Governor Chris Christie to Newark student: ‘I’ve been to Newark a bunch of times, and if I decide to have a town hall in Newark, I’ll have one’ [Video]

Governor Chris Christie had another one of his infamous confrontations with a questioner at a town hall, this time with a Newark high school student who attended his public forum yesterday in Belmar.

The student, 17-year-old Kristin Towkaniuk, asked the governor why he had "blatantly ignored Newark during his over 120 town hall meetings" around the state during his tenure as governor, to a light smattering of applause from the crowd.

Chistie responded: "I've been to Newark, I suspect, more than any governor who has been serving in the last 40 years."

"But have you had a public town hall meeting?" Towkaniuk pressed.

"I have been – I have had public events," the governor said. He continued:

I don't know whether I've had an actual town hall meeting, but I've had public events in Newark where people have been able to ask me questions, and to say that the governor who spends $1 billion a year on the Newark school system, the governor who spends over $4 billion in economic development to the city of Newark, is blatantly ignoring Newark is – with all due respect – just not well informed. Go to mayor Booker and ask him if he thinks, in the years he was mayor, that I ignored Newark. The fact is I've spent as much time, or more, in Newark than anybody has, and the idea that I have ignored Newark is really ridiculous.

But Towkaniuk didn't let up on the specific question of public forums, politely pressing: "I'm talking about the town halls. Will you be willing to have a town hall in Newark for the public?"

Christie responded:

I've been to Newark a bunch of times, and if I decide to have a town hall in Newark, I'll have one. But the fact is I've been to every part of the state, and I've been to Newark literally dozens of times in forums where I've taken questions, and in forums where I haven't taken questions. And so the answer is I'll do my town halls where me and my staff think are the best places to do the town halls. If one of them turns up in Newark, I hope you show up and you get to ask a question that's better than the one you just asked.

His comment was met with chuckles and applause from the crowd. Watch below:

 

 

 

Team behind Newark design firm Medina=Citi to launch new pop-up coworking space downtown

The team behind Medina=Citi, the Newark-based design firm that counts many Newark businesses and entrepreneurs among its client roster, will soon launch = Space (pronounced "Equal Space"), a pop-up coworking space geared towards technology companies, entrepreneurs, and creatives in and around Newark.

Citi Medina, co-founder and creative director of Medina=Citi, said he hopes to inject the productive energy and creative culture of his design firm into the new coworking space. “So much of my success has been due to an open dialogue within the walls of my design house. We are bringing that spirit into our sharespace," Medina said.

The coworking space will open on Monday, August 11th, at 89 Market Street, and be available for use from 9am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 9am until late night hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to accommodate those entrepreneurs who work primarily during the day. = Space will offer daily, weekly, and monthly pricing plans, as detailed on their website.

Its founders say = Space will be outfitted with workstations and buzzing with programming, including coaching for technology companies, resources for entrepreneurs, and thought leadership talks from guest speakers. They also hope that working together in close quarters will empower entrepreneurs to learn from and collaborate with each other.

The space will cater to the other needs of its patrons, Medina said. Among some of the features of = Space will be wi-fi, conference space, an "honor-based cafe" that Medina envisions as "an open space to sit with a beverage, [and as a] school playground to sit and talk." There will also be "a small putting area in the back for a mini golf session," he added.

While much attention has been paid recently to the residential and commercial development boom in Newark – and the centralization of the lions share of that development within the downtown district – Newark has been enjoying a people-based renaissance over the past few years. Energetic entrepreneurs and artists, both homegrown and new to the city, investing themselves into the city and forming creative, social, and entrepreneurial communities with each other. Medina and his firm have been key players in all three aspects of that renaissance.

The team is also working on the launch of its permanent coworking space, which has been in the planning stages since the start of the year, and will be located in Newark's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Medina=Citi chief operating officer Rafael Roman said that while they're finishing the permanent space in the historical property in partnership with CAPC (Community Asset Preservation Corporation), "[our] intention is to provide our services immediately."

