Habeas Lounge: Democracy Out Loud in Newark

Linda Pollack is a public artist preparing for a community dialogue project that will open in Newark October 23. The HABEAS LOUNGE is a space for civic dialogue, where she curates a series of public discussions and other exchanges.

In the podcast, we discuss how the lounge came into existence, the goals for the project, and where you can find out more information.


The HABEAS LOUNGE series are developed to be timely and relevant to the communities where they are based. The idea is to break away from the typical dynamics of the panel discussion and instead create a more fluid and inclusive atmosphere where candid exchange can occur. The series has since been featured in downtown Los Angeles, Manhattan and, most recently, Wroclaw Poland for the 20th anniversary of Eastern Europe’s political changes of 1989.

On October 23, HABEAS LOUNGE will be displayed in the street level window of Rupert Ravens Contemporary Art Gallery, at 85 Market Street in Newark. The fomer “Furniture King” will once again be infused with its original mandate to display furniture. The LOUNGE will first serve as a still life in the display window, then in mid November we will activate it by hosting public discussions that address city life issues specific to Newark – transportation, infrastructure, development, housing, renewal, safety, the river, health services, etc.

For more information, check out their website: rupertravens.net.

NJPAC, Nation’s “Most Glamorous Theater”

Exploring NJPAC’s beginnings, impact on the community, global reputation (described by renowned critics as one of the “world’s greatest concert halls” and “the nation’s most glamorous theater”) and ambitions for growth.

njpac-exterior-photo-credit-estoI met with Jeff Norman and Josh Balber to talk about what one might still consider to be Newark’s best kept secret: the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
“Pffft,” you say, “I’ve heard of NJPAC before.“  But, did you know that the center that has drawn over six million people to Newark since its open in 1997?  Did you know that the Center counts Yo-Yo Ma, Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater among its performances?  Or that deeply embedded into the DNA of the Performing Arts Center is a desire to catalyze the city’s renewal?

Or even that the Center’s Prudential Hall has been described by renowned critics as one of the “world’s greatest concert halls” and “the nation’s most glamorous theater”?


Jeff and Josh were kind enough to share some of the details about how the NJPAC was conceived and built by Lawrence Goldman, the Center’s arts programs and its ambitions for growth.



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Further Reading

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:

Newark Green Future Summit – A Rebuttal

As a guy who has lovingly been called a “tree hugger” and a “granola” by his friends, and was told to become a “florist” and a “landscape designer” instead of an architect by his professors, one would think that I approached this weekend’s Green Future Summit with anticipation. Unfortunately, after being at odds with the mainstream for being green before it was trendy, I am now at odds with the mainstream green movement itself!
“Why all this confrontation?”
“We should stand united!”
“Why would one of our own be hindering the progress of The Movement?”

In response, I urge laypeople and green enthusiasts alike to question everything and take nothing for face value in this marketing driven society. If you really think about what the current leaders of the green movement are proclaiming, you will realize that they are just fooling their gullible customers through clever language and statistics. Language like, “reduce carbon emissions 25% by 2040” and “our product contains less toxic chemicals than our competition” make most people comfortable with the progress being made. I guess I’m strange because I am not very comfortable with any toxic chemicals in the products I buy or any toxins being poured into the air and into the earth. I’m sorry to be a party pooper.

People who are successful set very high expectations for themselves. They aim to be the best at what they do, they aim to make no mistakes, and they aim to have a 100% positive impact on society, not a less bad impact on society. The leaders of the green movement should reevaluate their goals. They should aim to eliminate all toxic waste production as quickly as possible. Better yet, they should aim to create waste that has a positive effect on the ecosystem.

You’re going to say that my expectations are too high. I say to you that our goals must be set at the highest pinnacles of our imagination. We rarely achieve all of our goals, so when goals are set low, our achievements are even lower. When our goal is perfection, we just might come damn close.

You might also say that waste is dirty by default – it can’t be any other way. You are wrong. Only the human beings of the past 300 years have produced waste that is poisonous and literally changed the surface of this planet in almost every corner of the globe. An example: what is one of nature’s most effective fertilizers? The answer: earthworm excrement. Chinese farmers know all about it. In some agrarian communities in China it is considered proper for guests to leave an after dinner gift for their host in the rice paddy! It gives new meaning to the cliché; one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure, doesn’t it. My point is that in the natural world, everything is food for another, including waste, so don’t let anyone tell you that we can’t produce clean waste.

Now on to the Green Summit. The commissioner of the NJ Board of Utilities, Joseph Fiordaliso gave a rousing speech about his green ideals that was fondly reminiscent of some energy speeches given by the current fascist regime running this nation. I guess the audience was too busy clapping to hear him say “everything is on the table – wind, solar, biomass, and even nuclear.” Wait a second, did he say nuclear? Oh my, he did, and he repeated it for those who thought they misheard, “Nuclear.” Someone forgot to tell him that nuclear energy is quite possibly the most dangerous, unstable, and destructive technology to ever come out of human creativity. Not to mention that the scientists still haven’t figured out to do with the deadly radioactive waste that it gives off.

