New Newark Forum Discusses Opportunity, Challenges

I got to the New Newark forum about a half-hour late, but with enough time to catch the later half of Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Stefan Pryor’s breathless Powerpoint presentation about the opportunities for companies to build and come to the city.


I got to the New Newark forum about a half-hour late, but with enough time to catch the later half of Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Stefan Pryor’s breathless Powerpoint presentation about the opportunities for companies to build and come to the city.  

And by breathless, I mean he was flying through the slides: following a tour of Newark’s premium office and residential space with ballyhoo about the city’s infrastructure improvements like the renovation of eleven of its parks and the Broad Street reconstruction projects.  He sang the praises of tax credits made available for businesses looking to taking advantage of the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit, suggesting it should have been called the “free building” tax credit because of the tax breaks it provides on office space.  Pryor showed numbers that suggested a business could save between $40 and $70 million by relocating to Newark from midtown Manhattan — this from the man who ran the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.  If there was an overarching theme, it was that Newark is a huge value for businesses, and we are at a time in our history where a business could live or die by how well it controls its expenses.

Following Pryor’s presentation were two panels.  The first, involving Pryor and Mark Willis, a Visiting Scholar from The Ford Foundation, focused on the challenges of the current economy and what affect they are having on Newark’s revitalization.  It was interesting how murky the details were: we’ve been in the midst of the credit crunch — the real crunch — for several months, but it’s still unclear what future will development will look like.  The news for 2009 is mixed: commodity prices are down (that’s good), but lending is way down (that’s bad); interest is out there for investing in Newark (that’s good), but the recession is expected to continue (that’s bad).

And then, another panel: this time featuring community leaders, activists, and policy wonks. This discussion was much more faceted than the initial presentation. At one point, Baye Aadofo-Wilson pointed out that Newark needs to embrace an idea of “progress” that’s more than just bricks-and-mortar development. Rich Cammarieri followed with the idea that real improvement will only happen when students and communities and business work together. The panel agreed that whatever the approach, the New Newark can’t come at the expense of today’s Newark: the residents who have lived and fought and raised their families here.

I got the opportunity to ask Pryor a few follow-up questions. Alas, his presentation was too proprietary to share (although I did get audio of the latter half of the presentation). Given the recent news about drive-by shootings over the weekend, I asked if any of the businesses he’d met with cited crime as a prohibitive reason against investing in the city. Surprisingly, he said no one has. “Not a single retail business said they wouldn’t come to Newark because of crime,” I pressed. His response was still no.

We also talked about the recent rash of news surrounding the shootings. Pryor pointed out that Newark is at a historic low for murder, and noted that New York City had also just had its own share of recent, violent crime that, comparatively, has gone unnoticed by the media. I also nudged him about whether the Nets were coming to town: if he knew anything, he wasn’t saying, leaving me with, “When we know, we’ll know.”

I also took a moment to introduce myself to a woman who had been sitting nearby during the session. Born and raised in Newark, and having raised her kids here, Elizabeth agreed with an early statement by Rich Cammarieri that these forums have happened before with little effect. “[Newarkers] are not involved,” in planning processes that affect their neighborhoods, she told me. She had even become aware of the forum itself by chance because her sister had forwarded it along from her work.

The New Newark is still quite a ways off. I agree with Pryor that the value proposition just makes sense, and that’s part of the reason our family is here, too. Newark will be transformed into a successful and sustainable city, and will likely lead the nation in several key milestones like population growth, crime reduction, and community programs.  But the infrastructure improvements, legislature, and policies that benefit new growth AND the life-long Newarkers who have been here for decades take years before they can have their effect.  The challenge for those of us who want to make a difference is to stick to our convictions and tough out the difficulties and challenges for the long haul.

Oh, if you’re interested in some audio from the event, click play on the podcast link below. The quality is not great, and there’s plenty of keyboard tapping, blackberry humming, and sidebar conversations, but you can get a first-hand listen of the latter half of Pryor’s presentation and the panels that followed.

[audio:http://dailynewarker.com/w/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/081029-new-newark-64.mp3%5D

Violent Crime Scares Off Suburban Schools

2 suburban schools refuse trips to Newark for football
The city’s recent rash of violence has begun to have an impact on school sports as neighboring communities decline to send their children to city football fields.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and Cranford High School balked at playing games rescheduled from last Friday and Saturday. Newark school Superintendent Clifford Janey had suspended all athletic events districtwide while police were hunting for suspects in the Friday afternoon shootings.

In response, the administration stays on message: this year has seen a 40% decline in murders — a statistic that Newark leads in the nation.  The shootings were localized events between people that knew each other away from Newark schools.

But, to suburbanites, these claims fall on deaf ears.  People in suburban communities don’t distinguish between the hockey rink downtown, the restaurants in Ironbound, Branch Brook Park in the North Ward,  or the numbered streets in the West Ward: it’s all monolithic, scary Newark.  Just like big, monolithic scary New York was to my parents in the 80s.

Neighborhood parsing is something that urbanites do — it requires a level of savvy and sophistication about the issues and geography of a city.  I hope, to some degree, that the Daily Newarker helps strip away some of this naiveté about the city, but this goes to show just how much real fear there still is about Newark and how much further we have to go in the eyes of much of New Jersey.

Newark Arts Council Open Doors ’08 THIS WEEK

It’s time! The Newark Arts Calendar is kicking off the 2008 Open Doors Gallery and Artist Space tour. Check out the calendar of events here — there’s something to check out every night this week from juried artist shows to movie screenings to the gallery crawl.

It’s time! The Newark Arts Calendar is kicking off the 2008 Open Doors Gallery and Artist Space tour. Check out the calendar of events here — there’s something to check out every night this week from juried artist shows to movie screenings to the gallery crawl.
Continue reading “Newark Arts Council Open Doors ’08 THIS WEEK”

Coming Up: Artist Studio & Gallery Tour

The annual Open Doors gallery tour in Newark will take place this month, starting October 23. If you’re interested in the arts scene in Newark, this four-day event is the single best way to get familiar with the galleries in the city, meet the artists who are working here, and get acquainted with what the city has to offer.


The annual Open Doors gallery tour in Newark will take place this month, starting October 23. If you’re interested in the arts scene in Newark, this four-day event is the single best way to get familiar with the galleries in the city, meet the artists who are working here, and get acquainted with what the city has to offer.

I missed the opportunity to check out last year’s event, and don’t plan on making the same mistake again this year. 🙂

As Newark’s art scene continues to grow with an influx of new artists, galleries and cultural outlets, the Newark Arts Council gears up for the annual Open Artists’ Studios and Available Space Tour presented by Chase, taking place October 23 – 26, 2008.

Following the remarkable success of last year’s event, the seventh annual celebration of the arts in New Jersey’s largest city will once again include tours of dozens of local galleries and participating artists’ studios, major exhibitions, a showcase of innovative available space, and creative, temporary gallery installations.

This year’s line up also includes a host of new programming including a crafts exhibition with artists and crafts from Peters’ Valley, Gospel performances, film screenings, and for children, a puppet workshop and exhibition. Events are free and open to the public.

Continue reading “Coming Up: Artist Studio & Gallery Tour”

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.

[audio:http://dailynewarker.com/w/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/tdn-interview-snyder-080924.mp3%5D

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: