Firefighters’ Ceremony at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

Hello, yesterday I happened to be exploring Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in preparation for my next walking tour there. Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, even compared to other cemeteries, is a still and forgotten place and yesterday morning was miserable in terms of weather, so I wasn’t expecting to see a soul.

You can imagine my surprise when I came upon this ceremony performed by the Newark Fire Department.

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Mt. Pleasant Cemetery has a firefighter’s graveyard. Like everything else in Mt. Pleasant, it seems forlorn and forgotten. There haven’t been many burials there in the last few decades. I was very heartened to discover in the form of this bag pipe and drum ceremony that the Newark Fire Department remembers its history.

The Disquieting Decline of the Star Ledger

Despite its success, the Ledger has been losing as much as $30 to $40 million a year due to the same pressures that all newspapers face: declining ad sales and subscription revenues. Associate Professor of Journalism at Rutgers-Newark, Rob Snyder, and I discuss how long the Ledger has left.

robsnyderThe Star Ledger, established in 1832, is the 15th largest paper in the country by circulation, delivering a half-a-million papers on any given Sunday.  The paper received a Pulitzer in 2005 for its coverage of Governor McGreevy’s resignation.
Despite its success, the Ledger has been losing as much as $30 to $40 million a year due to the same pressures that all newspapers face: declining ad sales and subscription revenues — much of which has been blamed on the emergence of the news sources on the web, delivered both by large media companies (such as CNN) and smaller niche blogs.

In its efforts to transition to the web, the Ledger has launched new initiatives in recent months such as a daily video podcast, a Twitter news stream, and training reporters on the use of video.  While the Ledger Live has been a really enjoyable podcast (this one had a particularly brilliant insight from one guest video blogger), it’s been difficult to tell whether these efforts will have a measurable boost to the Ledger’s bottom line.

In response to the paper’s troubles, Debbie Galant, blogger at BaristaNet (shown gazing over her glasses below), sniffs, “Good luck, Star Ledger. I really do hope that you stay around because I like linking to your stories.”

Today, the paper faces an October 8 deadline to renegotiate with its unions and lower costs or face a potential closure or buyout come January.  To discuss the implications of a closure of Newark’s only paper, I chatted with Rob Snyder, who is an Associate Professor of Journalism and American Studies at Rutgers Newark and Editor of the Newark Metro.

The interview is about 26 minutes. Press the play button below to listen.


On the podcast, we discussed:

  • What’s the national context for the Ledger’s potential closure? Is it common for local papers to close?
  • What pressures are there on the newspapers now to bring about this potential sale or closure?
  • What role have newspapers like the Ledger played in American society? Do we know what the implications might be of losing the paper?
  • It seems that the business models for papers and the web are very similar — both delivering content supported by advertisers. Why can’t many of these papers flip to an online model?
  • What models of delivering news do you see gaining traction in the next 3 years?
  • Bonus! Given your experience in the city and teaching at Rutgers, where do you see the city in 5 years?

More commentary and coverage:

Mt. Pleasant Cemetery Walking Tour – Oct 5th, 12:15

Hello, this is just a reminder that I’m leading a walking tour of Newark’s beautiful, historic Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on Sunday, October 5th, at 12:15. Along with Fairmount Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant was the place for affluent 19th century Newarkers to be buried, so if you want to connect with Frelinghuysens, Ballantines, Kinneys, Drydens, and more, this is your chance.
Mt. Pleasant Cemetery is on a very attractive, somewhat spooky, 36 acres. Though it might seem odd to visit a cemetery today for anything but a burial, Victorians frequently visited their dead, and hence, invested a great deal of thought and money in their funerary monuments. Please come and appreciate this incredibly historic site.

More information is available at my website,

Opening at Gallery Aferro this Saturday 7-10

Please join us for the opening of two new exhibitions:
Outside Over There
Fourth in the annual urbanism exhibition series curated by Emma Wilcox

Dwell, Robert Lach, Project Room

September 27 – November 22, 2008 Opening Reception September 27, 7-10 PM

Gallery Aferro 73 Market St Newark NJ

Will Work for Food by KH Jeron
Bring a can of food to barter with robots. All proceeds to be donated to Newark food banks

Outside Over There is an exhibition, as well as a food drive and a portrait studio. It is inspired by the signals traveling in the airspace of cities worldwide, and the ability of these signals to penetrate structures, by transmissions, codings and exchanges of ideology and consumer goods, interactions real and imagined, between more and less industrialized nations, including the cargo cult and the syndication of TV programming.

Artists: Keliy Anderson-Staley, Mireille Astore, Martin John Callanan, Karlos Carcamo, Margarida Correia,Susan E. Evans, Judith Hoffman, KH Jeron, Tamara Kostianovsky, Charles Huntley Nelson, Anne Percoco, Dorothy Schultz, Jeff Sims, Peter Tuomey Jr, Tammy Jo Wilson

The impending end of nondigital TV has evoked for some class and cultural divisions within America. By repairing TVs with reed thatch from the NJ meadowlands, Anne Percoco suggests such divisions, as well
as the complexity of a globalized economy.

