Interview with Newark Mayor Cory Booker

I think the biggest challenge is bringing people together to work collectively to solve their problems … The collective strength of any community is big enough to overcome any challenge if you can really get people focused on it.

Cory Booker, in an interview for World Journalism Institute (wherein he also shares his thoughts about fellow Newarker and TDN member, Danny Iverson)

Three new exhibitions opening at Gallery Aferro

Gallery Aferro 73 Market St Newark NJ aferro.org
Tabula Rasa
Curated by Evonne M. Davis
March 21 – May 16, 2009
Opening Reception March 21, 7-10 PM
with fully illustrated color catalog, essay by artist Ryan Schroeder

Tabula Rasa (’ täbyoŏlə ˈräsə; ˈräzə) refers to an absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals; a clean slate. The phrase carries baggage from belief systems in which the human mind at birth is viewed as having no innate ideas. Denying what is obvious is practiced as a gesture of resistance by some of the artists, most or all of whom are affected, however indirectly, by the notions derived from existentialism and the nothingness of existence, ennui. Inspired curatorially by the concept of residual information that persists after erasure, the exhibition is one of several to date by Evonne M. Davis concerning the nature of knowing, learning and unlearning.

ORIGIN Latin, literally ‘scraped tablet,’ denoting a tablet with the writing erased.

Artists: Dave Beck, Katrina Bello, Michael Davies, Brian DeLevie + Isshaela Ingham, Gary Duehr, Maria Emilov, Jonathan Franco, Brian Gustafon, Erik Hanson, Emily Henretta, Greg Leshé, Casey Lynch, Carol Petino, Kara Rooney, Ryan Schroeder, Joshua Schwebel, Travis LeRoy Southworth, Ian Summers, Alexis West

Nitrogen Cycles
Andrew Demirjian and Zachary Seldess
New Media Room
March 21 – May 16, 2009
Opening Reception March 21, 7-10 PM
Artist Talk Date TBA

An eight channel sound installation.

Andrew Demirjian is a media artist whose work focuses on creating alternative relationships between audio, video and text that take the form of single-channel videos and multi-channel installations. He is interested in using sensors and motion tracking to create reactive environments between physical and mediated spaces. The works often explore the lines between interior and exterior, mass media effects on the individual and the psychology of male identity. Andrew employs conceptual systems of juxtaposition, categorization and randomness as structuring devices versus conventional narrative arcs and character development.

His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and galleries including the White Box gallery, Harvestworks, LMAK Projects and GAS in Manhattan. Over the last year he has had multiple international exhibitions including the Garden of Earthly Delights in Korea, Küf/Mold in Belgium, Artist in Wonderland in Poland and Analogue/Digital in England. Andrew Demirjian received a 2006 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Puffin Foundation Grant, an Artslink grant and has been awarded artist in residencies at the Newark Museum, the Experimental Television Center, the Visual Studies Workshop and The Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art. Mr. Demirjian received his MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College and he is a professor at Monmouth University teaching courses in video production, visual culture and film history.

Into the Singularity
Tom Block
Project Room
March 21 – May 16, 2009
Opening Reception March 21, 7-10 PM
Artist Talk Date TBA

“Into the Singularity is a 72 foot long painting exploring the horror of classical mystical attainment. That path is cold, lonely, miserable, unloved, terrifying, insanity producing and just plain wrong. I have created this massive paper, collage, drawing and painting piece to express the seething human singularity that percolates in the deepest recesses of the mystic’s brain. Fusing color, a morass of hands, screaming faces and dribbling tears of line, this work explores the horrifying interior space created by the classical mystic’s path. It is an empty, narcissistic and rudderless journey, leading only into a cul-de-sac of a-human experience.

I utilize the visual arts, writing projects and scholarship to explore the interaction between the spiritual life of humanity and our sometimes-sad shared reality. My work explores humans’ attempts to make sense of this world. At the very best, I hope that my art will have an activist influence, causing viewers to question their own personal roles in making the world a better place to live.”

Branch Brook Park to Hold Community Forum – Thurs, Feb 19

UPDATE: this meeting has been cancelled. Sorry for the late notice.

The Branch Brook Park Alliance will be hosting a public forum Thursday at 7pm to discuss development efforts in the city’s greatest park. See details after the jump.

“We are excited to share with the community news of the capital improvements made to the park and demonstrate how these improvements have increased the park’s usage and activity,” said Ms. Coleman. “The park belongs to all of us, so we want to keep our neighbors informed of what we have done, what we have planned, and how they can help preserve this community treasure.”

Continue reading “Branch Brook Park to Hold Community Forum – Thurs, Feb 19”

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.)

Ditch that Christmas Tree

The city of Newark has published an advisory that collection of old trees will begin on Thursday, January 8th. Be sure to get rid of that dried-out tree as soon as you can as it’s a fire hazard.

Division of Recycling workers and vehicles will pick up discarded trees during that period on the following schedule: Monday, West Ward; Tuesday, East Ward; Wednesday, South Ward; Thursday, North Ward; Friday, Central Ward.

Click through for the full press release.

