In response to Brad Parks’ article, “Laid off cops, a shattered economy, an $83 million deficit. Fear returns to the tragic city that is Newark,” which was recently published in the New York Post, COIN reached out to Newarkers and asked them to respond to the following: Is Newark heading in the direction of catastrophe or progress?
Here’s what a few of our respondents had to say:
To say Newark is on the brink of catastrophe is a terrible type of propaganda to promote. Giving into so much fear really underestimates the power we actually have. Newark residents aren’t scared, maybe in part because they don’t know how bad the budget really is but they can see the problems it’s causing. Still, when people whine about the economy we keep pushing on because most people in low-income communities have been making due with less for a long time. Residents aren’t interested in all the political beef going on and I think we all recognize this is a time for meaningful, innovative collaboration. Contrary to public opinion, Newarkers are people who really participate in their city but they want to know their concerns are truly being addressed. We’ve had to sacrifice so much. Personally, I don’t believe in lack but I do believe in love. There are always resources and creative solutions out there. We just have to find them or create them and we’re going to hold our leaders accountable. But we have to hold ourselves accountable too. Every single resident can be a leader and find a way to contribute to something, a community program, their child’s school, a shelter, something. The type of progress we can create actually makes me feel excited about the future. Otherwise, we’re just waiting to be saved by something or someone and we’ll be disappointed if we do that. I’m not worried though. Tough times are supposed to bring out our best. We just need to get inspired and figure out who we can work with.
Rev. Dr. M. William Howard, Jr.
Newark is in a very delicate predicament right now, and bankruptcy looms on the horizon, especially given the inability of the State to offer help. Not only is only about 30% of the land taxable, but the housing stock has been dramatically depleted the past 40 years in ways that make replacing it nearly impossible, simply because the land is not available. When you consider the level of foreclosures or near foreclosures the residents who are property owners face, as well as the threat of foreclosures property owners who rent to Newark residents also face, along with the dramatic shortfall in revenue already, the whole thing could come tumbling down.
In my chats with certain people in positions to know, there is no real clear plan to fix any of this for the long term; maybe even no realistic vision on how to proceed from here. More than anything else, the residents need viable places of work in order to earn a solid income. Arguably, a whole segment of the population would have difficulty competing for the kinds of jobs that might come along in the so-called 21st Century Economy. It is well documented that over 60% of the jobs in the City are held by commuters, and the jobs that are held by City residents are among the lowest paying jobs, and the adult literacy rate is tragically low. This will not change through rhetoric. The great truth of Black and Brown political power all over America, and arguably in Africa and elsewhere, is that political power has not translated into economic power. Look at Zimbabwe today, and expect that it will be South Africa tomorrow.
We must have a thoughtful, vigilant, disciplined, not-so-vocal, long-term strategy on how to achieve and sustain economic standing if we are not going to forever be the marginalized, worker-consumer that we still are after all these years of struggle. I remain hopeful, but I also am sobered by what has to be done for this hope to become manifest.
With what its people have weathered especially since the decline of manufacturing and the flight of capital, beginning just after the Second World War, there is cause to believe Newark will be the phoenix it needs to be. Meanwhile, here we are in the now.
Newark’s true greatness is yet to be defined.
After reading Brad Parks’ article in the New York Post, for the most part, I agree with his overall assessment about Newark and find his perspective, considering that he doesn’t claim Newark as his home, to be insightful. He incorporated the critical opinions of some heavy hitters such as Dr. Clement Price and Dr. Dan O’Flaherty, those whose opinion I respect and weigh greatly. In his article he makes a poignant statement that, for me, hits the heart of the matter when it comes to Newark’s continuous struggle, “There was a far more psychological toll (from the riots)…Fear did more to undo Newark than any bullet could ever have”.
Newark as a community is divided and is unable to see the truth, the reality that we as a people are more powerful than we realize. We as a community must dispose of the illusion of separation, emptiness and abandonment. The time for angry rhetoric is OVER! We have the right to be angry. However, it is this very aspect that emotional hustlers seek to capitalize on. They mystify the facts, or, perhaps they don’t know it themselves, so they utilize our voices to further their desires, all the while the needs of the community are never met.
Our destinies lie in each other’s hands. This isn’t a black, white or brown issue. It’s OUR issue. It’s NEWARK. It is time for us to put our differences and agendas aside and do right by the citizens of Newark. We are all accountable because we all have a voice and are stakeholders who play a major part in the change of Newark. But this voice will not be heard and will be intentionally ignored if it doesn’t actively engage in things such as voting, assisting Municipal Council and Board of Education meetings, as well as play an active role in the discourse about change. The way to empowerment is demanding information. We must become informed and we must educate ourselves on the processes / systems from which all government functions. Critical to this is also the participation of Newark’s true leaders, the “organic” leaders I like to call them, to step up to the plate. Change is no longer a luxury, but a necessity and the opportunity presents itself to us now.
Newark is at the precipice of Greatness but let us not forget…that while greatness is what Newark must pursue…only greatness lives on the edge of destruction.
For the first time in my life, I am very concerned about the future of my home, the City of Newark. We are in a period of time when most municipalities are learning to do more with less; however, what I do not understand is how is it possible that City’s leadership was fully aware of the growing deficit and chose not to act responsibly. Instead, they’ve acted desperately. The impact of an increase in the number of city employees (especially those who are Newark residents) who are newly employed is likely to have a serious impact on our community. All of these factors, increased unemployment, property tax increases will not do very much to stablize the economy of Newark. When times were “good” the city recieved numerous grants and financial incentives for various projects in the city. The city was even the focus of a national docu-drama hosted by a major cable channel that did not seem to generate much for Newark. Where are these supporters now during a time when the future of Newark is seemingly seriously threatened? I think what is most offensive is to know that part of the City’s financial issues could be solved if we recovered the back-rent that is owed to the City from the Prudential Center (yet, the city still provides top tier police security for a team that hasn’t made good on its end of the bargain). What our city needs now is a serious plan that will guide the city toward prioritizing our needs and resolving its financial issues in a realistic but progressive fashion. What we dont need is an administration that overlooks logic and the type of commonsense that will advance Newark.
Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the ACLU-NJ:
When Newark Mayor Cory Booker swept into office in 2006, we had great hope that his administration would stay true its campaign promises of maintaining an open, transparent government, improving the long troubled relationship between police and residents and boosting the free speech rights of Newarkers. Now in his second term, the mayor has taken steps in the right direction on some civil liberties, such as immigrant rights and the rights of gays and lesbians. For example, he has worked with community advocates to address tensions over day laborers in the Ironbound and he has spoken about the need to create a “safe space” in Newark for LBGT youth to congregate. No Newark mayor even acknowledged injustices facing the gay and lesbian community until Booker. But when it comes to other issues, such as reforming the police department, the situation is dire. The relationship between the police and residents has been fraught with tension for decades, with few signs of hope for change. Newark has failed to implement even the most basic accountability measures. This year the ACLU-NJ filed a petition asking for the U.S. Department of Justice to step in and monitor the Newark Police Department. The 96-page petition cited 407 complaints of serious misconduct. Instead of acknowledging the need for outside help, the mayor has denied the problems, and attempted to deflect and minimize the complaints of abused citizens, claiming that the allegations – which include false arrests, assaults and deaths in custody – are “frivolous.” With severe budget woes, layoffs and a drastic spike in violence, the city’s problems are spiraling out of control and lack of police accountability only worsens the crisis. Having the Department of Justice monitor the police department will not resolve Newark’s problems over night, but it is a step in the right direction to protect citizens and avert lawlessness among our law enforcers.