Charles Huntley Nelson’s video, “Why Not on TV” questions the presentations of African Americans on television in relationship to their actual history and present realities, and is narrated by an
omniscient visitor who may be a space alien.

Photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley will be operating a tintype portrait studio in the gallery on Oct 3rd and 4th. Sitters can come solo or with a loved one. The sittings are free. A print of the image is $10. Made with the wet plate collodion process, the leading mode of photography in the 1850’s and 1860’s, the portraits echo downtown Newark’s past density of commercial portrait studio’s, while picturing the diversity of modern urban NJ.

For more information please contact Emma Wilcox

Komunyakaa at Rutgers-Newark

Komunyakaa at Rutgers-Newark

Tonight at 5:30pm!  The 2008-09 Writers at Newark Reading Series kicks off with a reading by Yusef Komunyakaa, an American poet and winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  Check out Tayari’s blog below and get details at the Writers at Newark page.

Wednesday, September 24. Yusef Komunyakaa will open the 2008-09 Writers at Newark Reading Series. The reading is at 5:30 pm at the Paul Robeson Gallery on the campus of Rutgers University, Newark Campus. New Yorkers, it is just a quick subway ride away. And Newarkers, come on down. The event is free and we’d love to see you there.

Working with What We Have

Working with What We Have
Back from the Green Summit, blogger Pamela considers the implications of limited resources on the Green economy, and just what type of business or non-profit willbenefit from grants and investments in green technology and techniques.

The millions of non-profit dollars available must be awarded to those who produce results. Micro-businesses must understand the appreciated value of going Green, while being presented with cost-effective measures to adhere to such. The strength in the Green plan will grow as this sifting process occurs, and transparency is created in the City of Newark.

Bringing More Opportunities to Newark

Bringing More Opportunities to Newark
Speaking of investment, Mayor Booker shares some of the benefits of moving your business to Newark on his blog.

Newark has so many competitive advantages — they are magnified now in this economy. Our biggest advantages are cost and location — we are the lowest cost location in the region, and so accessible. A company leasing 100,000 square feet of class A space in Newark can save $40 to $70 million over a 10-year period.

Further, with the greatest transportation infrastructure on the East coast, the ability to move goods and people is superior to any other location. We talked very bluntly about this and the many other things that were happening in Newark –- dramatic and record-breaking violent crime reduction, the strength of our workforce, and examples of other companies that are beginning to flow to Newark bringing significant investment and hundreds of jobs (Standard Chartered Bank, law firms like Genova Burns, AMB Warehousing ,, Mimeo, All Hip and many others).

Peak Oil and Newark’s Green Revolution

Two years ago, one sunny summer day I went with my family to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Along the verdant slopes of the brook where my two children were building dams, I shared my bench seat with another parent, a father from Brooklyn, it turned out. As we conversed, I discovered that he was an independent analyst of the world’s reserves of petroleum. He asked me if I was aware that the world’s supply of oil had peaked. When I said vaguely, he introduced me to the concept of “peak oil.” Briefly, peak oil is when a well’s endowment of oil has been 50 percent depleted. Once the peak is passed, oil production begins to go down while cost begins to go up. The world’s oil reserves, the analyst explained, will rapidly decline during the next 40 years, despite claims by oil industry CEO’s that peak oil is a myth. Peak oil is a hard reality—just check out the website
I introduced this concept of peak oil and its related statistics to the class of college freshmen I teach. The 16 young people looked at me blankly. Peak what? It was not a mainstream news item.

Two years later, peak oil is receiving greater currency as a media term, thanks to greater public awareness of global warming and the obvious link between the two. Therefore, I went to the recent “Newark’s Green Future Summit” curious how my home city plans to go green. Spearheaded by Newark’s maverick young mayor, Cory Booker, the summit featured featuring prominent authorities on sustainable development and job creation. Newark is on its way to be a national model for clean and efficient energy use in a green economy and a “shining example of how to rebuild the very core of America, its cities,” asserted Phil Angelides of the Apollo Alliance, the summit sponsor. (Angelides is the former Treasurer of the State of California, and ran for California governor in 2006 on the Democratic ticket, with impeccable environmental credentials.) At a press conference held in the lobby of the conference site, the New Institute of Technology’s student center, Phil Angelides stood next to Cory Booker, and spoke words I thought I would never hear: “As it was the end of steam power in the 19th century it will be the end of oil in the 21st century.” Here was the outcome of peak oil said in stark terms.

Awareness of peak oil consequences further emerged during lunch, when the keynote speaker was Ralph Izzo, the CEO and chairman of PSE & G. A bright and articulate speaker, Izzo is moving his company toward implementing green changes in its own practices, and encouraging its customers to do so. Izzo asked the audience to image a future based on “three ridiculous assumptions.” Assumption number one is that energy consumption in 2050 will equal the energy consumption of today. This will mean no more electrical gadgets, period: No more refrigerators, no more air conditioners, no more personal computers. The second ridiculous assumption is that fossil fuel will be outlawed by 2050. One can only walk, pedal, or swim. The third ridiculous assumption is that by 2050, “anything that plugs into a wall is illegal.” Ridiculous? Unless carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 80 percent by 2050, “these ridiculous assumptions will become reality.”

