This Saturday: Dinosaur Day at the Newark Museum

Photo courtesy the Newark Museum
Photo courtesy the Newark Museum

Dinosaur Day

Always a blast, and draws a huge crowd: this Saturday is the 8th annual Dinosaur Day at the Newark Museum, with lots of paleontology-themed exhibits for kids. Members of the museum get early admission at 11AM.

Hands-on activities for the entire family include:

  • Roaring, breathing 15′ T-Rex from Field Station Dinosaurs Geological demonstrations
  • Shark tooth fossil dig
  • Tsunami tank
  • Sluice for minerals and keep one
  • Touchable pre-historic fossil specimens from Dinosaurs Rock
  • Geo treasure hunt
  • Hurricane simulator
  • Meet Diego, the Nickelodeon action-adventure hero
  • Fossil rubbings
  • Dinosaur origami
  • Planetarium shows

Small victory: Superintendent Cami Anderson meets with the local advisory board

As School District Simmers Over ‘One Newark’ Reforms, Both Sides Sit Down at Table

Stunning how little trust remains, that a meeting with no agreement is counted a victory.

As the public drama over Newark schools continues to swirl, a private meeting was held in the city’s Gateway Center this past Friday that at least by one account made some progress in the ongoing struggle over the state’s control of the district.

State Education Commissioner David Hespe met with leaders of the district’s local advisory board, as well as state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson, to discuss what has become a painstakingly slow process for returning local control.

And while there were no breakthroughs, according to board chairman Rashon Hasan, it was a step forward just to have the parties at the same table — no small feat these days.

BURG finally set to open in Military Park next month

Team behind Jersey City’s Maritime Parc going casual with Newark’s BURG

After originally being slated to open in August 2014, BURG is finally set to open in May in Military Park. Should be a great addition to an already stunning downtown hotspot.

Siversen went through 100 different blends before perfecting the BURG patty, which mixes chuck with a bit of short rib and brisket. Then, he came up with seven combinations of his favorite ingredients to form the core of BURG’s menu.

Also on the menu at BURG will be salads, shoestring fries, frozen drinks and craft beer and wine on tap from small local breweries. We were also delighted to learn that the ricotta doughnuts are coming along to Newark, too, where they will be served with sugar toppings in paper bags.

Siversen said BURG, which will allow customers to order food to go or sit down and enjoy their eats, will be a perfect mix of casual and sophisticated.

“It’s a high-end burger concept and we’ll be giving fast food some sophistication,” said Siversen. “It’s going to be fast food, but real food.”

(I’d be curious to know from any knowledgable Newarkers what was the cause of the ten month delay.)

Waaaaait for it: the still-empty future site of BURG in Military Park
Waaaaait for it: the still-empty future site of BURG in Military Park

Documentary to explore the toll of the 2007 Newark schoolyard slayings on family

Film to Probe Newark Schoolyard Murders’ Toll on Family

On Aug 4, 2007, three college-age Newarkers were murdered and a fourth nearly killed after having been attacked on the playground of Mount Vernon School in Newark.

For a blogger trying to cover the story of a city in resurgence, it was difficult for me to even consider about how to approach the subject. The crime was not a gang warfare-related premeditated attack. It didn’t fit a pattern of violence for a comparatively peaceful neighborhood. It was just senseless evil, carried out on citizens of our city.

There was no lack of coverage of the event as national media trucks rolled into Newark to put some semblance of a narrative together that explained why these kids with promising futures lost their lives. I just didn’t write anything.

So it’s with great admiration that I can link to a story about someone who was willing to unflinchingly cover not only the incident of Aug 4th, but the personal toll it took on the family of Iofemi Hightower.

For what seemed a small eternity, Shalga Hightower epitomized the picture of parental grief in the aftermath of Newark’s 2007 schoolyard killings, when a group of men and boys, including one who turned 15 that day, lined up her college-bound daughter and two friends and shot them each in the back of the head.

As national media held Newark up as a symbol of the gun violence plaguing American cities, Hightower became an unwavering presence at the dozens of court proceedings that followed. Her courtroom vigil stretched nearly six years, long after the initial crush of attention subsided.

The overpowering sorrow that engulfed her has eased over time, but Hightower’s determination to honor her daughter’s memory has not. Recently, she embarked on a documentary film project that highlights the struggle of families victimized by gun violence, through the prism of her own experience.

Newark public school teachers to protest superintendent’s latest school reforms

Newark teachers union to launch ‘informational picket lines’ in protest of superintendent

Teachers will be picketing during hours when they would normally be “volunteering” extra time towards their jobs.

