Sick Day Disbursement for City’s Ex-Leadership

Newark Star Ledger: Newark’s parting gift to officials: $658,187. Absolutely shocking. Where can I get a job that I get cash for unused sick days? Maybe I need to get out of the private sector.

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James and 21 outgoing members of his administration were issued city checks last month totaling $658,187 for unused vacation and sick time, according to a city document obtained by The Star-Ledger.

Half of that total went to the ex-mayor and seven of his former department heads.

Topping the list was former Fire Director Lowell Jones, a 36-year city employee who received $84,973. Former Police Director Anthony Ambrose got $82,148, while former Police Chief Irving Bradley received $73,464 and former Deputy Police Director Rocco Malanga got $71,102.

James, who left office July 1, received $36,547 for his unused days compiled over 36 years with the city, according to the document. He did not return phone messages left at his home and office.

In addition to the executive branch employees, 23 City Council staffers also received checks totaling $72,212.

Solving the Arena Problem

Newark Star Ledger: Booker hires an arena consultant (via NewarkSpeaks). I hope the city can find a solution to the arena problem — either to make it profitable for the city (and provide some tax relief and jobs to residents), or to find a graceful way to back out of the project and quickly bring in another project to fill the development crater near Market and Broad.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has hired the attorney who was former Gov. Richard Codey’s top lawyer to evaluate the city’s deal for a downtown arena.

Paul Fader, who as chief counsel to Codey led the negotiations with the Giants and Jets that led to a deal for a new football stadium in the Meadowlands, said yesterday the Booker administration has given him a mandate to take a second look at the entire transaction for the $350 million arena.

Less than a month on the job, Booker has threatened to back out of the deal, which calls for the city to contribute $210 million toward a new home for hockey’s Devils. While the mayor has said little about the deal since taking office July 1, in hiring Fader he has made it clear he remains unsatisfied with a project his predecessor, Sharpe James, viewed as a legacy of 20 years in office.

“I’ve been asked to review the transactions and report to my client with respect to that,” Fader, a top contributor to Booker’s campaign, said yesterday. “Any decision about actions will be made by the city.”

The city will pay Fader $175 per hour for his work on the arena. He has been given no time frame.

Thankfully, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek doesn’t appear to be offended by Booker’s scrutiny.

Devils principal owner Jeff Vanderbeek said he has no problem with Booker’s action. “I would have done the exact same thing,” Vanderbeek said. “He is the mayor of the largest city in New Jersey and this is the most high-profile project. He should take a close look at it.”

Newark Gets Help for Park Development

Live from the Ledger: Philanthropist donates $1M for Newark park

Multi-millionaire philanthropist Ray Chambers is donating $1 million through his Amelior/MJC Foundation to Essex County’s ongoing revitalization of West Side Park in Newark, officials announced today, helping bring new a new running track, cherry grove and football field to the 31-acre county park.

The donation will match $800,000 in funds already raised by a quartet of community organizations, including the West Side Park Conservancy, Tri-City Peoples Organization, United Community Corp. and Newark Boys and Girls Club. In addition, Chambers’ foundation has pledged $200,000 to pay for the architects planning the improvements.

The new football field and track – which will be used by Newark’s West Side High School – are the third phase of a $12 million plan to transform the entire park. Already, the county has installed new basketball courts, tennis courts and improved the park’s entryways.

Booker asks for leads to shootings

Newark Star Ledger: Newark shootings prompt plea to city (via NewarkSpeaks).

The plea for help comes roughly three weeks after the mayor introduced a “safe summer” plan to flood the streets with more cops and offer more recreational activities for youngsters. Booker said the three shootings did not occur in any of the 14 publicly designated “safe zones,” but said those boundaries can be changed. Two of the shootings occurred near Central Avenue, on the perimeter of the zones and one occurred on South 10th Street, near three zones.

Police have carved out another 16 spots they are not making pub lic.

“Everyone must begin to respond in positive ways to end this violence,” Booker said. “I am asking every Newarker now to begin to do what they can to change this.”

Booker, who has been touring some of these neighborhoods dur ing the weekends, urged residents to call an anonymous tip line to help police track down suspects.

