The WSJ on Newark’s Renaissance

Opinion Journal from the Wall Street Journal: A New Arc. On the relationship between Cory Booker and city visionary, Jane Jacobs.

Like Mr. Florida, Cory Booker grew up in a North Jersey suburb. The son of a middle-class African-American couple who broke the color barrier, the tall, athletic Mr. Booker played football at Stanford and later studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. And like Richard Florida, he is a disciple of Jane Jacobs.

“She had a very strong belief in creating strong neighborhoods and communities,” Mr. Booker told me a couple of days before Tuesday’s election for mayor of Newark, which he won in a landslide.

As he talked about his plans for the city, we drove past empty lots and abandoned housing. Mr. Booker was imagining filling those dead blocks with some of the most conveniently located housing in the New York area. “It’s quicker to get to the former World Trade Center site on the PATH train than for people on the Upper West Side or Upper East Side to get there.” And it’s not just Manhattan that’s easily accessible. Amtrak will get you to Washington in 2 1/2 hours. Newark also has an airport, a seaport and access to every major highway on the Northeast Corridor.

Another shooting over the weekend

Live from the Ledger: Two teens killed in Essex County. Two more teenage boys are killed this weekend due to gunfire: one in Irvington, and another on Sunset Avenue in Newark.

A 15-year-old died and two oth­ers were injured in a drive-by shooting outside a party in Ir­vington, while in Newark a 19-year-old was shot several times after an argument, police said today.

The 15-year-old, identified by his mother as Shafe Boyd Cruz of Irvington, was pronounced dead at the scene, Irvington Police Chief Michael Chase said.

In Newark, Kevin Hennix, a city resident, was shot several times in the upper torso about 2:45 p.m. Saturday on Sunset Street in the aftermath of an argument, said Newark Police Detective Herbert Henderson, a police spokesman.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Event

This weekend on June 3^rd^ will see an arts exhibit and fashion show in Newark titled theEvent. I wish I could tell you what it is, exactly, but the promotional copy on their website is, well, a bit opaque.

What is theEvent?

‘theEvent’ merges fashion, music, art, and multimedia as an integrated movement within the Arts. Part festival, fashion show, musical performance and part art exhibition, ‘theEvent’ brings together business leaders with forward-looking consumers to celebrate the future of art and culture in northern New Jersey. taking place in up and coming Newark, ‘the Event’s diverse mix is guaranteed to be a high-powered explosion of talent and culture.

What is ‘theEvent’ going to accomplish?

CMYK is looking to make a bold introduction statement to the Northern New Jersey art community. We believe that a launch event geared towards combining the art culture of Northern New Jersey and the public into an all-out festival will help recognize the movement of a cultural nexus.

More information is available at theEvent promo website. If you can figure out what it is, please leave a comment. 😉

Infuriating

The Newark Star Ledger has a quick blurb about the final chapter of the story of government mishandling of public funds that destroyed a neighborhood: Emptied Newark homes to be demolished.

Empty, boarded buildings which have stood for more than a year in two Newark neighborhoods that were bought up and emptied to make way for school projects the state can no longer afford to build will be demolished this summer, lawmakers were told today.

Dozens of longtime residents were displaced in the Dewey and Ridge Street neighborhoods over the past three years, as the SCC assembled land for a proposed high school and elementary school. Last summer, those projects were among 97 where work was suspended, after SCC officials realized they could not afford to construct them with the $6 billion lawmakers had authorized for a school construction program in 31 of the state’s neediest communities.

Student Voices has a reprint of a Star Ledger article that provides some background on this story: Legislators attack school-building agency.

Demolition Derby

Associated Press: AP Study: Sioux Falls is safest driving city. This study pretty much confirms what we already knew about driving a car in Newark.

Motorists in Newark, N.J., were most at risk, according to the study, averaging an accident once every five years. Washington, D.C., was second-to-last at 5.1 years.

Five months after we moved here, my wife and I bought a new 2005 Mazda 3. Four weeks after we got it, we found that the entire passenger side of the vehicle was mashed in from an apparent hit and run by, at best guess, a large (garbage?) truck. Does this count as my accident for the next four years?

Wonkette notes that we just edged out D.C. for the title of American City Most Resembling a Demoliton Derby.

Land Rush Drama

Newark Star Ledger: Builders fined for failure to register. Interesting article about how politically connected developers are in hot water for not following procedure.

The requirement to register with the state is to ensure developers are reputable and are purchasing warranties to protect new homeowners from faulty construction.

The developers’ lack of credentials was brought to the attention of the DCA by The Star-Ledger earlier this year. The newspaper also provided the DCA with a list of developers who were building in the city without registering. After investigating the list, Connelly issued violation letters to eight additional developers who built and sold homes without state approval. They, too, face fines, as high as $2,000 per home.

