New York Times: A Calm Stretch Ends in Newark, but Officials Claim Progress on Crime

New York Times: A Calm Stretch Ends in Newark, but Officials Claim Progress on Crime

Mr. Booker, who has staked his political future on making the city safer, ticked off a list of new initiatives that he credits with reducing crime: a fugitive apprehension project, a unified narcotics squad, a hot line for tips, more police officers on the street and the renewed embrace of New York City’s Compstat system.

The police director, Garry F. McCarthy, has pointed to other factors as well, saying the drop in homicides could be tied to a sharp increase in arrests, including the arrests in January of several gang members, a result of the department’s new collaboration with federal law enforcement agencies.

“We are seeing the result of all that work, and all that activity,” Mr. Booker said. “The trend line is heading in the right direction.”

At the news conference, Mr. McCarthy reported that a Columbia University professor had placed the odds of Newark going 43 days without a murder at one in 111,482.

“There’s no statistical anomaly here,” Mr. McCarthy said. “Ten days can be a statistical anomaly. But the fact of the matter is, there’s a science to policing.”

But even among the scientists, or criminologists, there are major disagreements about the ways in which police practices affect the crime rate. Andrew Karmen, a sociologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, talked about one of the prevailing splits.

“How much of the reduction can be credited to the police and to the criminal justice process?” he asked. “How much is due to underlying social conditions?”

Heliport Coming to NPD

A press release has been issued announcing a new heliport coming to Newark for the NPD and commercial use.
RotorNews: Air Pegasus Helicopters to Develop World-Class Heliplex for City of Newark, New Jersey

Air Pegasus Helicopters, LLC (APH) today announced a plan to develop a world-class and state-of-the-art heliplex facility for the City of Newark to be built on Grafton Avenue adjacent to the planned Newark Police Department precinct. The Air Pegasus Metro Heliplex will provide a full-service facility to the Newark Police Department Aviation Unit to reduce helicopter response times and operational costs and will enhance Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s laudable crime-reduction initiatives.

“This is an important project to bolster Newark’s plan to increase public safety and to help reinvigorate economic development in this community,” said Steven Trenk, Managing Director of Air Pegasus Helicopters, LLC. “I am proud that we are able to take the lead in a project that I know is right for the community, right for the Newark Police Department, and right for the City of Newark.”

The City of Newark recently established a Police Department Aviation Unit as part of its comprehensive strategy to increase public safety and reduce crime. The Unit operates two helicopters that provide support and an increased police presence over crime scenes and significantly reduce police response times throughout the city. The Aviation Unit provides an eye in the sky to patrol and investigative units and can quickly respond to any section of the City. The use of the helicopter reduces the dangers of police pursuits and dramatically increases the likelihood of suspect apprehensions. The goal of the heliplex is to provide a centralized base of operations within the City of Newark to facilitate the Aviation Unit’s operations and to reduce response times and operational costs.

The heliplex would complement the development of a three-acre site currently owned by the city at the intersection of Grafton Avenue and McCarther Highway. Mayor Booker plans to develop this site with a community center and a new Police precinct. Air Pegasus will commercially develop the 5 acres adjacent to this site to compliment the new community center and police precinct facilities.

The Times provided a few details on the contract for the construction, noting that Pegasus’ president, Steven Trenk, has ties to the Booker administration. Funding for the $10 million project is provided by “the Trenk Family, institutional financing and governmental sources” — though Newark’s specific budget impact is as yet undisclosed.

New York Times: Contract Awarded for Newark Heliport

Pegasus is led by Steven Trenk, a first cousin of Richard Trenk, a former partner with Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark at the law firm Booker, Rabinowitz, Trenk, Lubetkin, Tully, DiPasquale & Webster of West Orange, N.J.

Information about the contract and the Trenks was not immediately available, Esmeralda Diaz Cameron, a spokeswoman for Mr. Booker, said Wednesday night.

According to a news release from Pegasus, financing for the “world-class heliplex” would come from “the Trenk family, institutional financing and governmental sources.”