A traveler’s Newark: The New Jersey Historical Society is a sight to see in Newark

A Traveler's Newark highlights sites and experiences in Newark ideal both for natives looking to rediscover the city and for visitors interested in exploring it.

If something has been around for nearly 170 years, it must be doing something right. That’s why if you’re ever in Newark you should make it a point to check out the New Jersey Historical Society (NJHS), located in the downtown district.

The NJHS is the oldest private non-profit cultural institution in New Jersey. It started out as a library and an archive, and eventually transitioned into a museum. The society has called the Brick City its home since 1846. (Coincidently, 1846 was also the same year in which the first ever game of our national pastime, baseball, was played right here in New Jersey.) Despite being located in its current location at 52 Park Place for only 17 years, NJHS still provides a great insight into our nation’s past through the lens of New Jersey’s history. The books, exhibits, and other artifacts that the NJHS has acquired over the years is expansive enough that it takes a library and two floors to showcase just fragments of the impressive collection. Most of the unseen exhibits are kept in climate-controlled rooms until they are cycled into display.

The five-floored building, which was once a luncheon club, features the library on the top floor. Here, members and historians can often be found immersed in textbooks conducting research or exploring for their own knowledge. On the second and third floors is where the exhibits are on display. The exhibits are set up and interchanged depending on their educational purpose, timeliness, and popularity. Paintings, photos, maps, artifacts, letters, furniture, equipment, and uniforms are just some of the many items on showcase to the public and for member tours. The NJHS also plays host to gatherings, lectures, and other events, collaborating with numerous New Jersey organizations whenever possible.

Some may assume that reach and searchability of the internet means museums like NJHS are obsolete. However, its clear after touring NJHS that there is no substitute for seeing some of these historical artifacts up close and in person, and hearing the historical facts and stories that the guide combines with the tour.

“It’s all about education,” said Steven Tettamanti, acting executive director of NJHS. “Education drives our exhibits.”

So stop by NJHS Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm at 52 Park Place. You might learn a thing or two. 

 

New residential development downtown Newark attracts ‘price refugees’ from the region [Video]

 

The Madison, a new residential development on Market Street, recently had its ribbon cutting ceremony. Harlem resident Alan Williams tours the loft apartment in this video:

Alan Williams is excited about moving from Harlem to Newark.

Williams, who works in Brooklyn, is ready to leave his “very small apartment with very few amenities” and a “very high price tag” behind to move downtown, where he said he’ll enjoy more space at reasonable prices and zero change in commute time.

In the video above, Williams takes a tour of loft apartments in the 48-unit Madison building, the latest phase of Fidelco Realty and Hanini Group’s $38 million, mixed-use development on Market Street. The building had its ribbon cutting ceremony nearly two months ago.

This phase of the development also includes the launch of four new retailers: Krauszer’s Food Stores, Mercato Tomato Pie, Novelty Burger & Bar, and Chipotle, which opened its doors last week.

“Newark has always been on the cusp of sort of the revitalization, new urbanization, mass transit – all those things. The elements that go into redevelopment have always been there. It just never crossed, sort of, the finish line,” said Josh Sternberg, VP of Fidelco Realty. The group, along with its partners, completed The Columbian, which includes 22 loft apartments and a Dinosaur Barbeque on the ground floor, in late 2012. That was preceded in 2011 by the Bowers Building, which includes 11 loft apartments and a Rita’s Water Ice on the ground floor. All of the developments are on Market Street between Broad and Mulberry Streets.

Sternberg said he’s seeing interest from people he calls “price refugees”, or people currently residing in New York, Hoboken, and Jersey City that are frustrated with rents that have risen well above market rate.

Williams is a textbook example of that trend. He said moving downtown would confer a dual benefit, allowing him to both enjoy more space and save money. “Savings I would spend on furnishing the place, because you actually have room to furnish,” he said.

“I foresee myself moving as soon as my lease is over,” he continued.

