New York Times: This Land Is Newark’s Land

New York Times: This Land Is Newark’s Land

Mr. Booker’s plan may seem conventional, but it qualifies as a revolution in the way Newark City Hall has conducted land sales in the recent past. Sharpe James, Mr. Booker’s predecessor as mayor, is about to go on trial on corruption charges related to a fire sale of city property to political friends and allies carried out during the last few years of his long administration.

The Booker reforms were to be expected, but they were welcome all the same. If Newark is to enjoy a widespread, five-ward revival, it must lose its reputation as a place where business is carried out in the shadows. Mr. Booker’s plan to make city land sales transparent is a giant leap in the right direction.

An Op-Ed from Sunday’s Times applauds the Booker administration’s efforts to drive transparent land deals and bring suit against developers who have failed to live up to their promises. While quality of life, education and crime continue to be hot-button issues in this city, a holistic approach to repair the city is the only way Newark will see progress.

7Online: Deadly shooting outside Newark diner

7Online: Deadly shooting outside Newark diner

Newscopter Seven was live over scene. The victims reportedly were shot outside the Andros Diner at 6 Wilson Avenue just after 3:30 a.m. They were taken to University Hospital in Newark, where one of the men was pronounced dead. The suspect fled the scene and no arrests were immediately made.

Police closed busy Wilson Avenue in the city’s Ironbound section as they investigated. Newark police said the gunfire was the year’s 97th homicide, compared to 104 for the same period last year.

4thGenerationNewarker at NewarkSpeaks answers a question I had about helicopters over the Ironbound this morning. This incident occurred just off of Ferry Street, where thousands did their holiday shopping this season, and yards from where War of the Worlds was shot in 2004.

Update: has additional details on the incident, indicating some positive leads in catching the perpetrators: Victim in Newark shooting ID’ed as bouncer.

A bouncer at a Newark social club was shot and killed outside a Ironbound diner this morning by someone he apparently had turned away at the club earlier in the night, police said.

Jose A. Rivera, 39, was working as a bouncer Christmas night at the Centro Orizano Bar at the corner of Lafayette and Bruen streets, police said, when he and another bouncer became involved in a dispute with two men they refused entry to the club, police said.

After the bar closed, the bouncers later encountered the two men at about 3:30 a.m. outside Andro’s Diner on Wilson Avenue, police said.

A verbal dispute turned physical and then one of the men who had been turned away began firing shots, fatally striking Rivera in the torso, police said.

The other bouncer, whose name has not been released, suffered what authorities described as a non-life-threatening wound to the face and was able to hold the unarmed suspect at the scene until officers arrived, according to the Newark police department.

The second bouncer was treated at UMDNJ. Authorities have detained the unarmed suspect for questioning, but police say they have not yet identified the shooter.

This was the 97th homicide of the year, compared to 104 for the same period in 2006.

Investigators are seeking the public’s assistance and urge anyone with information about this incident or any other crimes in Newark to call the Department’s “Crime Stoppers” anonymous tip line at 877 NWK-TIPS (877 695-8477) or the “Gun Stoppers” line at 877 NWK-GUNS (877 695-4867). Tips that lead to arrests and indictments could result in cash rewards of up to $ 2,000 to the person who provides the information.

Star Ledger: Duo seek to bring sparkle back to West Ward

Star Ledger: Duo seek to bring sparkle back to West Ward

The West Ward initiative is a pilot program that is designed to rebuild a neighborhood using a grassroots approach. That means selecting local developers who hire Newark residents to build and restore homes. Officials have vowed that community input will play a large role and have emphasized they do not plan to gentrify the neighborhood, rather spruce it up and reestablish a community feel to it.

Drawing residents in all parts of the process, officials say, will instill a sense of pride and engender community empowerment. The city plans to expand the idea to other parts of the city.

“This is just the beginning,” Booker said. “This is my pledge. It’s going to be replicated in other areas of the West Ward. It’s going to be replicated in the East Ward. It’s going to be replicated all over the city.”