Cory Booker and Toni Griffin were the positive highlights of the afternoon as usual. The Mayor gave an off-the-cuff speech about his relative ignorance on green issues and his desire to learn from others and change the way he lives and runs the city. A nicely done speech by the Mayor. Ms. Griffin gave an abridged presentation of the Newark Master Plan. She has gone into great depth to uncover the planning issues that plague the city and the social ills that have been impacted by poor planning choices. The statistics about the poverty and unemployment rates in this city are mind-boggling. 40% unemployment in adult males, 31% of children are in poverty, 80% of the residents would have to move to make our neighborhoods as diverse as 100 years ago! These are numbers that go much deeper than planning, but planning has had its role in creating these problems. The goal of the Master Plan is to be fulfilled by 2025. A legitimate timeframe, but how many people will wait for it?

The panel discussion on Green Buildings became lively once the audience was invited to ask questions. The first question was excellent. It was directed to Sandy Wiggins who represented USGBC (the organization responsible for the LEED program). Mr. Wiggins was asked to explain how LEED will evolve in the future to keep up with other less-known certification programs. For those of you who don’t know, LEED is the de facto benchmark for building certification in the US. However, it is by no means the best or most holistic, it is just the dominant program in the market. Mr. Wiggins responded that the USGBC does make strategic partnerships with other organizations and “big changes” for LEED will be unveiled over the next 12 months.

The second question created the fireworks for the afternoon. A representative of Workforce (a job placement organization) asked if the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District attempted to hire any unemployed Newark residents for construction jobs. Before the director of LPCCD, Baye Wilson, could answer, the microphone was usurped by Marty Schwartz, the president of Essex County Building and Construction Trades Council. He used this time to scold Mr. Wilson for not using union labor on the LPCCD projects. Beneath his cuddly, union boss exterior, Mr. Schwartz actually made a fine point which was probably lost beneath his histrionics. His point was that by placing local unemployed men and women in the union, they would be taught the skills necessary to not only get a well-paying job, but have a career and a future. He is right. To be lifted out of poverty, one must be taught the skills that empower a person to build a meaningful and sustaining career without living off of government subsidies for the rest of his/her life.

I will leave you with a few thoughts… are we being the best we can be? Are we attacking the problems at their roots? Are we designing with Nature’s laws in mind? Have we chosen the right people to lead us and teach us? Are we part of the universal cycles that Nature has made for us, or are we an enemy of them, daring Nature to do something about it? I believe Nature always keeps things in balance, and to oppose the natural law is a losing battle, that has already been decided.

Interview: Darius Sollohub of the NJIT School of Architecture

Newark is the fastest growing city in the Northeast, leading the nationwide trend of people migrating into cities. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece describing the demographic aspect of this move — boomers and millennials, mostly — and identifying higher energy prices as one of the main reasons for this trend.

The Journal (and a similar CNN piece that ran the day before) described the New Urbamism phenomenon, which closely identifies with walkable neighborhoods intended to encourage community. To get some insight into the New Urbanism movement and how Newark’s future is being guided from an urban design perspective, I interviewed Darius Sollohub, Associate Professor of Architecture at NJIT.

The interview is about 31 minutes. Press the play button below to listen.


On the podcast, we discussed:


  • Darius’ history with the NJIT School of Architecture and how the school has participated in research and advisory in the city
  • What New Urbanism means, the origins of the movement, and some of the critiques and benefits
  • How Newark’s redevelopment can benefit from the New Urbanism model
  • Whether Newark is taking the right approach in its urban design, and how design can make a difference in urban problems like crime and quality of life
  • Bonus! What will Newark be like in five years?

House Culture: A Photographic Exhibition @ Newark Art Supply

RECEPTION: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 / 6pm to 9pm
Newark Art Supply is located @ 61 Halsey Street (Corner of Halsey & New St.)House Culture

STATEMENT By Ryan Joseph, Photographer

The focus of this project is to expand the visual vocabulary of the LGBT community beyond that of the mainstream perception, especially to include people of color.

I started out taking portraits of people in the LGBT community by trying to break away from conventional images usually used to portray this community such as men profiled as fashion-sensitive or stylish, to the sexy hot girl-on-girl lesbian stereotypes which our dominant heterosexual society finds easy to digest.  As I started to explore the images and culture I came into contact with, folks recommended I look into the underground Ball Culture to further develop my project.

This project is done in conjunction with Edgar River-Colon, an anthropologist who specializes in gender and cultural studies and who is presently writing his dissertation on the Ballroom or House Culture. As of now this is a work in progress and these images are a representation of what I have accumulated.

Ps. I am constantly looking for people to particapte in the project.


Revolution ’67: Revisiting Stories of Discontent

Revolution ’67 explores theories new and old about the “summer of discontent” in Newark. The civil disturbance took the lives of 26 individuals and caused millions of dollars in property damage in the city. The creators of the film, Jerome and Marylou Bongiorno, met to discuss the process of filmmaking and respond to its controversy.

I had the opportunity to speak with Jerome and Marylou Bongiorno yesterday evening about their film Revolution ’67, which has been making headlines in New Jersey for its portrayal of the “summer of discontent” in Newark. The civil disturbance took the lives of 26 individuals and caused millions of dollars in property damage in the city, which recognized the fortieth anniversary of the event last Thursday.

The interview is about 31 minutes. Press the play button below to listen.


On the podcast, we discussed:

  • how they became interested in making the film
  • perceptions of Newark today
  • why it’s hard to find accessible material about the civil disturbance
  • raising the dialog about poverty, classism and racism to a national discussion
  • recent criticism about the film
  • issues that prevent government from stepping in and dealing with poverty and the “elephant in the room”
  • next steps: festival circuit and Europe run
  • BONUS question from Jerome: why I started the Daily Newarker 😉