City to Offer Free Lifeguard Training

City Hall: Newark Offers Lifeguard Training to City Residents
Sounds like a great opportunity for kids who are looking for a summer job. While employment isn’t guaranteed, this class could certainly help kids who might like to work at a recreation center, public pool, or camp.

Mayor Cory A. Booker and Director of Neighborhood and Recreational Services Melvin Waldrop announced today that the City of Newark is offering a two-week Lifeguard Training class, beginning on February 23, 2009, continuing through March 7, 2009, at the John F. Kennedy Aquatic Center, for Newark residents.

While the class itself is free, students must pay $50 for the manual, American Red Cross lifeguard certification card, and CPR Face Shield. The $50 is due on the first day of class. The classes will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for two weeks. The minimum age to take the class is 16.

City Seeks to Fund Infrastructure Improvements

Star Ledger: Newark council looks to create utility authority
Booker has gone on record in the past noting that the city’s infrastructure is aged and crumbling. Having been a student and a resident here for many years, it’s easy to see how a modest snowstorm or rainfall can overwhelm the city’s sewer system.

The details on the financing are a bit troubling, with the city essentially admitting that there is no other way to fund improvements to the system without creating a utility authority which can issue bonds.

Newark is considering creating a municipal utilities authority to take over the city’s ailing water and sewer utilities, making it easier for officials to begin $700 million in repairs to its long-neglected systems.

Highlights of the plan, referenced in an application filed with the Local Finance Board of the state’s Division of Local Government Services, mention that the city needs to make more than $50 million in short-term capital improvements alone.

The utility could issue bonds to address more than $700 million in needed improvements, “an amount equivalent to the value of the entire system,” according to the application to the local finance board. The proposal states, “all future capital needs would be met” by bonding, “to fulfill the requirements of upgrading and efficiently operating the system at an adequate cost to the city’s taxpayers.”

With Newark’s own bonding capacity nearly tapped, city officials said they have no other funding source to otherwise commission the work.

“It won’t drag the city down, and be caught up in the competitive demands on our bonding capacity,” said Booker, who also sits on the watershed’s board of trustees. “Now, you (can) create a way to capitalize that system, and keep it so much more flush with cash.”

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.)

The New York Times Profiles the Richardson Lofts Building


The Times real estate section has a piece on the rehabilitation trend of old manufacturing buildings into condos in New Jersey urban centers: New Jersey Developers Recycle, and Sell, Some History

In addition to discussing how these projects have been fairly — though not wildly — successful in the face of the meltdown in the real estate market, a portion of the article is devoted to the promising Richardson Lofts building in downtown Newark.

The Newark building – which like the Hoboken and Jersey City structures lay vacant for years before being eyed for renewal – was originally a jewelry factory. Known as the Richardson Building, it has stood for a century at the corner of Columbia and Green Streets, and it gets a mention in Philip Roth’s novel “American Pastoral,” which is set in historic Newark.

The building has one jaw-dropping feature: a six-story-tall steel spiral staircase that stands in an open central atrium. The elements turned the staircase rusty, but that deterioration will be halted, as plans call for a skylight roof and a small courtyard around the central spiral.”

It will be a natural gathering place, a social center for residents,” said Brendan Murray, the chief executive of Tekton Development, which is creating Richardson Lofts.

Tekton is recycling materials, using “green” techniques, and installing energy-efficient features throughout the building, in a bid for a “silver” rating from the United States Green Building Council, which issues certifications based on LEED standards – for Leadership in Energy and Energy Design. This would be a first for Newark.

Shaq Wants to Bring the Nets to Newark

Steve Politi opines for the Star Ledger on the possibility of whether the Nets might ever come to Newark.
While idle speculation has been free-flowing since construction of the Prudential Center was completed, the prospect has caught the attention of real-estate developer and NBA phenomenon Shaquille O’Neal: Shaquille O’Neal may be the man to bring New Jersey Nets to the Prudential Center.

Why the Nets insist on moving forward on what seems to be a doomed project, abhored by fans and Brooklyn residents escapes all logic. Hopefully, Shaq can bring some much needed sanity and influence into the deal and convince the Nets to stay in their home state.