Council’s ‘Emergency’ Sessions Suspect

Joan Whitlow for the Newark Star Ledger: Newark needs a new start, not more ‘added starters’. Joan asks some thought provoking questions about the city council’s latest actions to spend some serious money on legal counsel. The debate rages on at NewarkSpeaks over whether this reflects a trend in City Hall to regress back to how things were done in the Sharpe James era.

Last week the Booker administration gave contracts worth more than $1 million to 10 legal firms — seven of which had contributed to Booker’s campaign.

That business should have been handled at a regularly scheduled council meeting for maximum public scrutiny. Instead, the council called a special session, which meant scant public notice. The administration sent over the resolutions asking for approval at 7:05 the evening before the meeting, which meant little time for the council to think about what it was doing.

The previous administration was notorious for sending the council “added starters.” That’s the official name for what I call is-there-really-an-emergency-or-are-you-trying-to-hide-something late additions to the agenda. The new administration, of course, ran on promises not to be like the old.

Massive Gang Arrests in NJ

Newark Star Ledger: 60-plus members of violent gang arrested in New Jersey raids. State Police lead a campaign of arrests across New Jersey, including Newark, to dismantle the Bloods gang leadership.

New Jersey and federal authorities took down a notoriously violent set of the Bloods street gang on Tuesday, fanning out across the state and arresting scores of people, including four gang leaders who were directing operations from inside state prison.

The raids against the Nine Trey Gangsters happened concurrently early Tuesday in cities up and down New Jersey, including Paterson, Jersey City, Newark, Trenton, Asbury Park, Keansburg, Atlantic City and Vineland. At least one leader was arrested in New York City.

State police called it the largest gang sweep in state history.

“By taking out the top echelon of this gang, we have struck a powerful blow for the people of New Jersey and particularly those communities caught in the crossfire of gang violence,” said Attorney General Zulima Farber.

Further discussion at NewarkSpeaks.

Back to the Drawing Board

Newark Star Ledger: Newark scraps budget and starts over. The Newark city council votes to start over with the city budget after state auditors find numerous problems. At this rate, the council is hoping to have a new budget prepared by October. The city has also hired a small army of attorneys to perform a forensic audit on the city books. The mind reels at wondering what sorts of skeletons are hidden in City Hall’s financial closets.

The Newark City Council voted yesterday to scrap this year’s budget and start anew after the state sent a letter to Mayor Cory Booker raising serious questions about the previous administration’s spending plan.

The budget in question, introduced by Mayor Sharpe James on May 5, proposed a 5 percent decrease in taxes and reported a revenue stream that exceeded projections.

But in a sternly worded letter from the state Department of Community Affairs, Director Susan Jacobucci said the budget was riddled with problems, ranging from the lack of documentation to scant details about some of the items in the spending plan.

“There are several areas where the budget figures are not consistent and/or need further explanation,” Jacobucci wrote in the July 11 letter addressed to Booker.

Related on Everything Newark: Budget Drama Continues. The previous council failed to approve the current budget which included Sharpe James’ $80 million pet urban renewal projects (which were also criticized and ultimately blocked by the state).

Flickr Friday: Mounted Patrol

This week’s Flickr Friday photo comes again from Flickr user Nudnik N Da Hood. This photo features a mounted Newark policeman and his horse. The mounted patrol, which was once disbanded in the late ’70s due to department-wide layoffs, was reinstated in 1989 to patrol downtown Newark.

Mounted Patrol

Jeff Bennett, owner of Newarkology — a site focused on stories of Newark history and tours of the city — was kind enough to do some legwork and find some information about the NPD mounted patrol. Below is a reprinted article from the Newark Star Ledger that chronicles the return of the mounted patrol to the city.

These guys are all over the Ironbound on the weekends — we’ll have to get some better photos soon. 🙂

Newark Police Back in Saddle Mounted Patrols Downtown — February 21, 1989

The return of mounted police to the state’s largest city has reassured security-conscious residents and businesses with a heightened presence downtown, officials say.

“Everybody likes to see a horse,” said Lt. Pasquale Favata, the commander of the city’s seven-horse mounted unit. “You feel more secure with a horse because you have high visibility. “
An urban enterprise grant of $350,000 allowed the Police Department to reinstate the patrols in August after a hiatus of over 10 years, said Pam Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Mayor Sharpe James. The units ride in a 2-square-mile area downtown from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But the day begins at 7 a.m., when officers groom their mounts and prepare the animals, which usually stand 15 or 16 hands high slightly more than five feet. Favata said officers become very attached to the horses and even come in on their days off to care for them.

