Newark’s Justice: William J. Brennan Jr., The Newark History Society’s Panel Discussion

Since early June, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. (his new statue) has stood high in front of the historic Essex County Hall of Records, watching his native city and far beyond with an anxious expression. During his 34-year tenure in the U.S. Supreme Court, with his over 1,300 legal opinions, Justice Brennan literarily touched all aspects of every American’s life. However, 13 years after his death, American democracy and its fundamental values, such as church-and-state separation, and even the First Amendment itself, seem to face a serious challenge. With questions of the Constitution framers’ intentions during the “Tea Party” insurgence, Justice Brennan’s legal genius and his passion for human dignity are more needed than ever before. With these thoughts in her mind, Linda Epps, the Director of the New Jersey Historical Society, opened the discussion on Justice Brennan on the evening of October 20.
Brendan O’Flaherty, an economics professor at Columbia University, a Newark connoisseur, and “the only person alive who has read through the 1929 Newark city budget,” organized the discussion with a question to all panelists: “What would Justice Brennan have been without Newark?”

Facing a crowded Newark audience, Seth Stern, an author of the long-awaited biography, Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion, started his presentation apologetically for devoting “only” 40 pages about Brennan’s Newark experience in this huge volume of almost 700 pages. He said, “We have to get Brennan quickly to the U.S. Supreme Court,” the institution that became his life. A talented storyteller with an admirable ability for even distant details, Stern traced Brennan Sr.’s ascendance from a penniless Irish immigrant in1893 to an almost legendary figure at his sudden death in 1930. Tens of thousands of Newarkers rushed to join his funeral precession from City Hall to St. Patrick’s Cathedral while three New Jersey National Guard airplanes dropping white flowers along the cortege. However, the humble family experience had a deep imprint on young Brennan and his firm commitment towards justice and human dignity, particularly for the deprived, humiliated, and voiceless underdogs.

Seton Hall law Professor Edward Hartnett observed Brennan’s deep distrust of elected political power, which he developed during his youth seeing his father brutally attacked. In his book, Stern also described young Brennan’s most fearful moments when his father drank alone, frustrated and disturbed by local politics. Hartnett pointed out that, in contrast, since becoming a state judge after the 1947 State Constitution Convention overhauled the backward judicial system, Brennan Jr. had never wavered in his faith in the judicial power to create a more humane society. Hartnett sited case after case among Brennan’s numerous legal decisions where he extended justice through a living Constitution.

A walking encyclopedia of Essex County politics, Assemblyman Tomas Giblin is a long-time president of Local 68 Operating Engineers, the Brennan Sr.’s union in the 1910’s. During the hardest days in the Great Depression, Giblin’s father got a one-day-a-week job from Commissioner Brennan. Thirty years later, Justice Brennan’s Baker v. Carr decision paved Giblin Senior’s path to another job, this time in the State Legislature. To Giblin, the Brennan family’s support to young Irish immigrants is legendary.

The Brennan family’s Irish connection, however, often led to the ethnic stereotype that Georgianna Brennan deeply resents. Justice Brennan, Geogianna’s father-in-law, was always dear “Pop,” not a mischievously smiling Leprechaun with short arms around his colleagues, as caricatured by authors like Bob Woodward. She recalled the hardworking old man baby-sitting grandchildren on a Christmas morning while writing legal opinions on a yellow pad next to the kitchen table. She testified what Seth Stern described all through his 700-page book – the heroic but quiet sacrifices that Brennan made, together with his wife Marjorie and their children, for the justice of all. Having reached the pinnacle of his legal career, Justice Brennan was far from a wealthy man, but often resorted to borrowing money from friends for his children’s education. Shortly before her death, Marjorie overcame her cancer pain and showed up for the last time in Justice Brennan’s Supreme Court chamber to observe his questioning. Georgianna Brennan is particularly proud of her Newark roots, “I am a Newarker because I was born, married, and worked in Newark.” What she did not mention is that her own father Pearce Franklin, an able attorney, served as a Newark City Commissioner between the 1930’s and the 1950’s, even longer than Brennan Sr.

