A bipartisan trinity of New Jersey politico firepower assembled in downtown Newark to shoot the first salvo needed to score a major economic triumph for New Jersey's largest city: the construction in Newark of the new corporate headquarters for Amazon, the world's largest online retailer.
All three of the prime politicians in place inside Rutgers Business School on Monday - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Senator and former Newark mayor Cory Booker, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka - have ties to the city. Booker and Baraka, both Democrats, respectively was, and is, Newark's chief executive. Christie, a Republican, was born in Newark, his childhood home just off of South Orange Avenue near West Side High School, before his family left for the leafy streets of suburban Livingston.
But Christie, on the day that he announced that he had selected Newark as the state's endorsed recommendation to be the Seattle-based retail giant’s next corporate headquarters, proved that a well-known literary adage - you can't go home again - is a lie.
Christie came back to Newark, fully intending to work with Booker, Baraka, and a host of other New Jersey politicians on both sides of the aisle to bring home the biggest business prize that the more-than 350-year-old city has ever seen.
"Newark was the clear winner of this competition, and Newark has earned the state's support," said Christie, citing the city's status as a unique education, technology, transportation, and cultural hub.
Newark now joins more than 50 municipalities nationwide that are formally bidding on the project.
Amazon announced its solicitation of North American regions earlier this year in a highly-competitive selection process for its second corporate headquarters, or HQ2.
The opportunity could bring 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars of private investment to the state. All bids must be sent to Amazon by Thursday.
Christie noted that the state was willing to give $5 billion dollars in tax incentives over ten years upon the creation of the 50,000 new jobs.
"Let any other state go and try and beat that package," Christie said, also noting that the City of Newark was willing to offer a local, 20-year property tax abatement that could be worth another $1 billion dollars, and would waive its municipal wage tax to encourage Amazon to come to the city.
"Newark's renaissance can no longer be talk. It has to be action. And the final crowning achievement of that is when Newark is named this spring as the new headquarters for Amazon," Christie said.
"Newark, New Jersey has often been maligned over the previous decades, but let's tell the truth about this incredible city. For centuries, Newark led this nation in innovation, in invention, and in industry as one of America's premier cities," said Booker, who served as the city's mayor from 2006 to 2013.
"Like all major Northeastern industrial cities, we saw tough times. But the truth of Newark in the last decade plus has been of a city charging back, and reclaiming its space, step by step, as one of America's greatest cities," Booker said.
"Newark is not a charity case. It is the choice for companies who want to relocate and remain competitive and strong, not just in New Jersey and not just in our nation, but in a global context," Booker added.
Booker said Amazon would be smart to come to Newark because of the city's "unassailable" assets.
"We sit smack dab in the middle of the New York metropolitan region. And by Amazon locating in this great city, they will demonstrate to this nation that our inner-city spaces are not places to be avoided," Booker said.
"They are an undiscovered treasure, right here in our Newark neighborhoods, right here in America. Wherever American cities are going, Newark must get there first. Because if we do, then the true dream of America is still possible," Booker said.
"Newark is obviously the place that I believe that Amazon should be. There is no other place in the country where Amazon should go. Everything else is a cliche. Brooklyn sounds like a cliche, and so does Denver," said Baraka as he dissed Newark's nationwide competition. "This is one hurdle, and we have many more hurdles to go. But I believe that we have the stamina to get over all of them."
One hurdle to getting Amazon to come to Newark won't be election-season partisan politics: gubernatorial candidates Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno have reportedly both said they will support the measure.
State legislators from Newark were also enthusiastic about the prospect of Amazon moving to Brick City.
"The City of Newark has all the elements to not only meet, but exceed Amazon’s needs as it grows its operations," said state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, a Democrat who represents Newark.
“Our city is at a turning point and is experiencing a residential and commercial development boom, and we are poised to embrace the next venture that will take our city to the next level," Ruiz said. "We are the perfect fit to serve as Seattle’s counterpart in hosting Amazon’s new headquarters and we have elected officials at all levels that are committed to its success."
State Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin called Newark an ideal location for Amazon's headquarters.
"I can think of no place in America that offers the great potential that Newark does for Amazon," Pintor Marin said. "Amazon would be another key piece of the city’s already great future."
As for the current governor, Christie noted that he has just over 90 days left on top in Trenton. But Christie focused on a different number as he made Newark's case. Christie and his family left Newark 50 years ago, just before the 1967 civil disturbances, a riot to some, a rebellion to others. It was a traumatic event that almost annihilated the civic fabric of the city. But instead of tragedy and loss, Christie looked to Newark's ultimate triumph and victory in the days ahead.
"The senator, the mayor, and I believe in this city. If the problems that [Booker] referenced in his remarks had not happened, my parents would have never left here. This is where their parents, and their grandparents, immigrated to, from Ireland and from Italy," Christie said. "My father told me years later that my mother was distraught for months when we moved. She viewed Livingston in 1967 as the wilderness. To me, to have her son be able to be part of a team that can finish this job, and bring Newark to the next level, will be very, very satisfying once it happens."