My Run-In With Cory Booker’s Landlord

by Eliana Johnson

I went searching on Tuesday for Cory Booker’s landlord, in the wake of video released by the Daily Caller in which two of the Newark mayor’s neighbors say they haven’t seem him in years and that he in fact never lived at the home he has been claiming as his residence for the past seven years. Our brief encounter ended with him shouting me off of his property without cause.

Ife Okocha owns the three-story brick house on Newark’s Hawthorne Avenue where, according to Booker, he lived until late September. Okocha, who filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and 2012, indicated in his filings that he leases the house, on a month-to-month basis, to “Dept. of Police/Mayor.”

A source with knowledge of the situation tells me that Okocha has complained frequently that Booker does not pay rent on time. Okocha, says the source, also maintained that the mayor “doesn’t even live there.”

I have spent a considerable amount of time in Booker’s Newark neighborhood over the past few weeks. I have never seen him near his home, but I’ve seen several police officers. On Friday, a police officer poked his head out of a second-floor window while I was chatting with a Newark resident on the sidewalk. On a previous occasion, a man stuck his head out of the same window to ask what I was doing on the property and referred me to another officer who sat in the driveway in an idling sports car.

When I arrived at Okocha’s home in suburban Monmouth County, N.J., his wife, Grace, assured me that “the mayor pays his rent” and that “the mayor lives there.” Her husband, who she said was sleeping after working a night shift (he is a nurse at a New Jersey VA hospital), “doesn’t talk to reporters,” she told me. As I got up to leave, she took a phone call. “I’m not saying anything,” she told the caller.  

I returned to Okocha’s home a few hours later hoping to find him awake. He answered the door and, before I could introduce myself, demanded, “Get away from here! Get away from here! Get away from here and go back.” I asked if he might be willing to talk to me, but he resumed his tirade, pointing his finger and shouting, “Get away from this property right now!” His wife is right that he doesn’t talk to reporters, but he does shout at them. 

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