Hope and boat tours for the Passaic

Star Ledger: Newark Riverfront Boat Tours continue to lift veil on lesser-known feature of city
Includes a thumbnail history of the Passaic and hopeful news about it’s recent development. (Which has been a long time coming).

Led by Sheehan of Hackensack Riverkeeper and Damon Rich, Chief Urban Designer for the City of Newark, the four-year-old city-sponsored boat tours are intended to raise awareness and build support for a river long-fraught with pollution and limited public access. Except for the occasional blue heron or egret, little activity can be found on the Passaic.

Boat tours are still running: $5, more info here.

Newark’s Ironbound: An American Experience

A few years ago when powerful developers and institutions planned to turn my James Street neighborhood into a giant corporate parking lot, we started to search over the urban Tri-State area for a new refuge. Soon, we happily concluded that one does not have to go as far as Astoria in Queens for a viable, diverse, and un-gentrified community, with a rich history that reflects our American experience, individually and collectively. It’s found in our own Ironbound, which was the subject for Monday’s panel discussion organized by the Newark History Society.
In a small area of four square miles surrounded by a curve in the Passaic River and the Northern Corridor rail tracts, the Ironbound has been the home for generations of working class Germans, Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans, Jewish and African-Americans. In the past decades, Portuguese dominated the area, increasingly joined by Brazilians and other Hispanics. However, according to one of the panelist Maria Pereira of Luso Americano, her nationally circulated newspaper found that 48 percent of Portuguese residents never responded to the 2000 Census. Therefore, the accurate size of the Ironbound population has always been a subject of speculation.

Many well-known early American immigrant communities have been characterized by their extremely transient living. For instance, an average early immigrant family made Lower Eastside Manhattan its home for only eight months before its “upward” migration. In contrast, the Ironbound has retained many proud long-term residents through Newark’s ups and downs. Another panelist, Alice Schreiner, a manager of Ironbound Senior Citizen Center, was born at 102 Houston Street, where her Polish-American parents settled 59 years ago, not far from their own parents. After attending St. Casimir Academy and Eastside High School, she married and moved from the second floor to the first floor of the same building, where she raised her four children. Alice plans her next move “only when the God calls me.” One of the organizers of tonight’s discussion, Nancy Zak once told me about her treasured Sunday morning family tradition—having pancakes with her older upstairs neighbor. Fighting for a stable American experience has kept her working at the Ironbound Community Corporation, which will celebrate in the coming May over 40 years of community service.

The most endearing presentation was by Walter Chambers and Michael Underwood, who grew up respectively in Ironbound’s Pennington Court and Hyatt Court Homes, two earliest Newark public housing projects. While not glossing over their difficult circumstances, they both enthusiastically celebrated their rich diverse experience both socially and culturally. With an often-ill single mother in the 1950’s, Underwood enjoyed his freedom as an “Ironbound Tom Sawyer.” As a child, he roamed around neighborhood factories, foundries, and even the police auto pound, where he learned from manufacturing workers about the real world. Finding his love of railroads at Ironbound’s edges, he has become a Conrail locomotive engineer and a union leader. Chambers, a 78-years-old African-American, distributed his brief history of Pennington Court (1939-1960), in which he quoted the 1940 statement by Neil Convery, the accomplished Newark architect and first Newark Housing Authority director, “The housing program is truly American. Twenty-three nationalities and two races (white and black) are living in friendly neighborliness in a government-aided project.” However, that was long before the “Real Estate Lobby,” as President Truman called it, mobilized corporate powers to sabotage public housing and create the most economically and racially segregated housing market in the industrialized world.

As one of the participants pointed out, Ironbound’s ethnically diverse history was once well represented by over ten local newspapers of all languages. Forward, a progressive Yiddish newspaper still has its old building standing on Ferry Street. Students of Newark history can also testify about Ironbound’s reflection of national and regional politics through a century of turmoil. For instance, during the World War I, Ironbound’s Hamburg Place was changed into its current name Wilson Street. The area closely witnessed the wartime industrial boom and then the final decline of the country’s manufacturing power. Since 1947, Newark’s port and airport, a part of Ironbound, have been taken over by the Port Authority to become the world’s only comprehensive air-rail-sea infrastructural complex. At the same time, nobody seems to remember that Newark is a costal city while it declines into a mismanaged inward city. However, tonight’s discussion was all about celebrating Ironbound’s diverse, enduring, and ever optimistic people. Walter Chambers closed the discussion by quoting the late Charles Cummings, “People will always be the most valuable resource of America.”

(The Newark History Society’s event in May will be about the Star-Ledger’s history.)

Star Ledger: Black History Month: Newark…

Star Ledger: Black History Month: Newark project honors influential city educator James Baxter

“Every ethnic group needs such a person,” Price said, noting that other ethnic groups also sought to have their leaders’ memories immortalized in brick in some fashion. It’s no coincidence that Newark named its 1955 public housing project placed in the First Ward — then the nation’s fourth largest Italian-American enclave — Christopher Columbus Homes.

Now the tradition of honoring local ethnic groups is frowned upon in some circles, Alderman said. Some school boards around the nation have even written formal policies discouraging naming a school after a person. In many cases, he said, the powers that be are simply trying to avoid controversy.

Great long-form piece on how Baxter Terrace came to get its name, and the history of naming locales as a way to honor great achievements and how that process has evolved. With the stereotypes of drugs and crime associated with the housing complex, will the planned city park maintain the Baxter name?

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.)