Fishing for Retail Business in Las Vegas

Citing similar small cities like Oakland, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., the Star Ledger draws some lessons from the recent ICSC conference which Booker attended to figure out just how Newark can bring more retail business to the city: Newark has model for luring retailers.

“One part of it is getting retailers up to the learning curve,” said Lamont Blackstone, a co-founder of DLC Urban Core, a developer who specializes in refurbishing shopping centers in cities. “The retail industry is still in an evolutionary stage with understanding the customer.”

Blackstone said Home Depot is a pioneer in returning to the inner city. The hardware chain opened a store on Springfield Avenue in Newark several years ago and it was the first big-box retailer to open shop in years. The city also boasts of an Old Navy, Foot Locker, Ashley Stewart, New York & Company and Modell’s.

Officials though are looking to move to the next tier of stores and wouldn’t mind seeing a bookstore like Borders or grocery stores such as Stop & Shop or Trader Joe’s move in. Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he is willing to offer discounted land as long as retailers are willing to guarantee jobs for local residents and comply with environmental regulations.

Developers say the one surefire way to attract them to the urban pockets is tax incentives or deals for cheap land.

“Incentivize everything,” said Brian J. Holdwick, vice president of business and financial services for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

Holdwick said cities also need to provide downtown streetscape and bring residents back into the city. Detroit also had brought in a slew of casinos, but those did not rejuvenate the city the way it had hoped.

The turning point for the Motor City, he said, is when it hosted the Superbowl in 2006 at Ford Field. Hosting the event, he said, inspired Detroit to invest heavily on its infrastructure and attract more businesses.

Oakland, a city that is often compared to Newark, sits on the east bay, across from San Francisco and also has been beset by crime. With a population of 411,755, it is larger than Newark, which has 283,879 residents. Last year, violence claimed 148 lives, a spike of 57 percent over 2005. Most of the violence was due to gang warfare and drugs.

Like Newark, it has waterfront property, an airport and is the nexus of three major highways. And like Newark, the city is overshadowed by a much larger metropolis: San Francisco.

A Whole Foods opened in 2005 and a Trader Joe’s is on its way. Cafes are springing up throughout the city.

Even so, the city has 137 sites available for lease and another 51 for sale. It is offering façade improvement grants, enterprise zone tax credits and assistance in hiring and training employees.

Car Chase in Central Ward Ends in Liquor Store Crash

7Online has a weird story this morning about a car chase — that may or may not have been conducted by police — which ended in a crash into a Ironbound Central Ward liquor store: Police searching for suspects in Newark.
Update: we need to make some corrections to this blog: the information in the 7Online piece wasn’t complete. The incident occurred on Mulberry Ave in the Central Ward, not on East Kinney in the Ironbound. WNBC has a piece that corroborates this information (Police: Newark Crash May Have Involved Officer) and Fox has some video (Newark Cop Car Chase Under Investigation).

Apparently there was an SUV that police were pursuing. Now when we say police, put an asterisk there. We have to clarify that. After the SUV crashed into the front of the store, the two occupants of that vehicle ran away to a waiting blue colored vehicle that then drove off.

The driver of a police vehicle, a Crown Victoria with lights flashing according to witnesses, pursued the other vehicle with the two occupants.

The police would later tow away the SUV that crashed into the store.

The reason we say put an asterisk next to the police vehicle is because Newark police say they don’t think the police vehicle that was pursuing the SUV is one of their vehicles. It could be county police, could be a state police cruiser or it could be federal police. That is something that Newark police are looking into at this hour.

Again, according to witnesses the police vehicle did have flashing lights.

We spoke to the son-in-law of the owner of the store and he said that police were not clear for him either.

“The police say that they don’t know what happened,” said relative of store owner, Juan Valera. “We’re waiting to figure out what happened.”

Just bizarre.

Brooklynesque Apartments in North Ward

Jeff Bennett at Newark History sent over some photos of an apartment building he stumbled over while in the North Ward. The building is striking in that it’s much more like something found in Brooklyn or Greenwich Village than anything I’ve seen so far in Newark.
Weequahic Apts 1Weequahic Apts 2Weequahic Apts 3

Weequahic Apts 5

Typically, our architecture consists of anything from the new and uninspired “Bayonne boxes” with brick façades and their older aluminum-siding-wrapped cousins in the Ironbound, converted factories, or the beautiful (but rare) downtown structures like 1180 Raymond or the Union Building.

Have you seen good home architecture in Newark? Let us know in the comments!

Memorial day weekend: a celebration?

Over the weekend, I attended both the African American Heritage Parade on Broad Street and the Festival in Weeuqahic Park. Both events left me wondering.
At the Parade, I saw that many establishments on Broad Street (I clearly remember the food stores close to city hall) were conspicuously closed, despite the great number of people on the street.

And when I asked the information desk at Penn Station about how I could get to Weequahic Park with public transportation, I was told that my best bet was to go to Broad and Market and catch a 24 southbound. The 24, like the 31, is notoriously unreliable. I waited for over half an hour for a bus to come, and then (as it always happens) three came simultaneously. It took me over an hour to get to the park.

These two facts strike me as particularly perplexing given that the events were billed as part of a “Statewide” celebration of African American Heritage. Shouldn’t Newark’s businesses be prepared to welcome people from out of town, particularly during a very hot day such as Sunday? And can the city do no better than a frustratingly inefficient regular city bus to get people to and from a supposedly statewide festival.

The real question in my mind is whether these two facts – that businesses stayed closed during a potentially lucrative day, and that there was no efficient and rapid way to get to the site of the festival – are symptoms of a broader social pattern of neglect (dare I say discrimination?) of events of importance to the African-American community.

Both events deserved better service and support from the city, from businesses, and from NJ Transit. Which of our elected officials will make their voice heard on this issue?

Does this Mean Hands-Off Mulberry Street?

If you hear waves of cheering coming from Mulberry Street later today, it’s not a pre-party for Portugal Day 2007 festivities in the Ironbound. More than likely, it is the Mulberry Street Coalition reacting to the Public Advocate’s report that NJ towns have abused eminent domain for development purposes. Every paper in the state is reporting on this one, as is the Star-Ledger. Newark officials are going ahead with plans for a multi-phase redevelopment of Mulberry Street and has refused to exclude the use of eminent domain as a last-resort tool to assemble land for future phases of the project. The Mulberry Street Coalition has been going toe to toe with City Hall on this issue, even taking them to court over it. What will City Hall say now?

Citing abuses of this process by local officials, the state public advocate yesterday urged legislators to overhaul of the law that permits New Jersey towns to seize land for private redevelopment. Ronald Chen said towns officials have exploited the law to include desirable properties in so-called blighted areas, seize land without notice, low-ball landowners being pushed out and rubber-stamp projects where they have a personal interest.

“The findings in this report crystallize the urgent need for our Legislature to change the state redevelopment law,” Chen said. A proposal has been stuck in committee in the Senate for a year.

Others defend the law as written and urged caution about changes.

“With a broad brush, this indicts the process as if it were cavalier,” said Attorney Edward McManimon III, whose Newark firm has represented many towns making use of the redevelopment law. “It doesn’t show enough respect for what the local officials go through. They make those decisions, and they’re not easy and they’re held accountable for them.”

How Would Global Warming Affect Newark?

The Star Ledger has a post on a report about global warming would affect New Jersey: Report paints dismal picture of a hotter N.J.. The report, issued by the Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and entitled “An Unfamiliar State” contains some pretty heady warnings about the results of global warming:

Wildwood’s famous boardwalk could be underwater. Smog in the suburbs, heat-related deaths in Newark and beetle infestations in the Pinelands all could worsen. The Holland Tunnel could be closed every five years on average — because of flooding.

From rising sea levels to deteriorating air quality, no part of New Jersey would escape the negative consequences of unchecked global warming, a report released today warns.

The report frequently highlights affects on Newark — both as New Jersey’s most populous city, and as a major transportation hub:

Summer in the city isn’t like summer in the country. Anyone who has walked barefoot across the street on a hot summer day knows firsthand that pavement absorbs a lot more heat than grass.

While rural areas tend to cool off at night, the asphalt and brick in cities continue to radiate heat through the night, keeping temperatures elevated in cities around the clock. Add the waste heat from air conditioners, driving and other city activities, and cities become islands of heat. For example, Newark tends to be more than 5° F hotter than rural parts of New Jersey.

Summer in the city isn’t like summer in the country. Anyone who has walked barefoot across the street on a hot summer day knows firsthand that pavement absorbs a lot more heat than grass. While rural areas tend to cool off at night, the asphalt and brick in cities continue to radiate heat through the night, keeping temperatures elevated in cities around the clock. Add the waste heat from air conditioners, driving and other city activities, and cities become islands of heat. For example, Newark tends to be more than 5° F hotter than rural parts of New Jersey.

As a result, Newark and other urban areas in New Jersey will be more vulnerable to the public-health impacts of increased heat waves caused by global warming.

During heat waves, prolonged periods of elevated temperatures in cities can have a serious impact on public health. During a heat wave, individuals unable to maintain a stable temperature of 98° F suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke and eventually, death. The elderly, the young or the chronically ill are the most vulnerable. In the United States, heat waves are currently responsible for more deaths than hurricanes or any other severe weather event.

One of the worst heat waves in recent history occurred in Europe in August 2003, centered on France. Temperatures soared to above 100° F and remained abnormally elevated for two weeks. At least 35,000 people died as a result, including 14,802 in France alone.

In Newark in the 1990s, hot temperatures (defined as days with high temperatures above 90° F) affected the region for an average of 14 out of 92 summer days. However, unchecked global warming will make such hot days much more frequent:

  • By the 2020s, the number of hot days could more than double.
  • By mid-century, the number of hot days could more than quadruple, affecting 60 out of 92 summer days, on average.
  • By the 2080s, the number of hot days could rise to between 40 and 120 per year.
  • The number of days per year with temperatures over 100° F in New York could rise from two today to 25 toward the end of the century.

As a result of the increased strength and duration of heat waves, the number of heat-related deaths in Newark is expected to more than triple by 2020 (compared to a 1990s baseline). By the year 2050, the number of summer heat-related deaths in Newark could be more than 5 times higher. (See Figure 7). While global warming will also reduce deaths from cold in the winter, the increase in heat-related deaths will more than offset this potential benefit. (Scientists estimate that the number of excess summer deaths in 2050 will exceed the number of prevented deaths in the winter by more than four-fold.)

Download the full text of the report here (PDF).

Rice and Beasley Duke it Out for State Senate

Politics NJ takes a look at the men in competition for Rice’s open state senate seat (which serves district 28 — Bellville, Irvington, and parts of Newark), Two men, and Newark.
Ron Rice, you may recall, was trounced by Cory Booker in the 2006 mayoral race in Newark. Lacking support from the Essex County powers-that-be and with half the amount of Beasley’s cash in the war chest, Rice faces an uphill battle. At sixty-two and with the odds squarely against him, you’d think he’d take a cue from the Real Deal and bow out of the race.

Vanquished by Cory Booker at the ballot box in last year’s mayoral contest and an outcast from the Essex County power structure, Rice says he’s no less willing now to go toe-to-toe for the district’s future, and it’s precisely because he agrees that Newark and Irvington need more money for schools and youth programs, that he worries about Beasley’s connections to Booker, whom he says is a charlatan bankrolled by big money interests.

“I haven’t seen anything of substance out of that campaign, just his (Beasley’s) picture with the mayor,” said Rice. “I guess they realize they can’t match our experience. But what the hell do New York hedge fund companies and mortgage people care about Irvington? These are some of the people donating to Beasley’s campaign.”

Rice has no problem with teamwork talk and basketball analogies.

“You just don’t put in a bench-warmer when the game is tight and you’re losing,” the senator said. “When I was first elected to the city council in 1978, the people called for me. I didn’t know anything about Essex County politics. The politicians didn’t put me on the council, the people put me there, and I was a councilman for 16 years.”