The evening’s audience seemed to enthusiastically embrace the Brennan’s, particularly William J. Brennan Sr., as their own. I remember reading a 1928 New York Times report about 100,000 children attending a Brennan “family picnic” in Dreamland Park, which blocked the Lincoln Highway traffic for hours. Today, with the Newark Public Library facing extensive service cuts and Brennan’s Barringer High School falling into chaos, it is hard to imagine that political leaders like Commissioner Brennan could command such affection from ordinary citizens. Justice Brennan said in 1986, “Everything I am, I am because of my father.” For today’s Newarkers and Americans whose lives have been deeply touched by Brennan’s monumental legal works, we may be tempted to say, “Everything we are, we are because of Justice Brennan.”

High Street District Walking Tour, June 13th

Hello, join Newarkhistory.com for a walking tour of the old High Street, Lincoln Park, and lower Broad.  Our tour will begin at Arts High School and take in a collection of architecture representing over 150 years of Newark history.   Come learn what’s so “Divine” about the Hotel Riviera, take in the wonders of “beer baronial” architecture with the Krueger and Feigenspan mansions, consider ethnic migration at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, several former synagogues and Presbyterian churches, consider class migration in the former Silk Stocking district of Lincoln Park, and finally marvel at what civic pride can do at the Essex County Courthouse.
Special Opportunity! We are going to be seeing the inside of Hopewell Baptist Church/B’nai Jeshurun.

The tour begins at 2:00 at Arts High School (550 Martin Luther King Blvd).  Please check http://www.newarkhistory.com on the day of the tour if there is a forecast of inclement weather.   The cost of the tour is $10 for adults, $5 for anyone 13-18, and free for anyone younger.

More information is available at my website: http://newarkhistory.com/highstreettour.html

There is no need to RSVP.

Weequahic Tour, Sunday, November 1st

Hello, I am going to be leading a tour of Weequahic on Sunday, November 1st at 2:00. The tour will cover all aspects of Weequahic’s history, from Indian and colonial days to the agrarian century, to the suburb’s train-associated growth, the Jewish generation, and finally the neighborhood and park of today.
The cost is $10 general, $5 for members of the Weequahic Park Association or a Newark historical society.

We will be meeting at the intersection of Lyons and Elizabeth Avenues. Please see http://www.newarkhistory.com for more information. Check the website on the day of the tour in the event of inclement weather.

North Ward Walking Tour Tomorrow

Hi, in case anyone is interested, I’m leading a walking tour tomorrow on Broadway and Mt. Prospect Aves in the North Ward.
We will be meeting at 230 Broadway at 2:30 PM. We’ll be seeing lots of things you never noticed before and learning lots about where many famous Newark episodes took place. Please come for an informative afternoon.

Cost: $10 for first time tour attendees.

North Ward Walking Tour, June 14th

Hi, I’m leading another Newark walking tour on 2:30 Sunday, June 14th. We’re going to be touring the North Ward, seeing a diverse collection of churches, mansions, cemeteries, and grand apartment buildings.
We will be meeting in front of the old New Jersey Historical Society building at 230 Broadway. From there, we will see the old Mutual Benefit Building, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, the old Rutgers School of Pharmacy and various Puerto Rican Sites. At Elwood we’ll climb uphill to see the prospect of Mt. Prospect. We will take a look at some of Newark’s finest apartment buildings and surviving mansions. Two highlights will be the Mt. Prospect Manor apartments and the Clark Mansion, now the North Ward Center’s headquarters. Finally, we’ll descend the hill again to Broadway, where we will visit Ahavas Shalom, the oldest functioning synagogue in Newark and the Clinton AME Zion Church, the oldest black congregation in Newark, and a gem of Victorian Gothic architecture. Along the way, we will learn about the different ethnic groups that have lived in the North Ward, such as the Italians who dominated the neighborhood mid-century, as well as the area’s industrial history.

