This Saturday in Newark (in photos)

What was Newark up to this Saturday? We take a look at Lean Startup Machine Newark, Luxe Boutique’s brunch and fall fashion showcase, and The Allstars Project’s fall talent show in a few shots from around town.

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To contribute photos for this feature, email with photos and descriptions.

Christie wins the governor’s race; John Sharpe James wins council at-large seat

As expected, governor Christopher Christie prevailed over Barbara Buono in the New Jersey governor’s race.

More locally, John Sharpe James won the council at-large seat that has been vacant for over a year since former council president Donald Payne, Jr. won the congressional seat formerly held by his father, the late Donald Payne, Sr. The seat became a point of contention when Cory Booker and his allies on the city council attempted to seat Shanique Speight in the vacancy. A Superior Court judge later invalidated the move. James was the fifth-highest vote getter in the 2010 election for at-large city council members. In a general election, the four highest vote getters win at-large seats.

James watched the results on News12 at Loft47, a bar and lounge on Edison Place in Newark. Shortly after the result was announced, Dean Serratelli of Newark-based Serratelli Hat Company gifted James with a congratulatory cowboy hat, which James wore for the rest of the night. At James’ victory party at The Key Club, his father, former mayor Sharpe James, Amiri Baraka, and mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries were among the notables milling around.

James’ election doesn’t leave the Newark city council whole, however. Luis Quintana’s ascendance to the mayor’s seat following Cory Booker’s senate victory leaves the council one member short of its nine total seats.

Van Jones, keynote speaker at upcoming Newark policy conference, on “Rebuilding the Dream” in Newark

Van Jones is the founder of the Rebuild the Dream advocacy group and author of a best-selling book by the same title, co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, and former special advisor for green jobs to president Barack Obama. Jones will be the keynote speaker at Leadership Newark’s public policy summit “Rebuilding the Dream that is Newark“, which takes place this coming Saturday, November 2, at Rutgers Newark. (Tickets for the summit are still available.) We spoke earlier this week about how Newark and cities like it can take advantage of green jobs and the tech economy. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Newark isn’t an island, and a lot of the issues facing Newark are macro ones facing the entire country. How do we think of locally sourced and implemented solutions to those problems that also respect the broader context we have to contend with?

One of the things I’ve been stressing recently is that in any of our lower income communities, there’s a lot of hidden genius. If our kids were growing up in Bangladesh or India or China, they’d be very clear that we’d be doing computer coding. We haven’t been doing that in black communities. We tend to focus more on our traditional employment strategies: public sector, teaching, law degree. But the advanced degree of the new century is the MBA, not the JD. Rather than focusing so much on the humanities, we should be focusing more on math and science.

Environmental issues disproportionately affect black communities. How can we get them more on board with the environmental movement?

It’s actually a stereotype that African Americans are behind the curve. When you look at the polling data, we’re ahead of the curve. There’s now a huge section of white Americans who reject climate science and basic common sense on the environment. But if you ask African Americans, 86% would support Obama taking on climate change.

Second, we have a number of other issues we need to contend with. We need more work, more wealth, and more health.

And part of it is just continuing to create demonstrations of what the issue is about. African Americans don’t use the word “green”. We tend to say “natural”. We tend to say “healthy”. We ask questions like, “How do we eat more natural food, more healthy food?” We don’t say we want an “eco-friendly” diet. African Americans are becoming more health conscious, if nothing else because of the first lady promoting gardening, better food, and fitness. All those are quote unquote “green solutions”.

So if you take the labels away and just look at the behavior, we are very conscious and supportive of environmental initiatives. Conversations from the first lady about food have real resonance. Concerns about asthma, which is tied to pollution and indoor air quality, also have real resonance.

And how do we make the connection between environmentalism and work, wealth, and health more obvious?

We need to recognize where progress is happening. In fact, despite what we were talking about earlier, it’s probably locally where we’ll have more progress, because Washington, D.C. is so crippled by infighting and the Tea Party. Community gardening, weatherization programs, or public utility companies trying to do more wind and solar, all create more work, wealth, and health for communities.

There’s a lot happening in the economy that we need to pay attention to that’s positive, like the revolution in 3D manufacturing, where you can make stuff on your desktop that you use to have a factory for. What can that do for entrepreneurs who are creative in Newark?

In terms of an economic and jobs agenda, what areas should cities like Newark be investing in?

