Booker Threat Details Unveiled

Following on the June 5 story of Booker’s being threatened by gang members, both WNBC and the Newark Star Ledger detail a plot to assassinate Mayor-elect Cory Booker after a staged, 4-prison uprising.
WNBC: Guards: Inmates Had Plot To Assassinate Newark’s Mayor-Elect.

An imprisoned street gang leader claimed that inmates had stashed guns at four New Jersey prisons for a coordinated uprising to be followed by an assassination of Newark’s new mayor, according to a prison guard union official and published reports.

The threats led to heightened prison security, which was in its third day Wednesday.

The letters were found Sunday in the East Jersey State Prison cell of Lester Alford, a convicted murderer and leader of the Bloods street gang, said Joseph Malagrino, the president of a union that represents rank-and-file guards.

Newark Star Ledger: Letters claim guns ‘stashed’ in 4 prisons.

When union officials found out about the letters and Alford’s allegation that firearms had already been smuggled into the four prisons, they requested a meeting Sunday evening with Corrections Commissioner George Hayman and Chief of Staff Charles Ellis, Moran said.

“We took a very strong position on it in order to protect the correctional staff,” Moran said. “We see a lot of notes being passed back and forth that are general in nature. This was very specific.”

So far, they have found no firearms or ammunition, Moran said. In the meantime, Alford was being guarded by an officer and monitored by video surveillance.

Rutgers Opening Public Affairs School

Newark Star Ledger: Rutgers to open public affairs school on Newark campus. Something tells me that R-N won’t be inviting Mr. James on as an adjunct. 😉

Rutgers-Newark will open its first new school in two decades under a plan approved yesterday by the university’s governing board yesterday.

The Rutgers-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration will offer doctoral and master’s degrees in public administration and a certificate programs in non-profit management, urban educational administration and leadership and other fields.

“With the establishment of this new school, Rutgers will expand its contribution to solving one of the central issues facing our society — the efficient use of government resources,” Rutgers-Newark Provost Steven Diner said.

Officer Arrested for Dealing Drugs

Newark Star Ledger: Newark officer arrested in prescription drug scheme. A decorated NPD officer who has been with the force for 11 years was arrested last week on charges of dealing OxyContin. Whether these allegations are true remains to be seen.

FBI officials arrested a Newark police officer in connection with his alleged role in “Pill Collector” — an ongoing investigation of several people who illegally obtained prescription drugs from an Essex County doctor and then sold them on the street.

Patrolman John Hernandez is accused of getting 11 prescriptions for the painkiller OxyContin, filling them at a Newark pharmacy, billing his insurance carrier and then selling the pills. He also is accused of doling out blank prescriptions that he received from the same doctor.

The charges carry a maximum 20-year prison term and fines of up to $1 million, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Germano.

Booker, Newark, and Unity

New York Times: Booker Has Unity in Newark; Trick Now Is to Keep It. Damien Cave provides analysis on the Booker Team sweep, and the challenges that face him ahead.

Cory Booker finally has what he wants. He will take over for Mayor Sharpe James on July 1 with a landslide victory behind him and — thanks to Tuesday’s runoff — unanimous support on the Municipal Council.

Now comes the hard part: fulfilling his promise to make Newark a national model of urban reform without alienating residents who may resist change.

Mr. Booker’s immediate fate, in fact, may be determined by his ability to manage a familiar fault line, the divide between Newark residents and outsiders. If he hires only the home-grown to head the Police Department and other city agencies, he opens himself up to the charge of perpetuating the status quo; with too many experts from elsewhere, he will probably be denounced as disrespectful, out of touch and elitist.

City Arena Disrupts Local Business

Newark Star Ledger: Near Arena Site, Price of Progress is Dispair. Steve Chambers describes the highly invasive — and possibly illegal — treatment of local businesses near the Devils Arena construction site.

Freitas has been struggling mightily these past three months. He has watched workers remove his driveway, pull up the oil tank that supplies heat to the building, break the water main and, occasionally, cut off phone service. With the street closed, he said, the business has lost a half dozen potential customers who used to drive in daily for job estimates.

“This is a war zone,” Freitas said. “Dust blows all over the place. You can’t breathe, and sometimes it ruins the paint jobs, so you have to do them over.”

Our Little League Fields

Newark Star Ledger: Fields of nightmares in Newark. Commentator Steve Politi writes about the dilapidated Little League baseball fields in Newark (see photos from this story). With sports as the only real alternative to crime for a lot of these kids, it’s appalling that the previous city administration committed hundreds of millions of dollars towards a professional hockey arena over the small, simple needs of its own citizens.

The base paths are narrow and crooked. The infield has more potholes than the surrounding streets. The batter’s box is actually a ditch. The outfield is mostly blacktop and broken glass.