A Pegasus spokesman said he lacked details about the contract and could not immediately reach Steven Trenk. A message left Wednesday night at Steven Trenk’s home was not returned. Richard Trenk declined to comment on Wednesday night.

The heliport is expected to be operational later this year.

NJ.com: Booker could be asked to testify against Sharpe James

NJ.com: Booker could be asked to testify against Sharpe James

The defense team may call Booker because as a councilman, he voted to authorize some of those land sales, said Alan Zegas, one of James’ attorneys.

Booker voted with Councilmen Augusto Amador and Luis Quintana on March 20, 2002, to sell three properties to Riley for $18,000, according to city records. It remains unclear whether Amador and Quintana also will be asked to testify.

The resolution approving the sale said an investigation determined Riley had the proper qualifications and financial resources to acquire the properties and develop them. The resolution also called for Riley to “undertake the substantial rehabilitation” of the properties before reselling them at market-rate prices.

Riley sold the properties – without rehabilitating them – for $80,000, a profit of $62,000 in a month, according to the indictment against her and James.

Booker said he had not been asked to testify, nor had be been interviewed by federal prosecutors. He said he has had no involvement with the case since his administration complied with a subpoena for James’ records.

City Hall: Some Healthcare Services to Continue at St. James

City Hall: CITY OF NEWARK AND CATHOLIC HEALTH EAST ANNOUNCE CONTINUING HEALTH CARE SERVICES AT SAINT JAMES CAMPUS

Mayor Cory A. Booker announced today that when the Saint James Hospital closes its acute-care services on March 15, 24-hour emergency care and non-acute health care services will continue to be offered at the campus. This move follows the recommendations of a Steering Committee created by the City, state legislators, and hospital operator Catholic Health East to identify and address community needs and concerns about the pending service cutbacks at the hospital and Columbus Hospital in the North Ward.

Continue reading “City Hall: Some Healthcare Services to Continue at St. James”

New York Times: Jury Selection Starts in Corruption Trial of Mayor Who Ran Newark for 20 Years

New York Times: Jury Selection Starts in Corruption Trial of Mayor Who Ran Newark for 20 Years

Reviewing the questionnaires filled out on Tuesday by 135 potential jurors in the corruption trial of former Mayor Sharpe James, Judge William J. Martini of United States District Court said he was struck by the unusual number who had checked the box for Question 36. Many, it seemed, thought they might be swayed by racial, religious or ethnic bias, or by “personal sympathy” or “personal dislike” for Mr. James, his co-defendant or the lawyers and witnesses in the case.

That should hardly be surprising with a larger-than-life figure like Mr. James, whose outspoken, aggressive, irrepressible personality dominated Newark civic affairs for the two decades he ran City Hall.

He is charged with using his power to help a female companion defraud a city program intended to rehabilitate Newark’s ailing neighborhoods, but the trial will also stand as a verdict on the reign of Mr. James, who is alternately seen as a heroic figure in Newark’s recovery from its 1967 riots and as a symbol of the state’s particularly self-serving brand of politics.

“We have surveys that show that 53 percent of the public thinks that he’s guilty even though they haven’t heard the evidence,” Thomas R. Ashley, one of Mr. James’s lawyers, said in an interview as jury selection began.

Readers of this blog will probably neither be shocked nor surprised about this. Though potential jurors haven’t heard the evidence, James lived the high life as one of the highest paid public officials pulling in a CEO-level six-figure salary while running one of the poorest cities in the country for twenty years. Even during the nineties, a time which was unprecedented in economic expansion for the United States, Newark languished under his watch.

New York Times: 43 Days Without a Homicide, and Then a Newark Man Is Shot

New York Times: 43 Days Without a Homicide, and Then a Newark Man Is Shot

Friends and relatives wept Tuesday as Mr. Thomas’s body lay under a sheet on the sidewalk. Ms. Neal said Mr. Thomas was a graduate of Malcolm X Shabazz High School and was attending Essex County Community College. She said he hoped to find a job and leave Newark.

Mr. Thomas also helped rear his girlfriend’s children, Ms. Neal said. “He took good care of my grandkids,” she said. “He would dress them, drive them to school and picked them up from school and helped tutor them in math.”