– Andaiye Taylor

Best of the fest: Newark’s Lincoln Park Music Festival is underway this weekend. The best posts and photos of the weekend

The ninth annual Lincoln Park Music Festival is underway this weekend! We have a live feed of photos, posts, and updates directly from the festival grounds in Lincoln Park. This year, supporters can help keep the festival free by contributing to their Indiegogo campaign, which will be live through Monday morning.

 

Dinosaurs to take over downtown Newark in highly praised feat of artistry and technology

Last night, a bearded, bedraggled, stressed, and overworked recent Seton Hall Law graduate walked into Taste Venue on Edison Place and raved about the show he'd just seen at the Prudential Center.

Based on his age and conversation, one might have thought the young man, in the throes of studying for the bar exam he'll take next week, had taken in a rap or rock show to unwind. But the show he raved about was something most people wouldn't have expected.

It was Walking With Dinosaurs.

The show landed last night in Newark for the first of eight dates over five days ending this Sunday, July 27. Walking With Dinosaurs, which originated in Australia and has so far been seen by over 8 million people at arenas in nearly 250 cities, arrived back in North America this July after its first sell-out run in 2007.

The show was directed by Broadway veteran Scott Faris, and features life-size and meticulously rendered animatronic dinosaurs. Our law graduate, who sat in the sixth row, said that despite a snafu involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex, he was highly impressed by the technology, which rendered the dinosaurs to stunning effect.

Indeed, Walking With Dinosaurs, which was featured on the Discovery Channel's Very Big Things, has been described as a bonafide technological and artistic feat. The largest creature featured in the show – a 36-foot tall, 56-foot long Brachiosaurus – took a team of 50 people – including engineers, fabricators, skin makers, painters, and animatronic experts – an entire year to build.

And that was only one of 20 dinosaurs on display at the show.

Walking With Dinosaurs also features the seismic and geological events that shaped dinosaurs' world: the splitting of continents, the conversion of deserts to forests, the formation of oceans and volcanos, and the fateful collision of a coment with the planet that ended their 200 million year reign.


Tickets for Walking With Dinosaurs, showing at Newark's Prudential Center, are still available on Ticketmaster for $35, $49.50, and $69.50 (excluing fees). Dates:

  • Thursday, July 24: 7:00 PM
  • Friday, July 25: 11:00 AM
  • Friday, July 25:  7:00 PM
  • Saturday, July 26: 11:00 AM
  • Saturday, July 26: 3:00 PM
  • Saturday, July 26: 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, July 27: 1:00 PM

 

Newark’s Sweet Retreat cupcake shop makes it all the way to the White House

Pictured above: Mik Harris and Larry Kinnie pose with their post at the White House Summit on Working Families in Washington D.C., June 23, 2014.

It all started with a call marked "blocked".

The owners of Sweet Retreat Boutique cupcake shop on Academy Street downtown Newark initially ignored the phone call from a woman named Holly because the telephone number wasn't marked.

It's a good thing they checked their messages: it turns out Holly was calling from the White House, and she wanted to invite them to speak at a summit on working families that took place last month. "She wanted me to explain my story and how Sweet Retreat came about," said Larry Kinnie, who owns the shop along with Mik Harris and Jason Gray.

The Working Families Summit featured a speech by President Barack Obama, and remarks by business owners, wonks, and academics about policies that can make life more tenable for the country's working families. Sweet Retreat had been invited because of their support for Newark's Paid Sick Time Ordinance, one of only two cities in New Jersey, and of less than a handful of municipalities nationwide, to offer such a benefit.

Sweet Retreat's owners understand the implication of the acts well. Kinnie said the shop is a tribute to his young daughter, who died in 2010 after a valiant two-year bout with cancer. Harris, who holds a master's degree in organizational leadership, and was in Philadelphia working on his Ph.D. when doctor's discovered his daughter's illness, and stayed with a friend in Newark so he could commute to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to oversee his daughter's treatments. He said the experience of caring for his daughter greatly underscored home the importance of family friendly policies in business.

It was in New York that Kinnie met Harris, who has a master’s degree in human resources management. The pair set up shop in Newark in 2011.