Star Ledger: Victim critical after drive-by shooting in Newark park

Star Ledger: Victim critical after drive-by shooting in Newark park

The victim, whom detectives have yet to identify, was standing in the park near South 17th Street at 10:30 a.m. when a red Jeep approched and someone inside opened fire, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.

Star Ledger: Suits target lots sold on the cheap in Newark

Star Ledger: Suits target lots sold on the cheap in Newark

When the market cooled, some developers sat on their lots, city officials charge, and engaged in land speculation, which is prohibited in redevelopment contracts. Most contracts call for developers to build within 18 months of purchase.

Booker, who has long criticized the discounted land deals, is expected to unveil a new policy today for the sale of city-owned land, which would eliminate discounted prices unless it benefits the city.

Some of the developers said the lawsuits took them by surprise.

City Hall begins the process of bringing developers to task for not meeting their development commitments and land speculation. Tamika Reilly, who has been indicted on federal charges in conspiring with Sharpe James on shady land deals, owns one of the companies being sued.

New York Times: Keeper of an Unlikely Trove, Gutenberg to Warhol

New York Times: Keeper of an Unlikely Trove, Gutenberg to Warhol

It is difficult to say which is more surprising: that the Newark Public Library owns prints by Picasso and Rauschenberg, a page of the Gutenberg Bible and a 1493 handwritten tome known as the Nuremberg Chronicles, or that William J. Dane, a dapper, refreshingly irreverent art scholar from New Hampshire, has been tending to this astounding collection for six decades.

Mr. Dane, who carries the regal title “keeper of the prints,” has been cradling and nourishing one of the country’s most impressive collections of prints, posters and rare books since he left the scorched battlefields of Europe and ambled into the library’s main branch on Washington Street, whereupon he was immediately hired as a clerk. “I guess you could say I was at the right place at the right time,” said Mr. Dane, a state legislator’s son who has lived in the same Newark building — a faded steel-and-glass tower designed by Mies van der Rohe — for 30 years.

Excellent Times story about a surprisingly sophisticated collection of works at the Newark Public Library.

New York Times: Cheers in Newark for a Housing Project’s Downfall

New York Times: “Cheers in Newark for a Housing Project’s Downfall”:

A green-spangled marching band shimmied and lunged to a crash of cymbals. Inside a giant tent, a five-piece band serenaded the crowd, which was dining on a Southern-style catered lunch. Save for the overcast skies, it was a glorious day for the destruction of a building.

The celebration, on Wednesday morning, marked the final days of Brick Towers, one of Newark’s most dysfunctional apartment complexes, whose best-known tenant, Cory A. Booker, went on to become the city’s mayor.

Star Ledger: Newark councilwoman Rone guilty of interfering in traffic

Star Ledger: Newark councilwoman Rone guilty of interfering in traffic

Newark councilwoman was found guilty this evening of interfering at a police traffic stop involving her nephew last year. The Central Ward councilwoman was charged with blocking Rutgers-Newark police on Dec. 20, 2006 after they stopped her nephew, Jameel Grant, for a traffic violation.

It was not immediately clear what impact, if any, today’s conviction would have on her position with the city. She will face fines as punishment.

An embarrassment to councilwoman Rone, but probably not career-ending.

Newark: Architecture of Fear

The space man, in the 1952 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, lands on the Washington Mall and announces to the earthlings, “I only fear that fear has replaced reason.” Thank God that the alien did not come to Newark, where reason often fails to prevail. When Arthur Stern of Cogswell first arrived at 744 Broad Street about ten years ago, a few drug addicts huddled up in a corner shooting their daily stimuli and some nesting pigeons were startled, fluffing their wings in the hallway. For better or for worse, fear almost stopped him from forging ahead on his real estate Odyssey in Brick City. Cliff Stein, whose family developed the Tavern-on-the-Green, told me a similar story of coming to “look at a Newark building.” The cab driver dropped him off a few steps away from his destination, a 17-story office building at 33 Washington Street, which he later successfully purchased.