The duty, however, is not a ride in the park.

Officers spend much of their time citing parking violators, but they also have thwarted purse snatchers and muggers, said police Director Claude Coleman.

Managing a horse through streets congested with automobile traffic and blaring noise can pose problems for even experienced riders, Coleman said.

One rider fell off his horse while ticketing a car because an approaching bus startled the animal, Coleman said.

“The officer was OK, but he doesn’t ride anymore,” Coleman said.

Each horse costs the department an average of $1,200, Favata said. He buys the horses at auctions with an option to return the animal within 30 days if it does not become acclimated to the duty.

Officers usually can determine within two to three weeks if the horses will adjust, he said.

When a horse is deemed fit, it can provide several advantages not enjoyed by an officer in a car or on foot.

Officers can more easily spot criminals in a crowd and can maneuver better than a patrol car, police say, adding that residents and business people feel more secure with a mounted officer.

“A number of people, for one reason or other, feel it’s not safe to come into Newark,” Coleman said. “But people seem to feel more secure with the horses around. “

Goldstein said the mayor considers the program a success, though there are no plans to expand it.

Not every New Jersey municipality has managed to keep a mounted police unit. Newark’s original unit disbanded in 1978 as part of department-wide layoffs.

The horses in Newark’s unit do not go out when the temperature dips below 20 degrees, partly because it is uncomfortable for the rider, Favata said. Horses also remain in their home a renovated garage about a block away from City Hall when the temperature tops 90 degrees.

Nationwide, horses in mounted police units fare well compared with their counterparts in city work carriage horses, said Robert Baker, a field investigator in Washington for the Humane Society of the United States.

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO – Police officers patrolling downtown Newark last week. After a decade’s absence, mounted patrols have returned to the city.

Copyright 1989 Bergen Record Corp.

Garcia Rewarded for Foiling Bank Robbery

Following up on the story of last week’s foiled bank robbery, the Newark Star Ledger reports that Garcia was rewarded by the Mayor and City National Bank: Robbery-busting chef gets a taste of hero treatment. This is such a great story to see in Newark and, I think, another example of Booker’s leveraging the media. If Newarkers realize that there is incentive in taking ownership of their town, the mayor is that much more likely to get support from the community to take back those “safety zones”.

Alex Garcia thought Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s staff was joking when they told him Booker wanted to honor him for stopping the robbery of a bank customer last week.

“It’s too good to be true,” Garcia said. “I’m shocked. I’m speechless.”

Booker wasn’t joking and neither was Louis Prezeau Sr., president of City National Bank on Broad Street.

The mayor handed out his first proclamation to Garcia yesterday and Prezeau gave him a $500 check.

“We’re so grateful for the courage of this young man for stepping up in the face of danger,” said Booker in the bank’s second-floor conference room. “He did not hesitate to step forward and put his own life in danger to stop a crime from happening.”

Read more and see pictures of the city plaque awarded to Garcia at the city’s Press Release page.

“Newark is an Emerging Market”

The New York Post has a surprisingly upbeat piece on the urban renewal going on in Newark with Newark and Improved (via NewarkSpeaks). Highlighting the Matrix and Mulberry real estate ventures going on, as well as a posh new development at Eleven 80 Raymond Boulevard, the usually-cynical Post is downright bullish on Newark’s comeback.

Units come with granite countertops, marble baths and porcelain tile floors. The building itself features a four-lane bowling alley, an 8,000-square-foot health club, a game room, maid service, a concierge, manicure and pedicure service and an on-call masseuse.

While rents at the building are low by New York City standards, $1,350-a-month studios, $1,900-a-month one-bedrooms and $2,600-a-month two-bedrooms represent a raising of the bar for Newark real estate.

And Cogswell is far from done. Over the last four years, the company has acquired plots of land along the western border of downtown’s Military Park, where they plan to build some 3,500 rental and condo units in the next decade. Looks like Booker isn’t alone in his optimism.

“You have 45,000 students and administrators from the colleges here that are completely under-served,” Cogswell CEO Arthur Stern says. “You have 100,000 people who commute to work in Newark every day. For over 40 years people hadn’t had it in their vocabulary that Newark was a possibility. Once that happens, the floodgates will open.”