Computer programming is like a global mathematical language. I don’t know how to do computer coding, but I want to make sure our children do, because if you’re coding literate you can build our own companies. Coding, 3D manufacturing, robotics — that is the future. I’m working with a group teaching robotics in Africa because advanced manufacturing is the future: a robot will either put you out of job, or you can design the robot and have a job.

You don’t need the federal government, a march, or a protest to get that done. We need to just look at information available online, and make sure our children are connected to it. A lot is happening all around that we’re just not paying attention to.

I think that our community has been stuck in a politics of nostalgia and lament, looking backwards with grief over slavery and segregation, or at best a politics of critique of present disparities. This long list of stuff we don’t have. But Dr. King said, “I have a dream,” not “I have a lament.” What we don’t have is a politics of the black future. What is the black future and the urban future we’re trying to create?

From the BCL vault: Power restored after Hurricane Sandy, Halsey Street stalwarts get back to work

One year after Hurricane Sandy, a small tribute to the Newark shops on Halsey Street that got back to business the morning after the lights came back on downtown. After this story idea was approved but not printed on, Brick City Live’s creator decided it was time to build a permanent home for her and others’ stories about the brilliance and resilience of Newarkers.

October 31, 2012

Mindy Singh inspects the dining area of the brand new Elbow Room eatery on Halsey Street, Wednesday, October 31, 2012. Elbow room's ribbon cutting is scheduled for November 8.

Mandy Singh inspects the dining area of the brand new Elbow Room eatery on Halsey Street, Wednesday, October 31, 2012. Elbow room’s ribbon cutting is scheduled for November 8.

NEWARK, N.J. – Signs hung precariously from joints, or were blown off altogether. A chunk of the historic Hahne and Company building lay scattered in jagged shards on the sidewalk. Newark Downtown District workers, clad in their bright yellow uniforms, reported damage via walkie-talkie, and cleared what they could.

But in spite of Hurricane Sandy’s clear mark on Halsey Street downtown Newark, many businesses there were open yesterday, the morning after Public Service Electric & Gas restored power to much of the city.

The drag of Halsey Street between Washington Park and Raymond Boulevard is notable in part because of the new businesses that have opened there in the last five years, but it was primarily the veterans who showed up to work yesterday, even as customers mostly stayed home.

Kilkenny manager Robert Lynch appeared to sprout multiple arms as he poured drinks, operated the cash register, wiped the counter, and kept an eye on the door, seemingly all at once.

“We’re light on customers today,” Lynch explained, his gaze sweeping across the eight men who sat at the bar.

Most of the patrons were trading war stories about the hurricane. One man, who watched a projector screen attentively as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefed the press on the hurricane aftermath, declined a plastic bag for his takeout order.

“I’m just going down the street,” he said to Lynch. “You might need to save those for the next few days.”

A crowded Central Restaurant, the only Halsey Street eatery north of Raymond Boulevard besides Kilkenny that is open every day of the week, was the only packed business on the strip.

Inside at lunchtime, the diner was heavily staffed, and every booth and barstool was occupied. A waitress paused between answering phones and taking orders to take in the sight of a swelling gaggle of customers. She sighed heavily.

“Don’t worry, we’re practicing patience,” a waiting customer reassured her, snapping the waitress out of her stupor.

Past Michael Lamont Neckwear, 27 Mix, Karma Consignment Shop, The Coffee Cave, and Elbow Room – all closed – Cut Creators barber shop, a nine-year-old business and recent transplant to Halsey Street, was open for business.

“So far we’ve had four customers,” said receptionist Anthony Smith of Elizabeth, who lounged on a white couch in the back of the shop. He and a barber, who sat in a chair near the front, were manning the empty shop while watching the same channel on different televisions. “We typically have 10 to 15.”

Smith was still without power when he left his residence yesterday morning, but he said the promise of blackout relief is not what convinced him to open the shop. “The power was on, so I just decided we should be open,” he said.

Many of the Halsey Street business managers and owners who decided to open yesterday made the same, simple calculation.

“Last night the power came on, so I figured we might as well open,” said John Trainello, owner of Art Kitchen. Like the other Halsey Street establishments that saw property damage, Art Kitchen experienced minor nicks and cuts. Trainello also said food spoilage was only a minor problem.

Kyle Beloved, owner of Beloved R Kutz unisex salon, opened at 7:30 AM, his normal time.