The masked assailant shot Andre Thomas on his way to pick up his girlfriend’s children from an after-school program. Motive has not been determined.

While the NPD has scored an achievement by holding back the tide of violence in Newark — the last time Newark was able to go more than 41 days without a murder was 1961 — it’s hard to celebrate when it ends in tragedy like this.

NJ.com: Shooting ends homicide-free stretch in Newark

NJ.com: Shooting ends homicide-free stretch in Newark

An unidentified male was shot to death tonight in Newark, police said, ending the city’s stretch of six weeks without a homicide.

Details were sketchy, but the victim was shot in the head at about 9 p.m. in the 800 block of South 14th Street, Detective Todd McClendon said. No suspects were in custody, and the investigation into a motive was continuing.

The killing in the South Ward was the city’s first since Jan. 13, ending a homicide-free period of 43 days. In the January killing, an 18-year-old woman was stabbed to death, allegedly by a 15-year-old girl, according to police.

The longest previous stretch without a killing was a 57-day streak in 1961, police have said.

Same River Twice

Upon those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow.

—??Heraclitus??

Last Sunday, I went to the Grove Street Cemetery to look for the resting place of Louis Danzig. With a cemetery administrator’s instructions, I found only five, perhaps unrelated, Danzig’s. However, I was captured by the aura of hundreds of past Jewish lives, with Downtown Newark in the distance under the dim winter sun. I could hear Louis Danzig (“Lou” to his friends), a visionary who died in 1982, telling his dreams, sorrows, and regrets in his life-long battle for Newark’s revitalization.

In 1911, Harry and Rebecca Danzig brought three-year-old Louis to Newark from Lithuania. Starting from Oriental Street at the northern edge of the thriving city, America was a dream of democratic socialism for the Danzig family and thousands of Jews who escaped from the oppressive Tsar and the Old World discrimination. Their countryman Abraham Cahan founded Forward, the most popular Yiddish newspaper with the motto: Workers all Over the World Unite. Graduating from Central High and New Jersey Law School, Louis started his legal practice in 1930. In the evenings, he went to Columbia and NYU to study housing issues, his life-long passion.

In August 1941, Danzig joined the Newark Housing Authority’s Tenant Relation Bureau as an interviewer. On February 25, 1942, he was named the manager of John W. Hyatt Court, a new public housing project in the Ironbound. He immediately closed his law office, saying, “I don’t believe you can do justice to two jobs at the same time.” In addition to Newark residents, Hyatt Court was peopled by migrant war workers from 26 states. A Star-Ledger report on May 27, 1947 summarized Danzig’s work, “He is policeman, caretaker, rent collector, administrator and complaint department. It takes a spirited social worker like Danzig, manager of Hyatt Court, for the post.” His tenant entertainment program was modeled by public housing nationwide. In April 1948, he became the Executive Director of the NHA and effectively calmed its ten-year bitter infighting.

Slum clearance was the consensus of the time, formed in the previous three decades under a variety of influences, among which was Le Corbusier’s urbanism design, with the precious amenities of “sun, space, and green.” In 1947, President Truman addressed the nation to create the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to build “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.” The president called on the nation, “No lesser objective is commensurate with the productive capacity and resources of the country or with the dignity which a true democracy accords the individual citizen.” Danzig foresaw a new era coming, with his role as not only a public housing man, but also as an ambitious planner and general contractor to rescue his beloved city from dying. Among the first in the nation, he prepared all organizational, legal, and planning work for massive construction even before the landmark 1949 Housing Act. However, with influence from the real estate lobby and the coming Cold War, the Act fatally and contradictorily relied heavily on private development. It enabled a local authority to purchase slum land, clear it, and resell it to a private developer at a much lower price, with the Fed covering two-thirds of the loss. In addition, the FHA would insure mortgages for the construction to follow.