Continue reading “Ditch that Christmas Tree”

Reminder: Sit for a portrait this Friday and Saturday


Alone and Together: Tintype Portrait Studio at Gallery Aferro October 3 + 4th, 1-7 PM

email ewilcox@aferro.org for an appointment, or walk in.

Photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley is inviting the public to have their portrait taken at Gallery Aferro on October 3 and 4th from 1-7 PM. Sitters can come solo or with a loved one. The sittings are free. A print of the image is $10.

The downtown Newark area was once home to many portrait studios where people could come to have a high-quality portrait made. By photographing contemporary America, especially in diverse New Jersey, Keliy is compiling a beautifully made record of what we all really look like, using a classic process.

Keliy hopes to meet and photograph as many people as possible while she is in Newark. All are welcome!

This portrait series is made with the wet plate collodion process, the leading mode of photography in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Tintypes are positive images exposed onto metal. This historic process has a different relationship to time than digital or film photography. The chemistry is hand-mixed and poured onto the plate in front of the sitter. As soon as the exposure is made in the wooden view camera, the plate must be taken to a portable dark box to be developed and fixed. The wet plate collodion image captures a pose held over several seconds or even minutes. This prolonged gaze creates a tension between the sitter and the camera. While a snapshot captures a moment about a 1/1000 of a second long, the tintype process allows for a portrait of a person or a couple to unfold over time; the image produced can then slow down our looking. A viewer sees the hard lines of bone structure, wrinkles and blemishes, but also sees bright, focused eyes staring back intently. This process allows the photographer and the viewer to stare, but it is not entirely voyeuristic, as the sitter stares back. The act of taking someone’s portrait can once again be an event.

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 ewilcox@aferro.org

Newark opens line for citizen complaints

Newark opens line for citizen complaints
The city of Newark steps into the 20th century by implementing CRM (that’s citizen relationship management) software and a streamlined, centralized call center. The new call center will field questions from residents for everything from garbage collection to pothole repair — questions that often fall to the city’s overburdened 911 service.

The city of Newark unveiled a new phone hotline yesterday that is supposed to serve as a catch-all for complaints about graffiti, potholes, traffic signal problems and other city services.

The phone number — (973) 733-4311 — is modeled after similar non-emergency call lines that have been wildly popular in New York City and Baltimore. Newark officials hope this phone number and tracking system will give department directors a clear snapshot of strengths and weaknesses in city services.

“Today marks the day where we finally tell Newark citizens we care about what you say,” said James Bennett, the call center manager. “When you call, we will listen.”

More exciting, though, was this information I received from the company whose system the city implemented, QScend Technologies:

“Further, municipalities can offer a full-blown knowledge base and citizen self-help center through their websites, allowing citizens to access key information 24/7, not just when the call center is open,” said LeBeau. “If they don’t find the answer to their question using the knowledge base, they can then submit a form regarding their service request and that request is routed right to the responsible department.”

This would certainly be taking the program to the 21st century. Imagine submitting a complaint online about a pothole on McCarter Highway and not just getting that issue resolved, but getting an email or text message (or twitter?) to close the loop when the pothole is fixed!

Now THAT would be taking the concept to the next level, and sources say that web-based issue tracking is not only technically possible, but part of the next phase of this rollout.

Putting Newark ahead of the curve on services for residents — that’s the kind of thing that will continue to fuel investment in Newark.

Newark gets $5 Million for prisoner re-entry program

Newark gets $5 Million for prisoner re-entry program
Prisoner re-entry is a cornerstone of the Booker administration, with 2,300 men and women pouring into the city from prison each year, 65 percent of whom are rearrested within five years. This funding gets momentum behind a program that is desperately needed in Newark, and may turn a difficult challenge into an economic opportunity for Newarkers.

The federal government has awarded the city of Newark a $2 million grant to be used for the city’s prisoner re-entry program.

The award, which will be publicly announced today at a noon news conference in Newark, will be matched by another $3 million donation from philanthropic organizations. The $5 million in extra funding will give the city’s fledgling program a much needed boost.

Newark’s Green Future Summit

Newark’s Green Future Summit
Newark’s second annual Green Future Summit will take place this year at NJIT to converse and imagine a greener city. Issues such as job creation, green construction, and youth initiatives will be discussed among a panel that includes individuals from Newark-based organizations such as the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, and Brick City Urban Farms.

Toni Griffin, whose community meetings entitled “Shifting Forward 2025,” and which Zemin attended and blogged, will also be presenting a recap of her findings.

The conference spans two days this Friday and Saturday, and is free and open to the public.

Beginning with a commitment made at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2007, the City of Newark has partnered with the Apollo Alliance, and other national organizations, to bring together local community, business, and government leaders around creating a sustainability roadmap.

The “Newark’s Green Future” roadmap will outline the strategies, priorities and city-community collaboration necessary to realizing a sustainable economy – one that creates “green jobs” for residents, positively impacts community health, enhances public infrastructure, and increases opportunities for future generations.

The roadmap will be the subject of discussion at the upcoming Newark’s Green Future Summit. The two-day summit will highlight existing Newark sustainability initiatives and programs, present best practices from across the country, and offer an opportunity for participatory dialogue to chart priorities and next steps.

The Summit is free and open to the public.