More information is available on my website.

Ironbound Walking Tour, March 15th

Hello, I’m going to be leading yet another Newarkology walking tour this March. Join Newarkology on March 15th as we tour the fascinating ethnic and industrial history of the old “Down Neck.”
There is no better way to learn about the many cultures that have called the Ironbound home, from Dutch, to German, to Italian, Jewish, Polish, African-American and, of course, Portuguese than by slowly walking the neighborhood, spotting the many artifacts of ethnic groups long past. Additionally, we will see a few of the Ironbound’s most interesting remaining industrial sites, including a chocolate factory, a varnish plant, and a brewery or two.

The tour will begin at 2:00 and will last two and a half hours (so we’ll be ending just in time for dinner). If there is inclement weather please check the main page of my website, http://www.newarkhistory.com on the day of the tour to check for a notice of cancellation. If the weather is bad I will reschedule the tour for some point in April or May.

The meeting place is the intersection of Ferry and McWhorter Streets, by the Dutch Reformed Church.

More information is available at:
http://www.newarkhistory.com/ironboundtour.html

Rutgers University Remembers Student Protests, Celebrates Black History Month

Rutgers-Newark: Remembering a 1969 Protest by a Few that Opened Doors for Many at Rutgers University

Forty years ago, a single act of courage by a group of committed students forever changed Rutgers University.  On Feb. 24, 1969, young men and women from the Black Organization of Students, along with some supporters, occupied Conklin Hall at Rutgers University in Newark, protesting the scarcity of black students, black faculty and minority-oriented academic programs on campus.  The event lasted only 72 hours – but the new programs and policies that it triggered are responsible for transforming the whole of Rutgers University into a multicultural institution, with the campus in Newark cited as the most diverse national university in the United States (U.S. News & World Report, July 2008). 

Rutgers in Newark will pause to reflect on those 72 hours, and publicly recognize and thank the people who braved expulsion and arrest to stand up for their beliefs.

The University will be celebrating Black History Month with a number of programs that are free and open to the public

  • Feb. 21, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., 29th annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series, New Jersey’s largest and oldest Black History Month observance. Paul Robeson Campus Center, 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Essex Room East and West, Newark NJ. Info: Marisa Pierson, 973/353-1871, ext. 11, mpierson@newark.rutgers.edu, http://ethnicity.rutgers.edu
  • Feb. 25, 6 – 9 p.m., “Repatriation of African Art,” a panel discussion. Rutgers Center for Law and Justice, 1st floor, Baker Trial Courtroom, 123 Washington St., Newark. Co-sponsored by the Art Law Society. Free and open to the public (non-Rutgers visitors must check in at front desk.) Information: Rebecca Esmi, resmi4mail@yahoo.com
  • A Celebration of Diversity: The 40th Anniversary of the Conklin Hall Takeover (contact: Gerard Drinkard, 973/353-3824, or drinkard@andromeda.rutgers.edu)
    • Feb. 5, 5-7 p.m., “We Only Know What We Can Remember” Exhibit, Robeson Gallery, Paul Robeson Campus Center,.  Opening reception for Conklin Takeover exhibit in Robeson Gallery featuring photos and documents from the John Cotton Dana Library Archives Digital Preservation Initiative. Exhibit will be displayed in Orbit II Gallery through July 2009.
    • Feb. 12, 4 – 6 p.m., “Inside the Conklin Hall Takeover,” a DVD Screening, Reception & Discussion with Special Performance by Unity Theatre. Bradley Hall Theatre. A brief documentary of interviews and reflections with Chancellor Steven Diner, Dr. Clement A. Price, Dr. Norman Samuels, Junius Williams, current Rutgers students, Black Organization of Students (BOS) alumni including Richard Roper (1st president of BOS), George Hampton (participant in the 1969 takeover) and other noted faculty.
    • Feb. 23, 11:30 a.m. – 12:50 p.m., JUKE JOINT POETRY JAM Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center. Celebration of diversity in verse and rhyme featuring students and alumni from various cultures. Multi-cultural refreshments will be served.
    • Feb. 24, 1-5 p.m., “A Look Back, A Leap Forward,” hosted by Dr. Clement A. Price, with performance by Unity Theater,., Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center.  This program commemorates the 40th anniversary of the protest actions of Feb. 24, 1969, by BOS and other students which opened the doors to forever change the cultural makeup of Rutgers-Newark, today the most diverse university in America. Special guests include: President Richard McCormick, Chancellor Steven Diner, ‘69 Liberators.
    • Feb. 27, 6-10 p.m., 40 Years: Liberation of Conklin Hall Reunion, Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center. Closing ceremonies of the celebration of the historic 1969 Conklin Hall Takeover. Awards honoring the ‘69 liberators with special guest speakers Dr. Clement A. Price and the Rev. Dr. Howard, Chair, Rutgers Board of Governors.