“I got a few phone calls yesterday asking if I’d be open,” Beloved said, as he lined the beard of Darnell Bunche, his sole customer at the time. “I just want to make sure I’m here for my clients.”

Beloved said that besides moving the shop’s sign, which had blown into the stairwell, Hurricane Sandy left no major trace. Like most of the other businesses, he’d seen only a fraction of his normal daily traffic by midday.

The impetus to open was the same for Underground Tattoos, Halsey Cleaners, Halsey Fabric Shop, Queen Pizza, and Joe’s Shoe Shop. But while those Halsey Street mainstays wanted to maintain normalcy for their customers, the owners of newbie establishment Elbow Room sought to ensure they were on track to have an impressive coming-out at their ribbon cutting, scheduled for November 8.

“We had a 12-hour outage, so we have to assess everything,” said Mandy Singh, general manager of the Brooklyn-based restaurant’s Halsey Street location. Joel Bolden, the restaurant’s owner, pulled up in his truck just as Singh arrived at the restaurant by foot.

The pair carefully inspected the newly renovated space, making their way from the dining area on the ground floor to the basement, where the food storage and offices are located.

“No water!” she said with a broad smile, as she peered inside a storage closet.

“No water damage!” Bolden echoed from another basement-level room.

The pair looked relieved. “The last thing we need,” said Singh, “is a natural disaster to delay us.”

Newark mayoral candidates debate education


The inside of the Science Park High School auditorium, packed with Newarkers of all ages, had the congenial air of a reunion before last night’s four-way mayoral forum on education among candidates Ras Baraka, Shavar Jeffries, Anibal Ramos, and Darrin Sharif got underway.

That all changed after moderator Marsha Wilson Brown brought the forum to order. Ras Baraka, introduced last, received the most thunderous applause. Some of his supporters vehemently heckled Jeffries throughout the night.

Rhetorically, each of the candidates picked a theme early on, and each one hammered it in their responses to the moderator’s questions throughout the hour and a half long debate. Jeffries’ message was about experience and results. He frequently touted his work as assistant attorney general during the debate, citing it as experience on the law enforcement, special needs education, and school choice issues facing the city.

Sharif made frequent references to partnerships and leveraging the city’s assets, speaking often about bringing the city’s universities and small businesses to bear on problems ranging from special needs issues in classrooms to putting together a creative financing mix to rebuild Newark’s aging schools.

Ramos’ message was process-oriented. When asked what it was realistically possible for the mayor’s office to do about the city’s schools, his first pointed out that the mayor is not the superintendent of schools, and suggested the mayor could be most effective if he “remove[d] obstacles” to effective management of the school system. On improving the safety of children walking to and from school, he proposed “better coordination” between the Newark Board of Education’s security team and the Newark Police Department.

Baraka’s overarching theme was collectivism, and taking a holistic approach to solving the city’s problems. While he acknowledged that the city needs more police along high-crime corridors, he ultimately concluded that “police are not the answer”, and that investment in education is the best solution. In contrast to Ramos’ comment about the separation between the mayor and the superintendent of schools, Baraka pointed out that “Newark schools are not separate from the city” and that, too often, decisions about the schools are made without their impact on the broader community in mind.

With a few exceptions, the candidates’ differences on the substance of the issues were mostly marginal. As each took turns answering the moderator’s questions, they mostly distinguished themselves by pivoting off of each other, and extending the debates to include their proprietary ideas and unique insights.

For example, on an audience-submitted question about how the schools should deal with autism, there was little daylight between the candidates about providing autistic students with resources and support. But Sharif proposed in addition that Newark look to its colleges and universities to bring research-based solutions to bear, while Jeffries broadened the framework of the question by pointing out that black and Latino youth, particularly boys, are overclassified for the condition, and that solutions for truly autistic students are not appropriate for them.

A few skirmishes over ideas did emerge, though. There was some wrangling over the particulars of why Newark lost local control of schools, with Baraka asserting that other New Jersey districts with similarly low QSAC scores retained local control, while Sharif insisted that corruption in the Newark School District was a significant impetus for the state takeover.

There was also a contentious exchange over the context around the current ranking of Central High School, where Baraka is principal. Jeffries criticized Baraka for Central being at the bottom of the state rankings, while Baraka said the school had made progress during his tenure as principal. He also focused on the plights of the students who feed into the school, saying it was a “miracle” that the school was able to turn their educational outcomes around to the extent that they had.