In addition to their closely held beliefs about how employees should be treated, the entrepreneurs also got a boost out of sharing an address with the Newark Arts Council when they launched. It meant they'd interact with Karen Brown, who at the time was working with the council, and would occasionally stop by the cupcake shop located on the ground-level floor of her building. "Ms. Karen", as the owners politely refer to her, happened to be an incredibly well connected professional with firsthand knowledge of how to get things done in the city. She swiftly took the pair under her wing.

"Karen is like this wealth of knowledge," Harris said. "She didn't even know us, she just worked in this building and came down" to the shop, he continued. "She's been so supportive" ever since, he added.

Brown, who would go on to head up the ForwardEver Sustainable Business Alliance (note: BrickCityLive.com is one of the ForwardEver’s affinity partners), would give them tips on business resources in the area, tell them what networking events to attend, refer them to key people they should know, and recently helped referred them for the Kiva Zip loan program (their loan application is open, and anyone can lend as little as $5 to help Sweet Retreat with their marketing efforts and website). It was her referral to Corinne Horowitz of the New Jersey Main Street Alliance that would prove to be fateful.

"Corrine wanted to speak with businesses that were advocates for friendly workplace policies for working families," Brown said, "and that's how [the White House visit] came to be".

In addition to their personal views on workplace policies for families, and particularly Kinnie's wrenching experience caring for his daughter, the two entrepreneurs said a thoughtful approach to businesses also informed their views on policies like paid sick leave and an increased minimum wage.

"It's not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do," to build a sustainable business, said Harris.

"This is particularly important as it relates to food-related businesses," Brown chimed in. "It's common sense to want your employees to feel valued, but you also have to think, "do you want people working around food when they're sick? These policies are important not only for employees, but for the health of businesses and customers."

The White House event itself, which was attended by several thousand people at an Omni Hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C. was a monumental moment for the entrepreneurs. Sweet Retreat Boutique was one of five businesses that were selected to speak, though they ultimately didn't have a chance to deliver remarks the day of. Still, they had the remarkable experience of seeing their likenesses blown up to billboard size at the event, and said seeing President Obama close-up an indelible experience.

Back in Newark, the pair are busy running their shop and thinking about the future. Both said they're concentrating mainly on maximizing the opportunity at the Newark shop. They pointed out that in addition to cupcakes, they also offer specialty cakes that the shop can deliver within a fairly wide circumference of the shop. They're also interested in other opportunities to get their name out, from collaborating with other entrepreneurs in the area to appearing on television baking shows.

"My daughter put everything in perspective," said Kinnie. "I like to go with the flow, and if an opportunity presents itself, I take advantage."

Native son Bob Curvin assesses his city with ‘Inside Newark’

The first thing you need to know about Robert Curvin is that on the night of July 12, 1967, when the air outside of the Fourth Precinct in the Central Ward was fraught with anger and tension in response to a black cab driver named John Smith being beaten and dragged into the police station by his feet, Robert Curvin was the young black civil rights activist who twice got on top of a car with a bullhorn and urged the people in the gathering crowd not to resort to violence.

“I mounted a car that was parked in front of the building and told the crowd that the prisoner was alive, that this was another example of police mistreatment of black citizens, but that we should not respond with violence,’’ he recalls in his book, Inside Newark: Decline, Rebellion, and the Search for Transformation. “We could not win or accomplish anything that way. I urged the crowd to organize a peaceful march to City Hall where we would let the mayor and city officials know that we would not accept this kind of treatment anymore.’’

Of course, as history tells us, that did not happen. Rocks started flying, and the city exploded into five days of violence that left 26 people dead and over 200 seriously injured. Property damage was estimated at more than $10 million. Inside

Newark (Rutgers University Press, July 2014) is Curvin’s take on the last 60 years of Newark history, with an emphasis on how the city has struggled to transform itself since the devastation of 1967.