Fear! He tiptoed as quickly as possible towards the building entrance. Even experience in the city tends to further blur reason. An assistant told me stories about two top university administrators, one who had worked in the city for over 30 years and the other who studied urban issues for a living. A few years ago when spending nights here in their spare apartments in a married student dormitory, they often had a great quandary to approach their cars in the parking deck two blocks away across the “dark” campus. Somehow, reason always succumbs to fear. Newark has become associated with civil unrest, crime, and contaminated air and water—intensified by the density of desperate people surrounded by buildings of architecture of fear.

Physically and metaphorically, the 1967 Riots has created a historic ground zero in the city and in people’s psyches. A reference of time has becomes a phrase, such as “three years before the Riots,” or “four decades after that hot summer.” A location is often described by its direction to, or its distance from, the 1967 epicenter at Hayes Homes in the Central Ward. Most of all, architecture has reflected the tortured history of Newark in the past century better than anything else. At the turn of last century, as slaughterhouses, smokestacks, and industrial waste multiplied, Newark, known as “the nation’s unhealthiest city,” responded enthusiastically to the City Beautiful Movement. Landmarks, such as City Hall (1903), the Public Library (1901) and the Newark Museum (1909), as well as monuments, such as the George Washington statue in Washington Park and the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of the Essex Court House, demonstrated the power of the city in its public places.

Starting from the 1930’s, the city sought to “clear” slums, to open up breathing space, and to unplug transportation arteries. The Urban Renewal in the 1950’s followed Le Corbusier’s Radiant City model, but destroyed communities for the ideological and aesthetic monotony of high-rises with fresh air and bright light. If the architecture of the time was euphemized as “constructive destruction,” the decades after the 1967 ground zero created an equally painful architecture of fear, which could be called “destructive construction.” University Heights with its higher education institutions, in particular, clearly reflected the state’s collective fear towards the city’s post-1967 devastation.

In 1962, after over ten years’ preparation, the Urban Renewal Project NJ R-45 (Newark College Expansion), with federal capital grants of $7,674,309 and millions more of state and local bonds, “relocated” more than 1,300 families in 87.5 acres next to the now James Street Commons Historic District. Rutgers’ ugly but open academic buildings included the law center (Ackerson Hall), buildings for science (Boyden Hall) and humanities (Conklin Hall), and Dana Library, where Newark’s first girl’s school was located years ago. However, political, social, and demographic changes following 1967 dramatically turned the universities inward to create a fortress-like environment.

On September 11, 1987, the first residential hall was completed at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Central Avenue. The red cinderblock building, with jail-like narrow windows, was named after Malcolm Talbott, a Vice President of Rutgers and a dominant figure in forming University Heights. Two years later, Woodward Hall, the second residential hall of stern grey cement, turned its back against Central Avenue. Professor Herbert Woodward, who specialized in subjects far away from the urban environment, Appalachian caves and copper mines, served as the first Dean of Arts and Sciences of the newly formed Rutgers Newark in 1946. At the university’s first faculty meeting, he celebrated the college’s virtual autonomy, “We can create; we can build, and we can plan…”

However, control immediately shifted from the banks of the Passaic to the banks of the Raritan in New Brunswick. For almost 20 years, generations of students, who lived in these mice-infested buildings, were taught to fear their host city. Cameras aim at “mean” streets outside and harsh lights beam from the top of buildings, sending a clear message to both Newark residents and university students about the demarcation of the two worlds.

A circle of the fortress was finally completed when the $51 million 13-story University Square rose up at the corner of University and Central Avenues. When working on the state demolition approval for the site in 2003, Provost Steven Diner held a public forum on the building’s plan. He presented a rendering, which had been released to the New York Times, featuring a public square, as the building’s name suggested. After the building was completed in 2006, however, the then Chairperson of the city’s Historic Preservation and Landmarks Commission, Liz Del Tufo, shared her great astonishment with many participants of the forum.