Danzig’s initial redevelopment site was the area around the Broad Street Station. (Mayor Booker announced the same area as one of the city’s three development centers in his recent State of the City speech.) The Lackawanna-Broad Street site in the old First Ward was located on the edge of an area marked for clearance by the Central Planning Board’s Master Plan. However, it was not so heavily blighted or inter-racial that it would repel private redevelopers or the FHA’s stringent mortgage insurance. The contours of the site were effectively defined by the natural boundaries of a railroad (no I-280 yet), a park, and the major thoroughfare of Broad Street, all located near the Central Business District, the best bet for a successful first move of Newark’s urban renewal. Danzig had no choice but to carefully avoid all 16 “hardcore” slums for developing middle-income housing, the key of urban renewal. Danzig believed that the future of American cities depended on stopping middle class families’ flee to the suburbs.

After 1949, Danzig led an all-out effort against the federal government’s withdraw of its urban housing commitment. He lobbied to expand the renewal coverage beyond strictly housing to include urban commercial and institutional construction. From his many testimonies in Congress, he developed a national reputation on housing issues and even drafted some federal urban renewal legislation. To expand the development in the Lackawanna-Broad Street project, he planned a unified Rutgers campus, which later evolved together with the Newark College of Engineering (NJIT) into University Heights. He initiated the vision of an arts and entertainment district, with a performing arts center in the James Street Commons. Later, he called the nation’s top developers for a three day conference at the Robert Treat Hotel on the Meadowlands industrial park to restore the city’s eroding economical and industrial base. (Another of Mayor Booker’s economic development emphasis is the exact airport and seaport area.) Through lobbying for amendments to the 1949 Act, Danzig made the development of Penn Plaza (the Gateway Center) possible.

Today’s urban historians often sloppily mix a failed national urban renewal policy with Louis Danzig’s character. He was called “notorious Danzig” (Kevin Mumford) and the man with a stronger iron fist than Robert Moses (Kenneth Jackson). However, to many government officials and even rival business leaders, Danzig was a surprisingly persistent yet patient, convincing yet flexible, city builder, rather than a bureaucratic housing man. In a violently scared city, the Housing Authority director became a sinister symbol of racial discrimination and government corruption. Through his long career of public service, Danzig received many awards and much recognition from organizations such as the NAACP and the League of Woman Voters. In 1951, he even collaborated with Professor Morton Deutch, the world’s most respected scholar on conflict resolution, to study racial integration in public housing. For most of his life, his family lived in modest rental apartments, such as 525 Elizabeth Street and 330 Hobson Street. Managing millions of public funds, he was never once accused of impropriety. In 1952, his doctor ordered him to take a Florida vacation, his only one in his entire career. In those two weeks, he sent postcards to his staff, “I should make everyone take a break.”

The carefully planned Lackawanna-Broad Street project, however, quickly fell into disarray. After a crude slum clearance, an entire Italian neighborhood was uprooted, while not many private speculators dared to purchase the land. Then, the FHA attempted to force Danzig to reduce the project size, threatening the integrity and viability of the plan. To compromise, he put the eight high-rises of Columbus Homes in the center of the middle-income housing project. He had no choice but to delay the market-rate housing, and advance the public housing first, contrary to his original judgment. Against politicians’ pressure and society’s prejudice, he integrated Columbus Homes’ tenants in 1954, by first introducing 600 white families and, then, sending in some 500 black families. However, many high-rise tenants came directly from the deep rural South, without any urban experience. Some were even reported to defrost refrigerators by lighting a fire in the freezer. Few of the original 99 various local businesses were relocated along Broad Street. Hundreds of removed Italian families could never resettle locally, but moved to Belleville and beyond.

