An October poll found that Newark Mayor Cory Booker has the strongest chance of ousting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s barely been a disaster, natural or otherwise, that Booker hasn’t responded to personally, often via his very active Twitter account. After Hurricane Sandy struck, hundreds of Newark residents sent pleas for help to their mayor — and many of them got a speedy response. In the past few days, Booker made an especially personal gesture when he invited neighbors over to his house to relax, charge their cell phones and watch movies.
When about 12 Newark citizens took Booker up on his offer, he tweeted to let them know that they could request DVDs and that he was having lunch delivered. Booker also used Twitter to get the home addresses of families in need, answer questions about local schools and even respond to his critics. According to the Gothamist, Booker averaged 100 tweets per day from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1.
Those who showed up at Booker’s doorstep in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood were given free rein to use an entire floor, including a kitchen and a bathroom, according to the New York Observer’s Politicker blog. Alice Bell, a neighbor who took shelter in Booker’s home, told Politicker she helped inform other locals about the favor.
“I went around knocking on doors and said the mayor offered,” Bell said to Politicker. “Everybody, they were shocked, like, ‘Really, he said I could come?’ So, we felt kind of special.”
Bell said there was a “steady flow” of people going in and out of Booker’s home to take advantage of his hospitality. Booker stopped by several times to provide DVDs, popcorn, candy and other supplies, Politicker reported.
“There were kids, so everything was age appropriate. We watched Spiderman, we watched Kung Fu Panda, Happy Feet,” Bell told Politicker. “And he brought — the kids had Play-Doh and coloring books and stuff — supplies. We kept each other entertained, trying to keep each other’s spirits up.”
Booker offered beds to guests so they could sleep over. Bell said she doesn’t know if the mayor got any shut-eye himself.
New Jersey was one of the states battered most brutally by Hurricane Sandy, which, according to the Chicago Tribune, left some 1.7 million Jersey residents without power and at least 13 dead. Booker’s efforts since the disaster have only boosted his reputation as Newark’s “super mayor.” During a blizzard two years ago, Booker helped shovel snow and deliver diapers to Newark residents. He also rescued a neighbor from a house fire last April.
Bell told Politicker that Booker’s offer of refuge didn’t seem out of character.
“I’m not too surprised, you know, he’s — I wouldn’t expect anything less from him, you know, that’s just him,” Bell said.
Still, she became emotional when discussing the mayor’s generosity.
“It meant — I can’t even explain,” Bell reportedly said. “I mean, we were — I’m still overwhelmed that he would reach out to us like that, you know, that we meant that much that he actually invited the whole block.”
There was still one problem, however, that Booker couldn’t help with during the storm: Newark’s dire Hot Pockets crisis. When a resident tweeted at Booker to complain about a personal shortage of the microwaveable snacks, the mayor responded simply, “I believe in you. I know this is a problem you can handle.”