After a 180-degree turn of the L-shaped building, the celebrated public square is actually a private inner courtyard. Executive Vice-Provost Gene Vincenti told the New York Times, “Its location couldn’t be more advantageous for our students, as it is situated just minutes away from the Newark Public Library, the Newark Museum, NJPAC, the Riverfront Stadium and downtown businesses.” Students could safely come out through an ingeniously designed narrow passageway to city streets. The New York City architect firm, Davis Brody Bond, who designed the building, holds its design philosophy as “to create environments which encourage human spirit, while incorporating state-of-the-art technology.”

On the other end of the Central Avenue, the internationally acclaimed architect Charles Gwathmey designed a rough-hewn yellow sandstone building, with long horizontal panels of cold satin-finish gray zinc. Designed before President Altenkirch’s tenure, the NJIT building leaves no setback from the narrow sidewalk, but posits a huge horizontal air vent against pedestrians and a powerful shadow on the beautiful 1857 Eberhart Hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. “A forced contrast,” as the architect called it.

Mr. Gwthmey is credited for university buildings all over the country, from Princeton to Harvard, and Cincinnati to the University of Iowa. To dedicate the $83.5 million building in 2004, the architect said, “University buildings…have an obligation to give the campus a sense of place, and happily, that is what we are achieving here.” Obviously, he did not have citizens of Newark in his mind and cared nothing about the university’s sense of place in this deprived city. The architectural critic Paul Goldberg’s description of the Freedom Tower can be also used to summarize this structure, “It is a pretty grim piece of architecture…It advertises fear.”

To illustrate the architecture of fear, one has to read between the lines of Rutgers’ 2004 Physical Master Plan. In order to “further reconnect” the campus to the city and neighborhood institutions, the plan claims, “of primary importance is clarifying and extending the New Street Corridor, connecting the university with NJIT, Science Park, and UMDNJ to the west, and Military Park, the central business district and future waterfront development in the east.” The military sounding “Corridor” was specifically promoted through the website “” to “encourage” tens of thousands of university students to approach the excitement of the city through a single one-way street, with guaranteed police presence and special lighting.

Furthermore, the master plan paradoxically calls for creation of pleasant streetscapes, together with closed or semi-closed “quadrangles, forecourts, inviting lobbies and atriums.” However, students are obviously receptive to the clear message of fear. In a survey done by the social psychology lab class in the spring of 2006, Rutgers students reported their fear not only about parking decks and the Essex Lot in the evening, but also spaces inside buildings like Bradley and Boyden Halls.

Last August, the Regional Plan Association responded to Mayor Booker’s request to host an exciting visioning process of Newark’s future at NJIT’s School of Architecture. Richard Roberts of New Jersey Transit, the leader of the transportation panel, was late for an afternoon session. “I just had a meeting with the Mayor on issues of the Prudential Center,” Mr. Roberts reported. The mayor refused to reinforce suburbanites’ fears by letting them circumvent the city through fortified corridors and sky-walks to the arena.

That effectively set the tone for the planning process. However, when coming to give a speech later, Mr. Booker was greeted from the street by a note on the locked door: “Mr. Major, please enter through the door inside the campus.” A month later, at the Central Ward public hearing on the RPA Plan, Mayor Booker called for stopping the “hostile structures” like the heavily fortified FBI Building on the Passaic riverbank. Meanwhile, the fearsome city was ranked last out of 96 cities by Prevention Magazine’s Annual Walking City List, as a result of our architecture of fear. The prophetic humanoid alien should come to Newark after all to warn its leaders: “Restore your quality public space, or suffer further devastating consequences.” However, where can he land, in this strange city of fear?

New York Times: A Show of Small Works, and a Group Sampler

New York Times: “A Show of Small Works, and a Group Sampler”:

Many of the pieces here are skillful and clever. A few are fabulous, combining interesting subject matter and independent thought. Beth Gilfilen’s intricate color-coded collage made of paint swatches from the hardware store is especially impressive; Marco Muñoz’s ethereal still-life photographs from paper negatives are also lovely.

There are a handful of standouts among the many paintings. Joe Waks hunts down amateur landscape paintings in thrift stores, junk shops and yard sales, then paints McDonald’s restaurant signs into them. Finally, he stamps them with his name, claiming them as his own. The paintings are hideous, but the idea is genuinely intriguing.