Now, imagine a future where there are no tailpipes on vehicles because they all run on electricity, said Izzo. “Appliances are mandated to use the lowest possible electricity; and electricity is generated by solar, wind, nuclear, and natural gas (in that order). “ Izzo concluded his remarks by outlining how his company will help bring its New Jersey customers to this kind of future.

Woe to the U.S. that its Secretary of Energy is not a Ralph Izzo. For his statements are backed by facts. Indeed, the carbon dioxide emissions of the U.S. are projected to increase 15 percent by 2050 if no mandatory cuts are made on emissions from tailpipes and from coal-based electricity production. Emissions have already increased 20 percent since 1990. Which of Izzo’s scenarios seems most likely given the model of development that the U.S. has embraced since it became industrialized in the mid 1800’s?

Perhaps some words of E.F. Schumacher are in order here. Before a green revolution can reverse current trends, before Newark can become the national model for a green city that generates high-quality, green-collar jobs for its residents that Cory Booker envisions, one must look at the economic system and the role of technology in maintaining that economic system. Schumacher is the author of Small is Beautiful, the famous 1973 book that renounced complex, expensive technology and substituted in its place “appropriate technology,” technology that fits the given conditions of the area. Big is not better; simple is better than complex. Schumacher believes that U.S. industrial society is bound to fail because “it has disrupted, and continues to disrupt…organic relationships in such a manner that world population is growing…beyond the means of subsistence.” He goes on to say in his 1979 book Good Work that “it [industrial society] is rapidly depleting the earth’s nonrenewable stocks of…resources—mainly fuels and metals,” another element in its inevitable failure.

Schumacher then states the heart of his argument: “It is no longer possible to believe that any political or economic reform, or scientific advance, or technological progress could solve the life-and-death problems of industrial society… I know of no better way of changing the ‘system’ than by putting into the world a new type of technology—technologies by which small people can make themselves productive and relatively independent.”

Schumacher, like Karl Marx, was interested in the structural effects of modern technology, i.e., how man’s ideas, views, and conceptions change as his mode of production changes—as how and what he produces changes. This, in turn, changes the social relations. With inappropriate technology, i.e., vast industrialization and mechanization, man has become alienated from himself, from what he produces, from others.

The hope for an advanced industrial society like ours is that its green revolution embrace human-scale, appropriate technology. It must be community-based, community-driven, and use local resources. But first, reader, go back and reread the opening paragraphs about peak oil. Newark’s ability to serve as a model for green development rests solely on its residents’ ability to understand that the years of cheap, plentiful oil are over. Its unique geographic position as a transportation hub will never be realized unless the city can create its own non-renewable energy sources to power its mass transit. Its potential to be a sustainable community where residents work where they live, play on green grounds that formerly were black-topped parking lots, and walk to shop at their local food cooperative will never be realized unless Newark’s leaders educate its residents that the time to switch to non-renewable energy sources is not tomorrow, it is now.

Job center at Port Newark is designed to help local residents

Job center at Port Newark is designed to help local residents

Port Newark — one of the largest and most active in the country, and yet one of the most underutilized by the city for jobs. The city and BCDC are planning to change that by building a career center to help get Newarkers the skills they need or boundaries removed to get a job in the Port.

OpportunityNewark, an 18 month project led by Harvard business professor Michael Porter, founder and chairman of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, and funded by the Newark Alliance, identified the port area as one of the city’s greatest competitive advantages.

Port related jobs such as transportation, logistics and distribution are expected to gain 1,025 jobs per year through 2012. They are also jobs — 75 percent — that are accessible to people with low skills but provide good wages. According to the report, 60 percent of the jobs paid at least $25,000 and 25 percent paid more than $50,000.

But Newark residents, whose median income of $34,452 in 2007 falls at a little less than half the state average, are not able to access those jobs for a variety of reasons, including lack of information, training and prior criminal convictions.

Booker said the city’s Port Career and Business Development Center will help bridge those gaps.

Newark Mayor Seeks to Profit Amid Wall Street Woes

Newark Mayor Seeks to Profit Amid Wall Street Woes

When the market gives him lemons, Cory Booker makes economic development. City Hall’s marketing arm is looking to draw businesses out of Manhattan to boost tax revenue and stabilize the city budget. This Bloomberg piece provides an overview of Newark’s recent history — the construction of the Pru Center, Shaq’s recent investment — and shares Booker’s pitch.

Before last night’s massive savings-and-loan-type bailout was announced for the major financial institutions, one might have wondered what firms would have been left to move their operations over to the Brick City. Still, a timely message, and kudos to City Hall for catching Bloomberg’s attention.

(Hat tip: the Ledger)

“It’s about the logic of the location, about the ease of getting in and out of New York and the logic of the transportation nodes,’‘ Booker said. “But more importantly, I can save you tons of money. In times like these, Newark is seen as a place of opportunity.’‘