Shot of the day: A growing pain on Halsey Street

Although the new Prudential building currently being built on Broad Street should mean high traffic for Halsey Street businesses once completed, for now, the construction is causing traffic to dwindle, and in many cases, is displacing businesses altogether. A painted notice on Halsey Street illustrates the pain.

Sneak peek: A vision of innovation for Newark’s South Ward

Update: You can now read our full profile of Jamaro “Dilettante” Bass here.

Have you seen this man?

For a lot of Newarkers, the answer is yes. From the community turkey giveaway to the art gallery, the economic development board meeting to the Weequahic Park running trail, Dilettante Bass has been a fixture in many different scenes all around Newark for years.

Now the Newark native and NJIT graduate is running for South Ward councilman, and the self-proclaimed “Renaissance man for a Renaissance City” has a phased plan for how to make the South Ward a locus of innovation and civic activity in its own right, block by block.

BrickCityLive sat down with Bass at Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark to discuss his plans for the South Ward and for the city. Bass – laid back, thoughtful, and deliberative – animates considerably when describing his ideas for how to build neighborhoods in the South Ward. Averse to what he sees as typical, empty generalizations about “building jobs” and “improving education”, Bass says what sets him apart is that he has an ambitious vision for Newark that can begin on a small, neighborhood scale. And that he has the skills, connections, and knowledge of how to navigate many sectors of the city to get them done. In doing so, he said, he can sell his broader vision to Newarkers not through rhetoric, but by pointing to the result down the street.

To borrow from rap legend Guru, we might say Bass’ approach to getting Newarkers on board is:

Here’s something you can feel
Styles more tangible, and image more real

Look for BrickCity Live’s full interview with Bass, who has a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, to be published following our beta launch later this month.

Shot of the day: City of the arts

A group representing Gallery Aferro, the Newark Arts Council, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation discuss ways to incorporate poetry into the Newark arts scene on a more consistent basis. The foundation, which in 2014 will again host the biennial Dodge Poetry Festival, is specifically looking to use this year’s Open Doors arts festival as a use case for melding poetry with visual arts in Newark.

The group leaned on previous examples of poetry/art syncretism they admired to develop ideas for Newark. They also thought through ways to make those presentations characteristically “of Newark” – including crowdsourcing poetry from its citizens – and ways to make Newarkers feel entitled to consume those presentations – including moving them out to windows, sidewalks, and even making them mobile.

Shot of the Day: Cory Booker’s mobile command Center

Booker campaign employees man social media at Championship Plaza downtown Newark following news of his victory in the New Jersey Senate Democratic primary on Tuesday, August 12. With over 1.2 million Twitter followers and long-standing connections to Silicon Valley that extend back to his undergraduate Stanford days, Booker is the poster child for social media and tech savvy among politicians. In addition to staff, volunteers, supporters, and onlookers, Newark mayoral candidates Ras Baraka and Anibal Ramos were both seen in attendance. A Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip spun records before Booker’s victory speech.

New Jersey votes. Newark mayor leads.

The New York Times ultimately endorsed Newark mayor Cory Booker for the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, but it acknowledged  nonetheless that New Jerseyans are “lucky to have a choice among four candidates with solid credentials: two with experience in Congress and good voting records; one who has worked hard at the state level on women’s issues, in particular; and one who made a national name for himself by bringing new thinking, honesty and compassion to the hidebound, corrupt and cold city government in Newark.

Here are the cases endorsers made for each of the New Jersey Democratic primary candidates:

Cory Booker: “As mayor, he has lured big money to Newark’s schools — notably a matching grant of $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook. And he has worked well with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, on areas of agreement in crime, development and education. That ability to work with the political opposition could be an asset for Mr. Booker if the ice age of a divided Congress ever ends.” – The New York Times

Rush Holt: “In sharp contrast to some of the other candidates in the primary race, Holt has a record of leadership on women’s and progressive issues. He has been willing to stand up and defend the rights of women, the LGBTQI community, and the hardworking voters in his district, even when it has meant challenging the political status quo.” – New Jersy National Organization for Women

Sheila Oliver: “As dedicated legislator and glass ceiling breaker, Sheila has demonstrated her commitment to issues important to women and families like co-sponsoring the law to create the Department of Children and Families and would continue to bring her passion and advocacy to her work in Washington.” – Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey

Frank Pallone: “When my husband needed help on environmental issues in the House of Representatives, he always knew what to do. He called Frank Pallone. Frank Pallone was the go-to guy who had the experience and know-how to get things done…He and Frank Pallone worked together on cleaning up Superfund and brown field sites, holding polluters accountable, stopping ocean dumping and protecting New Jersey’s beaches.” – Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of former U.S. Senator from New Jersey Frank Lautenberg

To find out where to cast your vote, look up your address in New Jersey’s polling location database.

Shot of the day: Grassy knoll

A family enjoys the late afternoon weather on the lawn at the Riverfront Park ribbon cutting in Newark. Event organizers asked visitors to wear orange to commemorate the park’s official opening. The park will play host to a number of events, including a Frank & 3 To Clave “Night of Music and Dance” tomorrow, Tuesday August 13, from 7 – 9 pm.