Abeigon said that starting Tuesday the teachers will begin taking efforts to no longer work before or after their work day ends and to clock in and out at the same time.

The union issued a host of concerns about Anderson’s leadership of the district including her recent announcement that nine schools will become “turnaround schools” during the next school year in an effort to curb struggling performance.

The designation will mean that teachers will be asked to sign election-to-work agreements, which may require them to work for a longer school day, go through two additional weeks of professional development in the summer and work on multiple Saturdays, according to assistant superintendent Brad Haggerty.

Under the contract, teachers are paid an additional stipend of $3,000 a year for the extra time.

Newark installs first-ever anti-idling sign

Living next to a popular restaurant in the Ironbound, this issue in particular is near and dear to my heart. Cars, trucks and ambulances are frequently idling outside our apartment windows, which is great for foot traffic on our block, but not so great for noise.

(Apparently there’s an exception to the NJ three-minute idling limit statute for vehicles “actively performing” emergency services, but I wonder if stopping for lunch fits that definition?)

Baraka addresses education, crime, and development in Bloomberg TV interview

Good overview on where Baraka sees the city today and his administration’s goals. (Though a four-and-a-half minute TV interview is hardly the place for anything deeper than a sound bite.)

The mayor was also asked about his opinion on governor Christie’s potential run for president and was decidedly circumspect with his reply. Compare/contrast with the bolder statements from his chief of staff earlier this week.


Why did the Newark school board election yesterday matter? One word: politics.

In Newark, school board election chance to cement Baraka-Fulop alliance, flex machine muscle

It’s a well-known fact that the Newark school system has been under state control since 1995, and that Cami Anderson, the district’s embattled, state-appointed superintendent, has been able to enact her One Newark education plan despite significant community resistance.

So, some might have been left asking why yesterday’s school board election mattered at all. PolitickerNJ followed the mayor’s chief of staff, Amiri Baraka, around the campaign that vaulted the mayor’s candidates to victory.

That victory, while minor in the eyes of residents, speaks to the ambitions of the NJ Democratic political machine.

“We’ve got to tell them that we’ve got to get rid of [Governor Chris Christie]. We’ve won on the local level. Now we’ve got to go to the state level,” Baraka said. “We’ve got to get a new governor.”

Sitting next to Baraka as he made these remarks was Jason Solowsky, a political operative tied to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. Fulop played an important supporting role in Ras Baraka’s 2014 Newark mayoral race victory. In this year’s Newark school board election, Solowsky and Amiri Baraka confirmed that about 70 Fulop campaign workers parachuted in from Jersey City to help out the Baraka-backed slate.

Amiri Baraka further confirmed the fact that his brother and Fulop, a potential 2017 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, continue to work together for both present and future reasons.

“This is a changing of the guard. We’re sharpening our sword for the next big day. We can’t predict the future, but we know where we’re going to be – out in the street with thousands of people. We follow the drill, Ras is the leader, and I’m the number one soldier.”

Seventy campaign workers. On loan for a school board election.

Results are in for the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board election

Newark mayor-backed school board candidates lead race reports the results:

His name wasn’t on the ballot but Newark Mayor Ras Baraka had an influence this election.

The Baraka-backed candidates including current board member Marques Aquil-Lewis and newcomers Dashay Carter and Crystal Fonseca appear to have taken the school board election this year, according to the Essex County Clerk’s unofficial results.

Forbes thinks vertical farming is a “crackpot idea”

Newark Subsidizes A Crackpot Idea: Vertical Farming

Counterpoint to the article I posted yesterday on the vertical farm coming to Newark. Given the relative newness of the field, I’m not sure such negativity from Forbes is warranted.

It’s possible that because this is such a young industry that opportunities to scale haven’t been fully explored. And Beyer dismisses transportation costs with hand-waving—a not insubstantial cost of farming, especially if you’re bullish on oil prices increasing over the next few years.

But the economics seem unworkable. Businesses or governments wishing to run vertical farms would first have to buy land in major cities, where real estate is sold at premiums. They would spend millions on the approval costs required for development. They would throw enormous sums—nowadays in the billions—to construct mega-towers. And then they would have to further address the challenge of growing food indoors, which requires sophisticated lighting, irrigation, and retention systems.

It would be difficult for vertical farmers to cover all these costs by selling a bunch of $2 cucumbers, especially when competing with traditional (or “horizontal”) farmers. There is a reason, after all, that farming occurs in rural areas: land there is abundant and cheap.