Although substantive points broke through, though, the debate was frequently punctuated by rancor. The reactions from the crowd, and in large part of some of Baraka’s supporters when Jeffries spoke, gave the forum a greater air of contention than the candidates’ actual differences on the issues would have otherwise suggested.

During the exchange over Central High School’s track record, a few audience members wearing Baraka t-shirts used epithets against Jeffries, and even accused him of advocating “genocide”, a bastardized reference to Jeffries’ statement last year that a child of color not being on track to earning a high school diploma is metaphorical genocide for that child.

Baraka himself derisively referred to Jeffries on a few occasions as “the professor”. For his part, Jeffries asserted during the Central High School exchange that a “movement based upon catcalling, division, incivility, anger, [and] bitterness” would not serve the people of Newark.

“Our students are watching this tonight,” said moderator Brown, referring to the crowd reactions during the forum. “I wonder what they think.”

Coalition of Newark community groups to hold mock funeral to address violence

A coalition of community-based organizations, community leaders, funeral homes, and local small businesses, all lead by the organization 211 Community Impact, formed to host a rally to metaphorically “bury” violence in the city with a mock funeral this Saturday. The event will include processions starting from each of Newark’s five wards.

Inspired by an impromptu conversation, Dupre Kelly, member the hip-hop group Lords of the Underground and cofounder and chair of 211 Community Impact, organized this coalition of community stakeholders for this symbolic stand against the violence affecting Newark’s communities, with the ultimate goal of highlighting the impact that violence has on community members, as well as articulating a message of community healing and renewal.

In addition to attracting partners at the national level who are committed to a public dialog about the root causes of violence, the event’s organizers also seek to build and promote a positive campaign about Newark, its residents, and its assets.

The program itself will be held at Lincoln Park, and will run from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm. It will consist of youth speakers, remarks from leaders of community organizations, statements from victims’ families, readings from the Bible and the Quran, a prayer in Spanish, and tributes from local choirs and singers. Political candidates, while welcome to attend, will not be allowed to speak during the program.

Procession information:

Start time: 9:30 AM
Departure time: 11:00 AM
Procession locations:

  • North Ward: La Casa de Don Pedro, 39 Broadway
  • South Ward: Valley Fair
  • East Ward: Riverview Terrace
  • West Ward: Sacred Heart Church at Sanford & South Orange Avenues
  • Central Ward: Cityplex Theater

Five things we’re thinking about: Week of October 21

This week, we’re 1) contemplating Booker’s US Senate win, 2) anticipating a glut of new marriages in the state in light of a judge’s sanctioning marriage equality, 3) parsing The Star Ledger’s endorsement of governor Chris Christie over state senator Barbara Buono in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, 4) tallying the financial toll of the government shutdown, and 5) checking out Newark photographer Tim Dingman’s Open Doors photos.

What else should we be thinking about? Tweet #fivethings @brickcitylive, or leave a comment below. Wondering about why the stories on Brick City Live look the way they do? Read this essay.

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New Jersey elects Newark mayor Cory Booker as 4th popularly elected black Senator in American history


The New York Times put his win in context:

Mr. Booker brought excitement to a city that has long struggled to shake off the cloud of the riots that nearly destroyed it 46 years ago. And with his national profile, he also attracted more business development, including Newark’s first new hotel and supermarket in decades, and millions of dollars in philanthropy, including a $100 million pledge to the city’s long-failing schools from the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg….

Still, the campaign “made Booker more human, less Superman,” said David Redlawsk, the director of the Rutgers poll, pointing to the drops in his favorability.

The question now for Mr. Booker is how he plays his celebrity in the Senate, a chamber where show horses tend to stumble.

He has promised that he will continue to live in Newark. He has also said he intends to keep up his presence on Twitter.

Read the Times’ full story on Booker’s win here, and watch his victory speech below.

Image credit: Flickr user JD Lasica


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Elation, confusion accompany New Jersey same-sex marriage ruling, which enable weddings to begin today

marriage equality

Via USA Today:

With the advent of same-sex marriage in New Jersey, couples are thrilled and, in many cases, confused about how to proceed.

Advocates and others are claiming that the state of New Jersey did not give ample instructions to town clerks and others on how to administer marriage licenses to same-sex couples…Several couples planned to marry minutes after the state began recognizing the unions. Yet other said they had not been able to get a license. New Jersey law requires that couples wait three days between obtaining a license and getting married.