News roundup: Cory Booker, Silicon Valley, and #waywire

Newark mayor and Senate candidate Cory Booker’s affinity for social technology is well known, and his startup, #waywire, has received a lot more attention in recent days. A roundup of the key news and issues surrounding the company, as well as Booker’s ties to Silicon Valley, starting with the announcement of #waywire 2.0 earlier this spring:

  • “Where do you put the videos you find around the web, and how do they express your identity? #waywire 2.0 aims to be the answer. Co-founded by Newark Mayor Cory Booker and launched nine months ago, #Waywire focused on original and user-generated content.” (TechCrunch) …read more
  • “Mr. Booker personally has obtained money for the start-up, called Waywire, from influential investors, including Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. A year after its debut, Waywire has already endured a round of layoffs and had just 2,207 visitors in June, according to Compete, a Web-tracking service. The company says it is still under development.” (New York Times) …read more
  • “Andrew Zucker, the son of Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, resigned from a board that advises the Newark mayor’s Internet venture.” (New York Times)  …read more
  • “Newark (N.J.) Mayor Corey Booker’s connections to Silicon Valley stretch back to his days at Stanford. Now he’s a co-investor with Google’s Eric Schmidt, holding a stake worth $1 million to $5 million in video curation startup Waywire.” (Biz Journals) …read more
  • “Part of Booker’s political success has stemmed from his connections and adaptability in the media age, and his involvement in the startup was not, it seems, anything he has tried to hide.” (Policy Mic) …read more
  • “Mayor Cory Booker, who is seeking a United States Senate seat in New Jersey, should disclose the full details of his involvement in an Internet start-up.” (New York Times)  …read more


‘Unfriendliest’ city in the world? Hardly, says Newark in crowdsourced rebuttal

Last updated: 8/8/2013 at 11:21 AM EST

The city of Newark, New Jersey is used to being the object of put-downs.

Back in 2009, late-night television host Conan O’Brien famously made this city of a quarter million residents the butt of a sustained series of jokes, and the slings and arrows didn’t end there. Look no further than Twitter to find the city being referred to as a “hell hole”, among other epithets, by people who have passed through.

Now, Newark is facing its latest and perhaps most damning brush with ignominy in the public imagination: last week, Conde Nast Traveler published the results of its annual Readers’ Choice Survey, and readers voted New Jersey’s largest city the “unfriendliest” in the entire world.

Galvanized by the vote, two local women decided to combat the slander by serving up smiles from the city.

“It just seems unfair and so untrue,” said one of the two, Newark resident Emily Manz, of the distinction. “I feel like I walk to work every day and I see people who are so friendly. I get to work and I see people who are friendly. I hang out after work and meet friendly people.”

Her friend Gizelle Clemens, a Newark native and public administration master’s student at Rutgers University, was equally incredulous when she read the story. “I don’t even know if they’re interacting with true Newarkers or just the Newark Airport system,” she said of the people who voted in the survey. “But you can’t just come through there or [Newark] Penn Station and say you interacted with Newark.”

Not content to simply grumble about the survey and move on, Manz, who works at Brick City Development Corporation and runs a monthly walking tour of downtown Newark, and Clemens launched a new Tumblr blog featuring smiling Newarkers in an effort to push back against the Conde Nast survey results.

The two kicked off the initiative Tuesday. At lunchtime, the pair walked around the city’s downtown district for an hour, paper signs in hand. Some ironically declared “I’m with meanie” and “Mean girls”. Others played it straight, with messages like “Come to Newark and be my friend!”. Clemens took the role of conversation starter, asking Newarkers to don their brightest smiles for her camera while holding the paper placards. It was all an effort to show the world that there are plenty of Newarkers of good humor.

They didn’t find it difficult to get people to join in. “We asked people if they knew Newark was rated most unfriendly, and people would be like, ‘I heard that!'” said Manz. “People thought it was pretty intense that Newark was rated literally the unfriendliest city in the whole world, so they got on board.”

Although they kicked off the project downtown, Clemens said they plan to visit a variety of Newark neighborhoods. Growing up in city’s North Ward and spending some time in the South Ward, she said she had experienced plenty of friendliness. “I could come home late at night and people would keep their eyes out for me,” she said.

Manz said a pop-up photobooth project in Minneapolis inspired the idea. The Newark-based project is “like that photo booth idea, except we’re going to where people are.” In addition to more planned outings to round up participants, the pair made their signs available via a Dropbox link on the project’s Tumblr, and put out a social media call for people to submit their own photos using email, Twitter, and Instagram. Manz said the project had already gotten an enthusiastic response since they posted the initial set of photos on Wednesday.

Newark-based organizations have reached out to inquire about participating, as well, Manz said. She also captured photographs of all three of the city’s currently declared 2014 mayoral candidates – Ras Baraka, Shavar Jeffries, and Anibal Ramos – holding the placards during a mayoral town hall on Wednesday evening. She hopes for more organizations to join the photo campaign, including local schools and religious institutions.

Manz said her and Clemens’ visual, crowdsourced approach was more effective than a verbal response would have been. “It’s very easy when you have energetic, interesting people, like there are in Newark. The people are your assets,” in combating negative perceptions of the city, she said.

“The residents, people who work here, people who play here – this article damages all those people,” Clemens said of the survey results.

“One of the surveyed people said ‘brushes with the local crowd’ colored their view of the city. I thought they used a very broad brush,” to paint a picture of Newarkers, said Manz. “These are some of the people you would meet if you walked down the street here,” she continued, referring to the smiling faces in the project’s photographs.

The project is located on the “Letters from the Most Unfriendly City in the World” Tumblr blog.

Image by Gizelle Clemens, “Letters from the Most Unfriendly City in the World” Tumblr blog

Arting up vacant spaces downtown Newark

Evonne Davis, artistic director of Gallery Aferro on Market Street, discusses a possible art installation with artist LNY, on the third floor of the building that housed the former Bushberg Brothers furniture store at Market and Washington Streets. The building is one of a handful on the block that Aferro is looking to activate as part of its “Activate: Market Street” public art program.

Shot of the Day: Saxophone Dre plays Broad Street

Saxophone Dre chats with a pedestrian between sets. Dre played Broad Street and Raymond Boulevard today, but the Trenton native has played in many other places, from Manhattan to the Jersey Shore.