or read the transcript of my trial, never evaluated my record in office, never toured Newark, completely ignorant of my appeals before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Count 5 dropped and refunded $20,000) and have no knowledge that my third appeal is pending before the same court and will be held on February 11, 2013.

If you did, there is no way under “God” could you write that I went to jail for corruption and that Booker’s alleged two hotels and a supermarket gave the citizens more than Sharpe James did in twenty years. The last person to make that false claim was Alfred C. Koeppe, CEO of the Newark Alliance (politically motivated) and I am still waiting for Al’s response to my letter (enclosed herein) of March 2, 2012.

Please let me set the record straight.

Firstly, who told you there was a structural budget deficit during the James Administration? Who did you talk too? For your correct information the James Administration balanced 20 annual budgets (1986-2006) without borrowing one dime from anyone, did not raise the municipal levy or lay off a single employee, nor change our budget timeline to conform to the state as requested by former governor Florio. Moreover, after our $1 billion settlement with the Port Authority of NY/NJ in 2005 and receiving $450 million in cash, we put Newark’s future first.

We provided property tax relief for the next four years, set aside $185 million to build Prudential Center (which Booker criticized and now calls “his arena”); and after Mr. Booker took us to court to stop us from creating a trust fund for the citizens to decide how to spend the money, we left $80 Million in cash on the table (July 1, 2006) for the incoming Booker Administration.

Secondly, I was arrested, charged, convicted and sent to prison for a crime I legally could not, nor did I commit, because Mayor Cory Booker and then U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie formed a cozy relationship to get rid of me. Mayor Booker purposely did not pay routine overlapping municipal bills during the transition from the James Administration to the Mayor Booker Administration in asking Christie to investigate (travel expenditures) which led to overzealous prosecutorial/political action (James was the poster boy in Christie becoming governor) as being examined by the BET (Black Entertainment Television) current documentary series entitled “VINDICATED.”

Here are the remarks of Federal District Court Judge the Honorable William J. Martini for your review, an official transcript can be obtained by calling Walter J. Perelli, C.S.R., Official Court Reporter at 973-????-????:

Judge Martini: “No, no, I’m fully aware that there was no evidence that suggested that defendant James provided a lower price for Tamika Riley for obtaining these properties.” (This was the whole false trial/theme before the jury) 7/28/08 p. 53 L 2-4

Judge Martini: “I think most of his conduct was conduct that was inherent in the very nature of his position as Mayor. There wasn’t much in this case that suggested that he asked anyone to do something, you know, to not even have her apply; not to do anything.” P 136 L 8-12

Judge Martini: To the government: “But don’t talk in terms the history of corruption unless you’ve proven that, you didn’t prove that in this courtroom as far as I was concerned. (NO CORRUPTION PROVEN ) 7/29/08 P-99-100, L-22-25; P-26 L-1

Judge Martini: “I don’t want to hear these generalizations (no proof of) about corrupt administration, all powerful, didn’t do anything good, I don’t want to hear it.” 7/29/08 P 100 L-1-5

Judge Martini: “I had the benefit of hearing this trial. “This is not a bribery offense, this is not an offense where a public official was taking money directly to be influenced to approve some land deal or to award some contracts. And in this Court’s opinion, that’s a more serious offense than what happened here.” 7/29/08 P 139, L1-11

Judge Martini: “The City of Newark did not lose any money in this. In fact, these properties were put back on the tax roll within the same amount of time-nobody alleged there was a delay in developing them-and they got back on the tax roll and the City did receive taxable funds from these properties.” (SA 1248)

Judge Martini: “There was no direct monetary benefit to defendant James.” 7/29/08 P 135, L 19-20

The district court detailed its knowledge of the history and characteristics of defendant Sharpe James:

Judge Martini: “Coming into court today, driving through Newark as I do everyday, I began at the north end of Newark and I came first upon the Bears Stadium. I then came upon the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. I then came upon the Gateway, Broadway—Broad Street, the new arena, which anybody who was ever in this state 20 years ago, no one ever existed. In fact, 20 years ago people thought that would have been a dream to imagine an art center in this City at that time, an arena, baseball stadium, not to mention a lot of the other things that all you have to do is somebody who comes into the City, look around and observe. ”All of this happened during the defendants tenure in office.”

Judge Martini: I know why we’re here, because I found last week, we’re here because there was a breach of honest services, and the failure of the Mayor to disclose his relationship while awarding contracts is a “deprivation of honest services”…..I know a little bit about public service and I know that that’s wrong .7/29/08 P 30, L8-14

Judge Martini was correct in stating that the United States argued all counts 1-5 as honest service crimes which were before the Supreme Court. Also the United States did not adduce sufficient evidence to underpin any conviction of the various forms of fraud alleged in counts one through five. Their false charges were refuted by the law, evidence and testimony of both government and defense witnesses and the trial judge himself. Not one witness accused me of committing any crime.

On June 24, 2010 the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling (a vote of 9-0) that limited the honest service fraud statue to cover only bribery and kickback schemes, which was not present in my case. They unanimously stated that the law against “honest services” fraud was too vague to constitute a crime unless a bribe or kickback.

I should have been a free man. Every other defendant in America had their honest services charges removed. Here in New Jersey Mayor Vas of Perth Amboy and former chairman of the Democratic Party in Bergen County, Joseph A. Ferriero, both had their honest services charges dropped.

My second appeal “currently pending” is on jury misconduct whereas Mayor Booker who called for my investigation and wanted me convicted, had two of his employees’ son served on the jury without disclosing this material information. My guilt verdict would be seen as
an act of loyalty for their job retention.

Finally, I wish to advise you that the Marriott Courtyard Hotel was part of the James’ Administration original arena plan and the new Panasonic building is being built due to our insight (visionary) to leave a surface steel foundation in place next to our legal center for such a construction.

Your other hotel credit (rehab bldg.) for Booker requires some strong imagination against the 10 Hotels built and two major supermarkets (Pathmarks on Ferry and Bergen Streets) built during the James Administration. For your information I am enclosing herein the “James Administration Report Card” for your review.

Please drive our once notorious Prince Street from Springfield Avenue to end and see for yourself our positive change in Newark’s landscape, or tell me what significance we made in Newark by demolishing all of Newark’s failed high rises (“reservations for the poor”) and turned them into state of the art townhouses, where citizens are now fighting to get into public housing and not out.
I would also like to believe that my two year fight and victory against the city council and the Newark Coalition for low income housing to institute “my NHA implosion program” with Federal Judge Dickinson Debevoise becoming the monitor and demanding a “one for one unit replacement,” changed the image, quality and quantity of life in Newark forever:
• No more Columbus Homes
• No more Archbishop Walsh
• No more Stella Wright
• No more Hayes Homes
• No more Otto E. Kretchmer Homes
• No more Scudder Homes
• No more Hill Manor

I have purposely and respectfully refrained from any public criticizing or commenting on the Booker Administration, it would be wrong and self serving. I love Newark too much to divide our city. However, I can not allow you to willy-nilly draw false comparisons of my record in office because of your lack of due diligence in writing your December 14, 2012 article entitled “Promise vs. Reality in Newark for High-Profile Mayor. The citizens of Newark deserve better.

In closing, I would welcome the opportunity to give you a personal tour of the James Administration “Sharpe Change” in Newark.

With best wishes for the holiday season, I remain

Respectfully yours,
Sharpe James

2 Replies to “Sharpe James corrects NY Times reporter on Newark history”

  1. I lived in Newark for part of Sharpe James first administration. When I moved from Newark, I followed what was going on in the City. I agree with Mayor James. Newark was transformed for the better during his administration.

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