Paradise Lost: Newark Poetry

All hell broke loose.
John Milton, Paradise Lost

In June 1667, Puritans under Robert Treat signed the first city charter for the religiously exclusive Newark governance. A month later, these white men struck a good deal with the Lenape Indians for the paradisiacal land from the Passaic River to the Watchung Mountains. That was the year when the immortal Milton first published his Paradise Lost.

In November 1915, Newark at its pinnacle organized the Newark Poetry Competition as a part of the city’s 250th anniversary celebration. In the official publication, The Newarker, the organizers wrote:

Newark is not all industries, smoke, rush and din. It is a great center of production and in its special field of work is alert and progressive. But it has also beautiful homes, fine parks, admirable schools, and a useful library. Its thousands of shade trees are the envy of many cities. The cleanliness of its highways surprises even the Newarker himself. It has a good government, churches in plenty and many worthy clubs and societies. Art and science even are not altogether neglected here… Newark, with 400,000 people… (is) known to all the world as a producer of honest goods.

Clement Wood, a graduate of Yale Law School, won the first prize with his poem, The Smithy of God.

Clang, and clang, and clang, and clang,
Till a hundred thousand tired feet
Drag-drag-drag down the evening street,
And gleaming the myriad street-lights hang;
The far night-noise dwindle and hush,
The city quiets its homing rush;
The stars blow forth with silent sweep,
As Hammer and hammered drowse asleep…
Softy I sing to heaven again,
I am Newark, forger of men,
Forger of men, forger of men.

Perhaps even with a nightingale’s singing, Wood’s nocturne might not be able to send 400,000 working men and women with blue eyes and children with above-average intelligence to their sweet American dreams every night. However, Newark indeed was a first-class city of manufacture and technological inventions. Poet Sayers Coe, a native Newarker and a graduate of Princeton, could even verify the most familiar sound of his time in his The Voice of the City:

Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!
Hark to the music that the hammers beat!
List to the tramp of the marching feet!
See, where the forges redly glow!
This is the song that my children know –
Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!
Hear me, cities of men….

Before becoming an editor of Puck Magazine, Berton Braley labored with his hands, passing coal on the Great Lakes, digging ditches, guarding prisons and an insane asylum, farming and mining. With Walt Whitman’s spirit, he testified, “The needs and wants of the world have spurred her, Newark – city that builds our dreams.” However, amazed by Newark’s vulgar Pollyannaish fever, the literature wizard Ezra Pound sent his advice from London, “If each Italian city is herself, Each with a form, light, character… Can you, Newark, be thus, setting a fashion, But little known in our land?”

On May 31, 1916, 40,000 citizens celebrated the city’s birth in a beautiful amphitheatre in Weequahic Park. On a natural stage separated from the crowds by a lagoon 300 feet long and 163 fee wide, 4,000 performers unfolded the city’s history in four movements, including Lenape “peace legend,” Robert Treat (of course), land rioters of 1746, and rebels against British tyranny in a 1776 town meeting. A live band of 92 pieces performed the pageant music composed by Henry Hadley for the event.