Newark has led all New Jersey cities and towns in new home construction for the past four years, with more than 5,300 houses springing up all over the city.

Also, Newark Star Ledger: Newark council’s land sales hit delays. Glad to see that the council isn’t just capitulating to James in the few remaining weeks of his term.

The Newark City Council deferred acting on a number of proposals from the administration of Mayor Sharpe James yesterday to sell land to developers building mostly two- and three-family homes for sale at market-rate prices.

There were 10 proposals on the agenda to sell land at the city minimum of $4 per square foot. With between five and six council members present and Councilman Ras Baraka abstaining on most of the proposals, many simply did not have enough votes to pass.

The Ledger also printed an opinion article entitled End the Newark land rush (via Newark Speaks) with this too-clever cartoon:

Everything must go!

More discussion on this topic at Newark Speaks.

Brazilian Woman Still Missing

Newark Star Ledger: Mother’s search of Newark yields no sign of missing Brazil woman. The Star Ledger follows up on the story of a missing woman last seen at an Ironbound bar on Ferry Street. This story has taken hold of the news media in Brazil.

Carla Vicentini had never ven tured far from the small agricul tural town in Brazil where she was born.

So when the opportunity arose for the 22-year-old engineering student to visit the United States on a four-month work visa, she jumped at the chance.

For a year she saved her money. She talked incessantly about wanting to see things, and visit places, that had impressed friends who earlier had gone on the same cultural exchange program.

Vicentini arrived in the U.S. on Jan. 19. Three weeks later, she disappeared. The last time anyone saw her was at a bar in the Ironbound section of Newark on Feb. 9.

Land Rush in Newark

Newark Star Ledger: The great land rush continues in Newark.

The activity is coming amid concerns that city-owned land is being sold at a breakneck pace and bargain-basement prices weeks before a new administration and up to seven new council members take office.

Politically connected developers and campaign contributors to Mayor Sharpe James are among those to be considered for purchasing land today, including the Rev. Levin West. Also before the council today is a firm representing basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, and a group named Community Urban Renewal Enterprise — which was just hit with $48,000 in fines for violating state regulations.

Nice. Has Mayor James made it his personal ambition to dole out favors and run the city into the ground before his departure?

Booker Talks Tough on Crime

An Associated Press story is making the rounds in the wake of the shooting of several teenagers over the past couple of weeks. Home News Tribune Online: Crime likely to be top issue for incoming Newark mayor.

As Cory Booker prepares to become mayor of New Jersey’s largest city in July, many say the top priority for his incoming administration is obvious: fighting crime.

Polls that Booker’s own campaign took during his campaign showed more than 80 percent of Newark residents said crime was the top issue in a city that by last week already had 40 murders this year, 11 more than the same period in 2005.

The New York Times covers the need for greater safety and crime prevention in their piece, A Bleeding City, Seeking More Than a Band-Aid.

“The Newark Police Department has made a lot of strides over the last 10 years but there’s so much more that could be done,” said Michael L. Wagers, executive director of the Police Institute at Rutgers University in Newark. “What Cory Booker does with the department will make or break him as mayor.”

Although he has proposed a raft of measures that touch on public safety, Mr. Booker is preparing to spend much of his political capital on bringing change to the Police Department, which has been plagued by low morale, a shortage of working vehicles and modern equipment, and the kind of dysfunction that makes local residents and outside observers cringe.

The litany of abuses and gaffes cited by the Times article are just embarassing. Here’s hoping that Booker’s initial changes for the NPD are quick and effective.

Newark06 Hangs It Up

Newark06: Our Final Post: Goodbye and Thanks. After several months of dedicated around-the-clock reporting, the Newark06 blog at the New York Times is closing their doors. It’s too bad — I was getting used to hearing from the Times about Newark on a daily basis.

Newark06 started with the lofty goal of trying to understand and explain the carnival funhouse of Newark politics. We expected ugliness and debate. We expected a campaign that would resonate nationally with issues of race and class bubbling up as they did in 2002 when Mayor Sharpe James and Cory Booker fought a sandpaper-on-skin “Street Fight” that rubbed the city raw.

On our first day, Mayor James showed up on a police bicycle at City Hall, in a tank top with his biceps bulging, to file his petitions to get on the ballot. When he dropped out a week later, some of our colleagues and fellow bloggers offered sympathy for the loss of a vainglorious character that would have kept us busy.

But it hardly mattered and, in fact, the lack of a re-match between the incumbent and the upstart may have helped. It pushed us to cover not just the horse race of a campaign but also the city – its voters, its quirks, its concerns – and to work harder at putting Newark in perspective.