Mayor: Despite Esquire Claim, Newark Free of Zombies

In July, Esquire writer-at-large Scott Raab wrote a story called The Battle of Newark, Starring Cory Booker, which begins in latter-day New Journalism style:

Nearly 275,000 souls live in Newark, New Jersey—twelve miles from New York City—served by a grand total of one movie theater, where Cory Booker, Newark’s mayor, sits on a Sunday night, hand-holding with a leggy Jersey City beauty and surrounded by various City Hall colleagues watching Will Smith in I Am Legend trying to save Manhattan from zombie hordes by devising a cure for the plague that has zombified them and wiped out most of the human race. Goddamn zombies. Smith’s hero is ideal for his task—a medical doctor and a lieutenant colonel, a man of bold action and great learning, a brilliant scientist and a deadly shot, a warrior and a healer and a paragon of muscular virtue, virile, brave, selfless. Early in the movie, he’s seen on a Time magazine cover headlined ‘Savior?’—exactly what he becomes, naturally, though he’s self-martyred at the end, via hand grenade, in his basement laboratory, mobbed by peevish, famished zombies. Goddamn zombies.

Zombies were something of a motif in the story ("Newark is also the front line of a war America can’t or won’t find the will to fight—against poverty and crime, drugs and disease, all-encompassing despair and early death. The zombies are everywhere you look"), prompting the mayor to send a lengthy letter to Esquire, which has been posted on the magazine’s website under the headline Cory Booker’s Angry Letter to Esquire. In it, Mayor Booker insists there are no zombies in his city.

"There is addiction, joblessness, and yes, drug dealers—but these people are not I Am Legend zombies," Mr. Booker writes. "I believe, in fact, that it is this dismissal, this rush to cast them into categories or deny them their humanity (zombies!) that continues to feed the cancer that is eating away at out great nation." Besides, Mr. Booker, a noted lover of sci fi (especially Star Trek), would know if his city were overrun with zombies, okay?

Mr. Booker goes on to offer some stats and figures to refute many of Mr. Raab’s claims about his city’s employment ("Since July 1, 2006, over 4,000 new jobs for Newarkers have been created in partnership with Newark’s largest corporations") and housing ("The writer describes our housing as everything from “lousy” to “two family cages” and patently ignores the housing he saw all over the city that reflects the best of American architecture, the best examples of New Urbanism, and even new low-income housing that is a marked and exceptional break from the crass stereotypes that are promulgated by the author") situations.

Mr. Booker concludes, "There has not been an article written since I have been mayor that has made me and my fellow Newarkers more angry than this one," concluding, "I worry that such readers will be further blinded by stereotype, convenient clichés, and Hollywood hype."

Mayor: Despite Esquire Claim, Newark Free of Zombies