Was life so great then? Would the celebration last? Our poet Richard Cammarieri in his 1999 poem, Taking Sides, asked:

Celebrate?
Celebrate what?
Ignorance deceit
Conquest slavery death
that is what you are about
and I know – we know –
what you are about.

In the next 50 years, through two World Wars, the Prohibitionist attack, the Great Depression, and Urban Renewal, two waves of Southern African-American migrant workers moved in with poverty and tens of thousands of whites moved out with wealth. In front of the eyes of a single generation, the once powerful city swiftly experienced a stunning metamorphosis, which has, in turn, generated a very different poetry. In 1967, a Newark court convicted Amiri Baraka with his poem, “We must take our own world, man, our own world, and we cannot do this unless the white man is dead. Let’s get together and kill him my man… Let’s make a world we want black children to grow and learn in.” In his Black People!, the “paradise-lost” scene was depicted:

What about that bad short you saw last week on Frelinhuysen, or those stoves and refrigerators, record players in Sears, Bamberger’s, Klein’s, Hahnes’, Chase, and smaller joosh enterprises? What about the bad jewelry, on Washington Street, and those couple of shops on Springfield? You know how to get it, you can get it, no money down, no money never, money don’t grow on trees no way, only whitey’s got it, makes it with a machine, to control you, you cant steal nothing from a white man.

Now, even those stores, Sears, Macy’s, Klein’s, Hahnes’ and whatever enterprises have long gone and might never come back. The “paradise” has nothing, but Baraka’s and my anger. A young poet Candy Killion cries in her Urban Renewal, Newark (2005):

They stand at sweet attention, now
Condos tight and scrubbed,
Manicured and fertilized
On the hot-tarred rise where there was never grass,
Not when we know it.

Over there, see the swing set?
through decades of exhaust from the 21 bus,
back, further still, see the hill then:
houses burning, National Guard boys…
white and black and yellow and red
barely nineteen, some of them
crawling sweaty and confused in the gutters,
rifle muzzles erect through tinted windows,
waving at them into dreams of rice paddies

Molotov air, broken glass and screams are there still
Under the flowerbeds, under the new-set sod
Just as we knew it.

We knew it? Do we know that, once lost, the paradise will never come back? Maybe the crazy Ezra Pound, who died in an asylum, was right after all: “Can you, Newark, be thus, setting a fashion, But little known in our land?” We don’t really need a paradise, do we?

Newark’s “Autopia”

In a 1957 lecture, the city thinker Lewis Munford observed, “…instead of planning motor cars and motor ways to fit our life, we are rapidly planning our life to fit the motor car… that we have no life that is worth living.” Arguably, Munford has summarized our 100-year collective experience in Newark and far beyond.
In the afternoon of August 20, 1834, Newarkers cheered their first glimpse of rapid transit: a team of powerful horses made an epochal trip, pulling a car (the “Washington”) on tracks from a Broad Street tavern to Jersey City. On December 2, 1835, the first steam locomotive (“Newark”) started to replace horses on the line. In the winter of 1871, the locally built Baxter Steam Car operated on the Bloomfield line going 18 miles an hour. In 1888, a spectacle of cable cars had a short life on Springfield Avenue. Newark’s first electrical trolley car began operation on October 4, 1890, and swiftly took over the city’s streets.

In 1893, America’s first gas-engine automobile was built in Springfield, Massachusetts. On February 21, 1908, the first Newark Auto Show opened at Essex Troop Armory on Roseville Avenue, featuring moving pictures of the thrilling Vanderbilt Cup race. Thousands of visitors admired over 30 brands of magic machines, including Maxwell, Crawford, Jackson, Peerless, Ford, Fiat, Oldsmobile, and Regal. The subsequent shows even gained national significance, attended by President Tufts, and focused not only on sales, but also the politics of auto legislation and road construction. Motor cars aggressively but arrogantly charged into Newark’s maelstrom of dirty horse wagons, trotting carriages famously made locally, darting bicycles, and hyper streetcars.