Yet if the chief criticism of Booker’s district 29 slate of candidates is youth and experience, Beasley in his district 28 bid also offers blue collar credentials. He started out in the local parent teacher organization, and worked to get local candidates elected to the school board. From the beginning, he insists, he’s focused not so much on the personalities attached to candidacies as much as the issues, public questions, like putting strictures on trucks that spew diesel fumes when they idle, and working in recent years out of the state monitoring and supervision wrought by Irvington’s worst days.

The Beasley family has always managed businesses – gift shops or restaurants in the Newark-Irvington area, and he and his brother used to go into New York City and buy suits, bring them back and sell them in Newark. He says he’s spent his life building his reputation in the community. His own first name refers to one of the world’s first converts to Islam, who, in Beasley’s words, “was a man of color who called people to prayer.”

The pride in the journey of his people shows in African-American artwork in his office, images of jazz and a prominently placed portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

“What I came away with from those two was Martin represented the traditions of being God-fearing and preaching about the ills of society in a way that brought a lot of our people together,” said Beasley. “Malcolm got our people to focus on who they were as people, and really brought about a lot of race pride.”

A Greener Greater Newark Review

Sticking with the green theme, NJN aired a documentary last night entitled “A Greener, Greater Newark” about the parks and public spaces efforts in the city. L Craig Schoonmaker at Newark USA posted a review. Money quote from Craig:

The message of the program is that private action on a personal or block level can bit by bit clean up Newark and affect other aspects of society’s functioning, by giving people a better feeling about where they live and connecting with each other. It doesn’t have to be a large-scale new park. A community garden on a single vacant lot, or a single homeowner’s landscaping his or her own frontage imaginatively can briten the neighbors’ day and motivate them to put in window boxes or otherwise spruce up their own property all up and down the block. Do this enuf times, in enuf places, and there comes to be a general improvement in the way people feel about the city and their place in it.

Green space can change from block to block in the Ironbound. There are some wonderfully tree-lined blocks that make the area feel like a great, quiet neighborhood. But then you walk three blocks and see tractor-trailers trundle down a block that looks like it’s been smothered in concrete. I’ve often thought about taking on our own section of our street to try to plant some trees, but wonder if I’d be able to get any help from neighbors or city hall.

New Park Coming to Newark

Star Ledger: Essex officials reserving a spot for newest park. It’s so good to see Essex County and Newark work to create more green space in Newark — apparently, this is the first new park in eighty years.

For the last 40 years, a massive concrete garage has occupied the space behind Essex County’s court complex in Newark.

But in another year, all those parking spaces will become parkland.

Essex County will get its newest park with walking paths, benches, a fountain and a gazebo after the aging garage is demolished.

County and state officials hailed the plans yesterday as a welcome piece of green space in the densely- populated city of Newark.

“This concrete, bricks and mortar is soon becoming an oasis,” said Assemblyman Bill Payne (D- Essex). “The people around here will be grateful.”

State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson was on hand to deliver a mock $6.5 million check that will pay for the 2.7-acre park, with money from state Green Acres funds.

Jackson praised the county for coming up with the idea of turning the parking garage land into a park.

“You could have easily turned this piece of concrete into another piece of concrete,” Jackson said, adding the county’s idea should be used as a model for other communities throughout the state.

Term Limits for Mayor and Council?

The mysterious and prolific 5Reasons has proposed term limits for the mayor and the council members. He’s got a good point.
Sure, the Booker team may continue to push for reform through the end of his first term, and into his next (in the likely event of a reelection), but now is opportune: institute a major political reform while reform is still on the agenda for the administration.

I know the political elite subculture thinks the city can’t run without them (they’re wrong) and that this group has feigned reform, but now that the budgets have been passed and we’re into another phase, it’s time to get this term limit thing moving.

First, I want the council to propose term limits for the mayor. I don’t care if it’s 8 or 12 years, just as long as it isn’t Gibson and James type numbers.

And second, I want the council to propose term limits for themselves. Again, I don’t care if its 8 or 12, but we need to make sure that we’re consistently rotating the knuckleheads sitting in these chairs.

Let’s see how long it takes before any of them can form a coherent statement on this issue. New York City has term limits. Why not Newark?