Read the full story in USA Today

Image credit: Flickr user Fibonacci Blue


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The government reopens

US Capitol

After being shut down for 16 days, the government finally reopened last week. Still, the shutdown took a toll. According to Time Magazine and other sources, the shutdown cost $24 billion. The costs via Time.

  • About $3.1 billion in lost government services, according to the research firm IHS

  • $152 million per day in lost travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association

  • $76 million per day lost because of National Parks being shut down, according to the National Park Service

  • $217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area alone

Read Time Magazine’s full story.

Image credit: Flickr user kereifsnyder


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The Star Ledger endorses Christie for governor

chris christie

Why? In The Star Ledger’s words:

Our own view is that Christie is overrated. His spin is way ahead of his substance…Why then, are we endorsing him for a second term? Because his challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono, is a deeply flawed candidate.

Read their full rationale here.

Image credit: Flicker user Bob Jagendorf


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Check out our Open Doors coverage


Open Doors’ principal photographer Tim Dingman has been chronicling the festivities in pictures all week. Check out our special Tim Dingman Open Doors section here, and look for an exciting announcement regarding Tim Dingman and Brick City Live’s art coverage in a week or so.

Image credit: Timothy Dingman



New Jersey votes today


The race for the U.S. Senate ends today as New Jerseyans decide the outcome of the special election at the polls. To find out where to vote, visit the New Jersey Department of State website here: The polls are open until 8 p.m. tonight.

Let there be ‘Danger Kids’: DeQuan Foster and Ameer Washington create a universe [Video]

the-twelveNewark native DeQuan Foster was only 11 years old when he met Ameer Washington, himself a Newark native who had graduated from Temple University and started working at the Boys and Girls Club that Foster attended in Newark’s North Ward. Washington found Foster, now 18, working on science fiction characters and stories. A  fan of comic books, science fiction, and fantasy himself, Washington, 29, began mentoring Foster, helping him with his stories, and encouraging him take his talent as a writer and storyteller seriously. The mentorship grew into a real friendship, and seven years later, the pair are now releasing their book series, Danger Kids Universe, under their own publishing imprint, Brickhouse Publishing.

Foster and Washington were both Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year in their time, and credit the organization with providing a positive context in which they were able to flourish as young men. The first book from their Danger Kids Universe series, The Twelve, is an introduction to the universe that Foster and Washington will unveil over the eight to ten books planned for the series. They plan to release their second book, A Generation’s Journey, in December.

We recently spoke in person at Citi Studios about their collaboration, friendship, and forthcoming book. As always, we also spoke about Newark as a backdrop to their partnership, their current work, and their aspirations.


Monday night in Newark: 30 New Jersey entrepreneurs advance in the Start Something Challenge

Monday night, more than 100 people attended Rising Tide Capital’s Start Something Challenge kick-off event at the Great Oaks Charter School here in Newark to celebrate the 30 semi-finalists who advanced to the next round of the business pitch competition.

Rising Tide chose the semifinalists based on total video views for the 30-second video pitches each competitor submitted. There were six semi-finalist slots for each of five business sectors: fashion and beauty; arts, crafts, and entertainment; food; public, social, and health; and other professional services. Taken together, the entrants’ videos generated over 60,000 views.

The competitors progressed from an initial pool of 107 entrepreneurs from throughout New Jersey, and will be further whittled down to ten before Rising Tide confers the $10,000 first prize.

Semi-finalist BJ Dowlen of Bodyworks Enterprises, LLC said the competition in itself helped advance her business. “Since my submission into the SSC, I’ve created 5 videos for clients looking to advertise their business,” she said. “I am winner, because I learned an important skill set that has been an asset to my current business.”

Rising Tide Capital CEO Alfa Demmellash said she was impressed with the quality and diversity of the pitches. She also thanked lead sponsor JP Morgan Chase for “supporting our mission and entrepreneurs from the very beginning.”

The event featured remarks from a number of notables, including a keynote address from FEMWORKS CEO Kimberlee S. Williams, and further remarks by attendees representing JP Morgan Chase, The Star Ledger, and Brick City Development Corporation.

The Start Something Challenge website will host the 30 semifinalists’ videos for public viewing and voting between October 23 and November 6, 2013. Ten finalists will participate in a live pitch event in Jersey City on November 18 to determine the three winners who will receive cash prizes at the Start Something Champions Gala on December 10.

For more information about Start Something Challenge events, visit their website.