The city builders of the “Progressive Era” believed that automobiles provided the solution to urban traffic problems. Newark’s Harland Bartholomew said in 1913, “The logical development and growth of a modern city depends almost exclusively upon its transportation facilities.” Once Newark’s streets were cleared of slow vehicles, they would be dedicated to the smooth flow of motorized traffic.

The modern “Autopia,” however, quickly turned into a bloody nightmare, with hundreds of deaths under wheels annually. Local motoring organizations, supported by the automobile industry, directed public attention to trouble makers – “jaywalkers.” They even heavily advertised against popular images of spoiled “joy-riders” and demanded the press to cease attacks on innocent motorists. With the auto lobby, State Motor Vehicle Commissioner Magee said in a 1939 Newark City Hall meeting:

Approximately 3,000 pedestrians have been killed and more than 35,000 injured in the last five years…. Careless action of pedestrians, the almost absolute defiance of many stubborn-minded individuals of their probable chances for injury, is an outstanding reason for these casualties.”

As some people observed, even Ralph Nader’s auto safety reform in the 1960’s did nothing for those lives outside the car. Starting from 1923, Newark adopted strict laws against jaywalkers. Through endless efforts of widening streets, particularly after Essex County took over major corridors (e.g., Springfield, Bloomfield, Central Avenues) as county roads, many sidewalks were further narrowed or even eliminated. Many ordinances were adopted against traffic problems, such as uniform traffic control (1915), street parking bans (1921), and one-way streets (1940). In the 1920’s, Police Director Brennan (the father of our beloved U.S. Superior Court Justice) was the most-hated figure in town for his traffic law enforcement.

The great German historian Oswald Spengler, who chronicled the decline of the West, observed as early as 1932, “In great cities the motor-car has by its numbers destroyed its own value, and one gets on quicker on foot.” Twenty years later, however, the magic machine reached its new pinnacle in American, with an average of three persons owning a car, compared with one out of every 20 Britons owning a car. Optimistic city planners are divided into two camps, like today. Some are confident that cities can build their way out of their decline by making them more auto-friendly, using further regulatory tools, providing plentiful and convenient parking, and building express highways into the city center. (Sound familiar, Newark?) The other school was represented by Victor Gruen, a refugee from Vienna who hated cars and loved old cities. He proposed a wide ring road outside the city center, with an archipelago of commuter parking, an underground freight-delivering network, and an efficient bus system to reduce traffic pressure. His new American downtown would be a car-free mall attracting diverse interests, such as churches, offices, and educational institutions.

In the late 1950’s, Newark commissioned Gruen for a comprehensive study on its downtown and for the design of Gateway One. From a Newark Evening News report, one can see that Gruen did a very decent job educating the public, “For a long time he (pedestrian) was the forgotten man in the soaring dreams of the City Beautiful. The plan often sounded as though tomorrow’s town was expected to have no people, only skyscrapers and unbroken streams of swift traffic.”

With the power of automobiles and anti-urban national policies, however, Gruen was (and still is) too remote to Newark’s business people, politicians, and most planners. Leslie Blau, one of the most influential businessmen in town, predicted in 1957, “The construction of the east-west freeway (Rt. 280), together with additional garages and adjusted downtown taxes, will wipe out most of the store vacancies, greatly improve existing business… bring more business. People want to drive to the shopping area.” At the time, Downtown Newark still had five department stores: Bamberger’s, Hahne’s, Chase, S. Klein, and Ohrbach’s. Pasqual Guerrieri, the president of Kresge/Chase and Chairman of the Newark Parking Authority, predicted with the Military Park underground parking, “Millions of dollars will be spent here. They will go into payroll, supplies, and into the general stream of the economy.” Bamberger President David Yunich said that Newark “is looking forward to its fair share in the space age from visiting consumer and capital expenditures.”

The auto-oriented prosperity, or “revitalization” in today’s term enthusiastically used by politicians, has never really happened. While Newarkers like to boast of its great “transportation advantages,” in the past 100 years, highways and automobiles actually drained the urban center in favor of peripheral areas, where driving and parking were less arduous. Before World War II, Le Corbusier, the great creator of the “Radiant City,” enjoyed driving with his lover in her powerful Ford V8 towards Newark. He noted, “…the ‘sky-way,’ so-called for the way its enormous length rises high above the industrial districts, the coastal bays, the railroad lines….A roadway without art, for no thoughts of that was taken, but a prodigious tool.” He did not know that as early as 1926, Newark’s chief engineer James Costello had to launch a “showdown” with the State Highway Commission against the design and the intention of this “prodigious tool,” the Pulaski Skyway, which had no point of access to the city of Newark.

From the beginning, highway construction aimed for sprawl and decentralization. For instance, for highway funding in 1930, Ocean County got 410 percent of its tax dollars; Sussex and Hunterdon 324 percent and 333 percent, respectively, while Essex got only 37 percent. Federal and state legislation further deprived Newark’s funding for road construction. In the 1930’s, under the County Engineer Stickel, Essex County took over ten “county roads” beyond High Street (MLK Blvd.) to better serve suburban needs.

Under the economic boom with massive highway construction after World War II, a large number of “Boomtowns” mushroomed in New Jersey. For instance, by 1950, New Providence (original Turkey Town), a country hamlet, had expanded threefold in 20 years, becoming the home of engineers, research scientists, technicians, and sales personnel, in general young people with families and “definite” ideas about local affairs. Following Bell Labs that settled in New Providence, large and small corporations located along highways, such as Ciba Pharmaceuticals in Summit and Standard Oil in Linden. Even the native institution, the Newark Academy, followed young families to pastoral Livingston. As Frank Lloyd Wright prescribed for his “Broadacre City,” every family lives in an individual house at the equivalent of the lowest suburban densities, linked by universal car ownership and fast roads.

As a Chinese proverb said, “No banquet will be endless.” The good life in Bo-bo land, La-la land, or wonderland is finally coming to an end under economic and environmental constraints. We even get an “urban president” in the White House, as we have all hoped for. More and more suburban towns have started serious efforts to build more dense and pedestrian-friendly centers, particularly along mass transit lines. That has not happened in Newark! In the City Council meeting a week ago, the Chancellor of our urban university addressed his ambition to grow the school by constructing 3,500 new parking spaces on the city’s best land for transit-oriented community development, indeed the largest parking development in the history of the city and the state. Although the paradigm of Newark’s “autopia” did not work for its five department stores, it seems to still have the support of our leaders and planners, calling it “urban revitalization.”

My grandchildren will see what Newark will look like in 2025. Since this is a discussion of the city, Jane Jacobs will have the last word: “What if we fail to stop the erosion of cities by automobiles? What if we are prevented from catalyzing workable and vital cities because the practical steps needed to do so are in conflict with the practical steps demanded by erosion?…. In that case we Americans will hardly need to ponder a mystery that has troubled men for millennia: What is the purpose of life? For us the answer will be clear, established and for all practical purpose indisputable: The purpose of life is to produce and consume automobiles.”

(See also Newark’s Lethal Traffic and The Iron Cage: A Very Brief History of Parking in Newark, both posted at this site.)

Book Review: Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America

Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and RiotsKevin Mumford
NYU Press, 2007

In 1961 an integrated group of Newark CORE supporters gathered in Military Park to send off a continent of Freedom Riders who were sacrificing their time, money, and physical safety for civil rights. The destination was . . . . Chattanooga . . . Tennessee.

The Newark Freedom Riders were doing something brave and important, yet one has to wonder why the Newarkers were embarking on a 1,600 mile odyssey against racism when there was racism, no less intense or damaging, right in their very city. Robert Curvin, leader of Essex County CORE, wondered the exact same thing. Over the next few years Curvin would attempt, despite criticism from CORE’s national leadership, to focus the energy and money of Newark’s civil rights supporters on Newark.

Read the full review after the jump.

Continue reading “Book Review: Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America”