The most damaging crisis was the planned middle-income housing. After months’ negotiation, Danzig secured a developer. However, the FHA refused to provide adequate mortgage insurance and left a gap of only $2 million, even after Danzig’s many trips to Washington D.C. In 1958, he lost the developer, holding the useless land and delaying renewal efforts of the entire city. With the help of Milford Vieser, Mutual Benefit’s Financial Vice-President, he found the energetic Chicago developer Herbert Greenwald, whose better Fed connections led to a better mortgage insurance. Greenwald brought the world’s most famous modern architect, Mies van der Rohe, to Newark to design three sleek buildings on the shrinking site. Unfortunately, a few months later, in a trip to New York City to meet Robert Moses, Greenwald’s jet crashed into the East River, further delaying Danzig’s dream. He found himself loosing his once thick hairs crisis after crisis. When the Colonnade and Pavilion buildings finally stood tall in 1961, the urban condition had further deteriorated and a small window of opportunity for Newark had all but closed. By 1969, he had built 5,674 public housing units, 2,500 senior citizens’ units and market-rate apartment buildings such as the Hallmark House, Brick Towers, Mount Calvary Homes, and High Park Gardens. However, the 62-year-old Danzig was a tired and broken man, seeing the riots, the steadily dwindling Newark population, and the fast deteriorating housing conditions. On May 9 in his last official trip to Washington D.C., he angrily blasted the federal policies, holding nothing back, “Should the government have helped cities like it did to suburbs, we would not be in such a difficult situation.” He said that Newark had hundreds of acres of land lying fallow because of the red tape and, more importantly, of “the FHA’s negative philosophy.” He called for the agency’s abolition. On June 19, Danzig retired from the NHA with only a $17,000 annual pension. Before his early death in 1984, he anguishly watched most of his work in jeopardy. The implosion of St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe Homes symbolized the end of urban renewal and the moral failure of the country.

In 2008, the country’s moral standing as a true democracy for every individual citizen has not improved, at least by observing this city. However, environmental devastation and economic bankruptcy for the country and the state have made revitalization of urban centers even more urgent. The lingering American dream, with automobiles on ever extending highways to suburban and ex-urban McMansions, will soon end. Danzig would be very happy to see Mayor Booker back to the Broad Street Station area:

The timing for the city’s revival is finally coming. The Broad Street Station area has options far beyond Danzig’s dilemma of public housing vs. privately developed middle-income housing. As Danzig envisioned 58 years ago, a university and cultural community finally takes the stand as the pillar of the area.

The timing is critical. Any feasible residential development can only happen after a clear solution to the cancerous Baxter Terrace. Fortunately, with the city’s timely full support, initiatives by the Newark Museum and NJIT will significantly improve the development environment and strengthen these institutions.

The timing is everything. The improved mass transit system makes the area more competitive if the city could decisively catch up with other cities, such as Elizabeth and Harrison, with uncompromised higher design standards. The world will not wait forever for Newark, which does not monopolize the region’s transportation advantages.

Finally, as Danzig planned but ran out of time for implementation, only the open land along Broad Street, with a better road connection, has a large capacity for regional commercial development.

Danzig would say, “Lucky you, same river twice. But no more thrice.”

Star Ledger: Newark icon has a buyer

Star Ledger: Newark icon has a buyer

Verizon Communications has found a buyer for its historic 20-story New Jersey headquarters in downtown Newark, prompting local officials to step up their efforts to find another location for the phone company’s 600 employees.

Verizon and Accordia Realty Ventures signed a contract Friday that will require approval from the state Board of Public Utilities and meet other undisclosed contingencies, said Verizon spokesman Richard Young. The sale would include an 18-month lease for Verizon to give the company time to find a new location.

Neither side would publicly discuss the purchase price, but two executives, who were not permitted to speak about it on the record, said it was approximately $35 million. Typically, the prices of commercial real-estate deals are not disclosed.

Once the state’s tallest building, 545 Broad St. was the headquarters of New Jersey Bell when it opened in 1929. An art deco “American Perpendicular” edifice, the landmark is on both state and national registers. Inside the temple-like lobby are marble and bronze telecommunications icons rendered in classical themes.

NJ.com: Newark city council president gets bodyguard after threats

NJ.com: Newark city council president gets bodyguard after threats

Newark Council President Mildred Crump has been assigned a bodyguard from Mayor Cory Booker’s security detail because of dozens of threats made to her at her house.
Mildred Crump

Crump, 69, said there have been numerous run-ins with angry residents who confronted her when she returned home from work. These clashes, she said, included residents springing out from her bushes, hiding behind her tree and in one instance, damaging her front door. Crump said she has also gotten numerous threatening calls at home.