It is a subject Curvin knows well, both as a long-time Newark resident and as an expert in urban politics with a long and impressive resume that includes the following: member of many Newark non-profit organizations; donor and adviser to political campaigns; Ph.D in political science from Princeton University; member of the editorial board of the New York Times, director of the Ford Foundation’s Urban Poverty Program; professor at Rutgers University and City University of New York.

Indeed, today, at age 80, Curvin is one of Newark’s well-respected elders. Or, as Curvin more modestly puts it in the introduction, “I’m the guy who gets the Newark questions at the party in New York or on a plane ride to Washington. Were you there during the riots? Do you know Cory Booker? Do you think he’ll be president someday?’’

Machine politics, the rise of black power and a modest agenda

The book covers a lot of familiar themes. There’s de-industrialization and the flight to the suburbs that began in the 1930s; the entrenched corruption and boss politics that seems to be a historical through line that still pervades city life today; the rise of black political power in the wake of the 1967 riots. Curvin ends the book with a seven-point “modest agenda’’ which essentially comes down to two things: fix the schools and increase civic engagement.

His hope, Curvin told me in an interview last week, is that the book will help promote dialogue about the depths of difficulty that exist in fostering change in an urban community like Newark where poverty is so deep and so pervasive.

The book is meticulous in its analysis and use of interviews, with more than 100 key figures about Newark’s recent past, as well as documentation culled from dozens of newspaper articles, academic studies and personal papers. Even Curvin’s acknowledgements are useful; they are a Who’s Who of people who know the city well.  (By the way: Of those 100+ interviews, about 60 were videotaped, and Curvin hopes to eventually make them available to the public through the Newark Public Library, a priceless gift.)

Dissecting the civil rights movement

Readers may be particularly interested in Curvin’s take on the civil rights movement in Newark, given his role as the co-founder of the Newark-Essex chapter of CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality) and the organization’s chairman from 1962 until 1966. He was not chair at the time of the 1967 riots.

Curvin, who at the time was a case worker for the Essex County Welfare Board, says CORE was on the vanguard of local civil rights efforts, taking on issues like discrimination in employment and education and the problem of police brutality. He chronicles, for example, how, in 1963, CORE, a racially integrated organization with members from Newark as well as the neighboring suburbs, worked with other local organizations to orchestrate a major campaign against discrimination in the building trades by picketing the Barringer High School construction site.

The efforts, he says, “accomplished a major objective by forcing the problem of racially closed unions onto the public agenda.’’ CORE and other groups also took on New Jersey Bell Telephone, and the resulting negotiations lead to the development of a training program on civil rights for management employees and a documentary aimed at minority high school students about how to prepare for a job.   

In contrast, Curvin argues, the Newark branch of NAACP had a cozy relationship with Newark’s boss mayor, Hugh Addonizo, making the organization reluctant to really shake things up. “Paradoxically, throughout the early 1960s, as protest throughout the nation attracted many new members to the NAACP, the Newark branch was effectively co-opted by the (Addonizo) administration, and thus became less effective,’’ Curvin writes.

Curvin also addresses the role of Tom Hayden and Students for a Democratic Society, who arrived in Newark in 1964 and then left after the 1967 riots. While Curvin offers a respectful critique of their organizing efforts, he notes Hayden’s group only operated in the Lower Clinton Hill neighborhood and ultimately concludes SDS could “only point to a few tiny victories.’’

Rating the mayors

Nor does Curvin hold back on some scorching criticism of the three black mayors who succeeded Addonizio, starting with Kenneth Gibson in 1970. Although Curvin concedes Gibson governed in difficult times, Curvin is ultimately disappointed with Gibson. “On the basis of the three important characteristics for effective mayoral leadership, Gibson might fairly receive an okay for management. However, on the matters of vision and integrity, he failed,’’ he writes.