Oh, and there’s a foot-high slope in front of third base, one that’s caused too many bloody noses and bruises to count.

“We could tell (the city) our fields are dangerous,” said Vincent DeVincentis, the president of the North Newark Little League, “but then they might tell us, ‘Well, don’t use them.’

“And then what do we do?”

Ambrose Frustrated by Killing of 2nd Potential Witness

New York Times: Newark Police Director Frustrated by Killing of 2nd Potential Witness.

The director of the Newark police said on Friday that a man killed in a drive-by shooting early Thursday was the second witness in a multiple-homicide case to be murdered, and he expressed frustration at what he said was the slow pace of the prosecution.

The police believe that the victim, Howard Roberts, 29, knew details of the execution-style shootings of four people whose bodies were found lined up in a weed-covered vacant lot near Newark Liberty International Airport in November 2004. Late last year, another potential witness to that crime, Lamar McMillan, was also murdered; the man charged with killing Mr. McMillan, Michael Melvin, was charged in the four other homicides as well.

In an interview on Friday, Newark Police Director Anthony F. Ambrose III described Mr. Roberts and Mr. McMillan as people “with knowledge” of the four murders nearly 18 months ago. He said the slow pace of prosecuting Mr. Melvin might have allowed Mr. Roberts to be killed.

Flickr Friday: Niagra Drive

Today’s Flickr Friday comes from, well, me. 🙂 Last weekend’s Portugal Day celebration was a blast. Here’s one of the many crowd shots we took that day.

Niagra Drive

Portugal Day marks the death of Portuguese national icon Luís de Camões, who is considered Portugal’s greatest poet. More information is available on the Wikipedia. The Newark Star Ledger also has a piece about the history of the Ironbound festival: Portugal Day to show true team spirit.

Sunday’s 3 p.m. parade will be the culmination of the 10-day Portugal Day festival that has included folklore dancers from Portugal, a youth soccer tournament and an art exhibit highlighting local artists.

When bakery owner Bernardino Coutinho started the festival 27 years ago, it drew fewer than 10,000 visitors. Today, the two-day street festival that is part of the June event draws an estimated 500,000 people.

Live from the Ledger also describes the atmosphere on Sunday:

“I love the music, but I come for the food and liquor,” said Medeiros, laughing. The two, both from Newark, make a point of showing up for the parade each year. “Plus,” Karisa added, “I’m half Portuguese.”

The floats slowly made their way west along Ferry Street, with children and adults reaching out to grasp for the T-shirts, pencils, caps, Frisbees and candy thrown their way.

The clack-clack of castanets accompanied one group of folklore dancers, who twirled and spun atop a slowly moving flatbed truck.

They were followed by drummers from the Portuguese American Police Association and bagpipers from Rory O’Moors Pipe and Drums of Morris, just some of the entertainment in a steady line throughout the day.

Lame Duck Council Cashes Out

Newark Star Ledger: Plan to vote on Newark condos raises eyebrows. Apallling last-ditch effort on the part of the lame-duck city council (7 council members have been voted out of office after Tuesday’s election) to push through a $550 million development project.
They’ve called an “emergency” council meeting to get a required tax abatement for the developer. Sure: kids are victimized in the streets almost every week for the past several weeks, and city council does nothing. But, a major development project for politically connected developers? That’s an emergency.

An emergency City Council meeting is scheduled for today to, among other things, vote on a 20-year tax exemption for the first phase of a proposed 2,000-unit condominium/retail project, which is being built by developers with close ties to City Hall. Seven of nine council members eligible to vote today are lame ducks, replaced by candidates supportive of Booker, who has openly criticized James’ development policy and said he would re-evaluate every major development deal in the pipeline.

“The Mulberry Street project seems good on its face, but I would like to have a chance to review it. … What’s the rush?” Booker asked. “The City Council’s history of give-aways is painful at best. … I wish they would allow us the opportunity to determine clear crite ria for how these abatements are passed out.”

Major Drug Bust Yesterday

Live from the Ledger: 30 arrested in drug raid at Newark apartment complex. The State Police and FBI descend on a West Ward housing project in a massive operation to arrest dozens and claim thousands of dollars worth of drugs and paraphernalia.

State Police and Essex County drug investigators arrested 30 people and seized thousands of packages of cocaine and heroin today after police swarmed into a housing complex described as one of the biggest drug bazaars in Newark’s West Ward.

The mid-morning raid at Bradley Court involved more than 100 state troopers and county investigators who surrounded the complex and grabbed people who had been named in arrest warrants stemming from an undercover investigation that began in the fall.

1010 Wins has an audio version of the story: Authorities Raid Suspected Newark Drug House. The New Jersey State Police have also issued a press release: Major Drug Distribution Hub Raided In Newark. More discussion on Newark Speaks.