For the past eight years, Mayor Booker has lived in Brick Towers, a housing project in one of Newark's most violent neighborhoods. Though the Housing Authority has declared his apartment building "unlivable," Mayor Booker wanted to live like the people who need him most.
Currently, no one in the building has hot water. Every morning, the mayor warms water in an electric kettle and pours it into a portable camping shower. This is the only way he can take a hot shower. "Sometimes you spill boiling water on your hand," he says. "That's why sometimes it's an incentive to [shower] the cold way. ... We have senior citizens that are bathing this way. It's just not right."
When the elevators aren't working, Mayor Booker has to climb 16 flights of steps to his apartment, but his most pressing concern is the lack of heat. "This winter there will be no heat again so we're moving with great speed to get the residents to nice places," he says.
Although Mayor Booker was once a Rhodes Scholar, he says he's learned the most valuable lessons in life from his neighbors. "I always say I got my B.A. from Stanford, but my PhD in the streets of Newark," he says. "These are some of the most heroic people I've ever met. ... They've strengthened me. They've fortified me. They gave me a reason for living and taught me some of my best lessons. I've been the fortunate one in many ways."