As for Sharpe James, Curvin credits him for a lot of good things that happened in Newark – most especially for being the driving force behind the construction of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center – but he also argues that James’ record “is terribly marred in several ways. First, there is the stain of his conviction [in 2008, James was convicted of fraud in connection with the sale of nine city lots to a friend] and his transgressions for which he was not tried that continue to leave impressions of abuse of the public trust. Then there is the flaunting of conspicuous symbols of wealth like a Rolls-Royce, which is not a crime but certainly not something to convince the people of Newark he is worthy of their support. His record is also marred by his meanness and ruthless retaliation against organizations that did not support him. It is especially spoiled by his failure to focus on the needs of Newark’s poor citizens, particularly children.’’

Booker, too, is taken to task. While Curvin concedes Booker helped the city materially, he ultimately concludes: “The people in Newark, who initially bought into the vision and inspiring promises of Booker, ultimately saw a leader who overpromised, did not remain true to his pledges to avoid the traditional shady deals; was not around much and could not gain the support of the African American community, partly because he did not need it.’’

It’s the poverty

At its core, Curvin’s message is sobering. Despite all the hype about Downtown redevelopment, Newark’s “overarching problem,’’ he says, is concentrated poverty. “Its complications are most prominently manifested in the dysfunction of the schools, the pervasive violent crime, and the reality of joblessness for thousands of people, many of whom are young and who have no legitimate options for a safe and crime-free livelihood.’’

As Curvin sees it, dealing with pervasive unemployment is critical, and he advocates “a massive public service and public works program that can provide work opportunities for any adult who can show up.’’

So is fixing the schools, another huge undertaking that he says will require a rethinking of education in order meet the needs of a district where close to 40 percent of the children live in relatively deep poverty. “The problem of education in Newark is not the children, but the careless politics, and the antiquated, ineffective approaches that are simply inadequate to meet the special needs of poor children,’’ he writes.

Despite having spent the bulk of the book documenting the less-than stellar track record of Newark’s elected leaders, Curvin does have faith in people, and he ends the book with a call for increased civic engagement that brings all stakeholders – residents, non-residents, civic and business people – into the conversation.

“Newark leadership cannot alone solve the problem of unemployment or the shortage of affordable housing,’’ he writes. “But local leadership can take actions to make the city a better place. Granted, there are some people who will say that politics is politics and it will never change, particularly in a city that has been behaving in the same way for almost a century. However, I have seen the good and strong people who continually try to make Newark a better place. There are many, but they need the help of others and they need better leadership.’’


Robert Curvin will be talking about Inside Newark at a book signing at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Monday, July 28. The event, which begins at 6 p.m., will also feature a panel discussion with four veteran observers of Newark life and politics: Walter Chambers (moderator), Richard Cammarieri, Rebecca Doggett, and Warren Grover. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to RSVP at NewarkHistorySociety@verizon.net.

Brick City Makers: Todd Nakamura builds bridge to Google from Newark

Brick City Makers is a weekly look at people building businesses in Newark at coworking spaces, in incubators, and on their own. Above: Todd Nakamura, second from left, and other participants at GDG North Jersey's Google I/O Extended event at Montclair State University, June 2014. Source: Kickstarter.com

If you ever check out the third-floor walkup space at Seed Gallery where the month-old pop-up coworking space, Converge, has taken up residence on Thursdays, chances are you’ll see Todd Nakamura working and interacting with other entrepreneurs.

Nakamura, 36, graduated from Rutgers in the class of 2000, after studying mechanical engineering. But instead of taking a job in that field, he landed at NovaSoft Information Technology, which trained its employes to become web consultants.

“I just jumped into it,” said Nakamura. “I loved it from the beginning and I haven’t looked back.”

Eventually, Nakamura joined different meetup groups, and met other people with the same passions he had. It was one of those groups that led him to Converge. The Boonton Township native first learned of Converge space through the Brick City Tech Meetup, which was promoting the grand opening of Converge back in May. He cites the “family"-like atmosphere at Converge as one of the many reasons he tries to make regular visits to the area.  

“Since the first time I came here, I was just completely sold on it,” said Nakamura. “Every time I come here I meet amazing people who are bringing new ideas, talking about different events, and everyone is really helping each other out.”