The question nags at Shaquille O’Neal every time he visits his home city now, the same way it should nag at every basketball fan in this state. He sees the gleaming Prudential Center in the heart of a community that loves his sport, then shakes his head in wonder and frustration.

“Why,” he wants to know, “aren’t the Nets playing in Newark?”

On this topic, like everyone else, Shaq is stumped. The Nets should be playing in Newark, and not just for a few lousy preseason games as the team is proposing. And the 7-footer could be a major force in making them — to borrow his favorite Scrabble word — a Shaqtastic success.

Ring in the New Year at The Coffee Cave

This in from a Newarker!  Still looking for something to do tonight?  Snow got you rethinking your plans to travel into the wild NJ countryside or take the hectic Path train into Manhattan?  The Coffee Cave, a new cafe and club, is hosting an event just a short walk/car ride/light rail trip downtown.
Have a great New Years and stay safe!

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Still trying to make plans for New Year’s? Don’t feel like schlepping into the city? Wanna bring in 2009 with beautiful people?!

Sounds like you need to come to:
ALL ACCESS 2009: CELEBRITY SWAGGER
December 31, 2008
9pm – until
The Coffee Cave
45 Halsey Street
Newark, NJ 07102
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wine, hors d’oeuvres all night
champagne toast at midnite
DJ Kalie & Max Jerome spinning house, hip hop and neo soul all night
$25 on guestlist; more at the door
byobrown juice

for more information, or to get on guestlist, email TheEliteGroupNJ@gmail.com

Taking Newark Back, One Piece at a Time

City Hall has issued a press release about the city’s efforts to take Newark back, one piece at a time.
Taking advantage of state legislation that gives cities expanded authority to reclaim properties that have been “vacant for more than six months and have unpaid taxes, or have been deemed blighted and hazardous to public safety.”

Think of it as Eminent Domain on steroids, but doubtless a law that’s been asked for across the state as beleaguered homeowners find it easier to walk away from homes with far higher mortgage payments — and far less value — in the midst of a massive market correction.

“Even in this tough economy, the revitalization of our City’s West Ward is beginning in earnest,” said Deputy Mayor Pryor. Private owners are responding to our actions by fixing up their buildings. Our development team is intervening to rehab five key properties. And we’re creating a garden and park where there was a vacant lot. All while involving local and minority participants in the process of creating new affordable housing. Thank you to the City Hall staff leaders and our many partners for making today’s progress possible.”

Continue reading “Taking Newark Back, One Piece at a Time”

Theater Square Grill Annual Holiday Wine Party: Wed, Dec 17 6:00-8:30pm

Got plans for Wednesday night? Theater Square Grill will be hosting a Holiday Wine Party with a prix fixe $65 menu with a special menu (all inclusive: tax, gratuity & parking).  Mention Zing Marketing and get more than 20% off.
Click through for the full menu.

Continue reading “Theater Square Grill Annual Holiday Wine Party: Wed, Dec 17 6:00-8:30pm”

Crawford Street Partners Breaks Ground on Development in Lincoln Park

Crawford Street Partners breaks ground on a planned 28,000 sqft facility to open in September, 2009 for education, performance and retail venues. The development will add green space including grass areas and landscaping visible from both Crawford and Washington Streets to the neighborhood.

Crawford Street Partners’ history includes a strong track record of rehabilitating distressed properties, including five buildings in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The Crawford Commons project builds on other recent improvements in the Lincoln Park area, including newly constructed “LEED-certified” lofts and apartments produced by the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, the Colleoni Building located at 39-41 Lincoln Park and the former Dryden mansion, also rehabilitated by Crawford Street Partners.

“Crawford Street Partners is very excited to continue our work in the redevelopment of Newark including the Lincoln Park neighborhood,” said Crawford Street Partners’ Principle Steve Burns. “This project combines unique facilities in which to learn and perform with new green space and landscaping to enhance what is becoming Newark’s newest Arts and Cultural District. We look forward to the neighborhood being active with children, residents and visitors alike and appreciate the support of our Lincoln Park neighbors to make The Crawford Commons a reality.”

Click through to read the full press release.

Continue reading “Crawford Street Partners Breaks Ground on Development in Lincoln Park”