Some of those new people have gone on to join Nakamura’s new GDG North Jersey. GDG stands for "Google Developer Group", which is a global Google program which, in the words of Nakamura, “gathers developers who want to push innovation forward,” using Google technology. Responsibilities of a GDG branch include organizing discussions about technology, participating in various Google conferences, and even providing Google with feedback after testing technologies not yet available to the public.  

GDG North Jersey is New Jersey’s newest chapter of GDG, and the only active chapter in the state currently listed on Google’s site.  Nakamura founded it on June 5th of this year, after beginning the thorough application process just five days earlier.

“It was a fairly lengthy process,” said Nakamura, “they wanted to make sure you’re really into it and are going to be proactive.”

It’s safe to say Google made the right choice in approving Nakamura’s application, as the group has certainly been “proactive.” Just three days after GDG North Jersey’s creation, Nakamura and his 40 members were already steadfast in bringing a sanctioned Google I/O Extended event to New Jersey. The event was a satellite extension of the Google I/O conference held annually in San Francisco. The I/O conference focuses on displaying advancements in Google’s software and technology.

Nakamura’s persistence eventually paid off, as just two and a half weeks later, he was able to host the Google I/O Extended event at Montclair State University on June 25th. “I was very happy with how it turned out,” said Nakamura, with a look of pride and accomplishment. “The whole community rallied around the event.”

Despite being created just over a month ago, GDG North Jersey now consists of nearly 200 members. Nakamura claims the group has received good traction mostly because “new technology is universally appealing.” That is why anyone can join GDG North Jersey. “Just sign up,” said Nakamura. “We’re inclusive of anybody, and we’re not selective.”

Even in light of the early success of GDG North Jersey, Nakamura doesn’t intend to slow things down. He and 52 of his members have already made plans to attend one of the local stops of Google’s Cloud Platform Developer Roadshow at the so-called "Googleplex", the nickname for the company's offices, located in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. “It’s a chance to not only learn, but also network with the actual Google engineers,” said Nakamura, who also plans to take GDG North Jersey on the road and conduct “mini I/O conferences” in different areas.

One of those conferences might even end up taking place at Converge, where GDG North Jersey is currently trying coordinate a joint event with other meet-up organizations like Brick City Tech and Rutgers Business School's Scarlet Startups meetup. “I just love this place,” said Nakamura. “It’s definitely worthwhile coming to Converge, and if I do host an event, here I would hope to bring 40 to 50 members of GDG.”

In addition to GDG North Jersey, Nakamura is also the founder of NJ Cloud Architects, operates his own site called One Cloud Architects, and is an assistant organizer with Launch NJ. “It’s just all about the community,” said Nakamura about Converge. “The response from them is inspiring, and I draw energy from that, and I hope to give just as much energy back to those people."

Lincoln Park music festival to feature events in run-up to festival weekend, including cocktail fundraiser tomorrow

The 9th annual Lincoln Park Music Festival will take place the weekend after next, from Friday, July 25th to Sunday, July 27th. This year, the festival's organizers have instituted a number of fundraising opportunities to help keep the yearly festival free, including their first-ever Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, which will accept contributions through July 28.

Tomorrow from 6pm to 9pm, the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD), which produces the festival, will host a $25 cocktail fundraiser at the Robert Treat Hotel, overlooking the Sounds of the City concert at the New Jersy Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). Advance tickets for the reception are available online.

The following Wednesday, July 23rd, LPCCD will host an invitation-only "Festival Kickoff Soiree" featuring Grammy-nominated artist Luke James. Tomorrow's cocktail reception attendees will have a chance to win an invite to the event, which is being held at a secret location.

The next day, on Thursday the 24th, LPCCD will co-host NJPAC's Sounds of the City concert featuring Red Baraat.

The festival itself gets underway on Friday the 25th. As in past years, Friday will feature jazz and gospel, Satuday will focus on house music, featuring a performance by Melba Moore, and Sunday will feature hip-hop, including performances by Newark natives Redman and Du Kelly, otherwise known as Do-it-All from Lords of the Underground.

Image credit: lpccd.org