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Newark. Core city revitalization in the making. But will it be quick enough?

Looking at the city of Newark on Google Maps, it has all the potential for a super city. Superb location… check. Diverse gateway infrastructure… check. Dynamic downtown large business base… check. Blue collar industrial workforce… check. Within arms-length from powerhouse neighbors (i.e. the Meadowlands, Jersey City, Morristown, NYC)…. check. Large population…. check. And hub for national and international transportation infrastructure (i.e. Newark Liberty International Airport)… check.

So, with such potential, why has there been such slow progress.

And is it too late for Newark? Will it be permanently, a slumbering giant which will never achieve its full potential- again?

“The mayor of Newark wants to set up a citywide program to improve residents’ health. The health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark”- Conan O’Brian 2009.

Like any other “Gotham”, it has its dark sides and the scars to prove it.

Newark NJ‘s story is long and socially checkered. But recent and large scale efforts have been planned for the next decade. Developed for the betterment of the community, this human endeavor has driven the city to how it is now- with substantially wider stance and athletic poise.

That seems to be the first phase of the plan.

As cities go, Newark has had its ups and downs. And no other social earthquake more represented the downward spiral than the Newark Riots of 1967- historically noted as the most central event which officially helped accelerate Newark’s economic and social disintegration.

Fast forward to today, the scars are still apparent. The city has 28.4% of its population and 25.5% of families below the poverty line (that is less than $11,000 per year for an individual). City’s unemployment rate has been hovering at 9.4-10%.

Progress has been slow and the middle class of Newark hasn’t grown enough, in the past 40 years.

Directly born out of mis-management of its policies and corruption from it’s head executives (6 prior mayors identified in corruption since the 1930’s), Newark had major hurdles and difficulties. Of course, the city wasn’t the only one to be affected by rampant corruption. But it surely had defaulted in systematically trying to catch up to the levels of today’s comparable cities. Newark simply was at a stand still and “wasn’t functioning”.

Since the hay-days of the 1940’s, Newark had lost 100,000+ of its populous, ever lower production, and wider gap in income levels. Crime had accelerated at a steady pace throughout the city. Deaths had grossly solidified the public’s attitudes. In 1996, TIME magazine elected Newark as the most dangerous city in the Nation (although by 2007, Newark made great headway and was better ranked at #22). This was non more apparent, then when Conan O’Brian and Mayor Cory Booker (current mayor) was in a 2009 public “feud”. Conan fired the first large salvo stating in a monologue on his show:“The mayor of Newark wants to set up a citywide program to improve residents’ health. The health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark”. Although, the two protagonists shook hands and ‘made up’, the sentiments on the ‘brand’ of Newark, was still dark and tarnished in the eyes of the public.

Despite of it all, Newark is (and still can be), a large and important part for the State of NJ– helping drive the narrative for the state as a whole…

The Strengths, Strengthened::

Despite of it all, Newark is (and still can be), a large and important part for the State of NJ- helping drive the narrative for the state as a whole- successfully developing and nurturing its middle class, strengthening its resolve, communities, and revitalizing the city’s brand. Although it can be seen as a ‘drain’ on resources, in many ways, but there’s no doubt that the history of Newark (both good and bad) is the soul of NJ.

Newark’s biggest strength is that it’s a gateway nationally and internationally, and being a hub of air, road, rail and ship traffic. For example, Newark Liberty International Airport is the 2nd busiest in NYC area airports and the 14th busiest in the US. Port Newark is the 15th busiest in the US. Largest port in the eastern seaboard. The city easily has access from major arteries, including NJ Turnpike and the Garden State PWY. All significant railways stop at Newark’s Penn Station including PATH, NJ Transit, AMTRAK, Newark Light Rail, AirTrain Newark

The city also boasts the NJ Performance Arts Center, The Prudential Center, Newark Symphony Hall, NJ State Opera, Garden State Ballet, Newark Library (largest in NJ); the Newark is also the home of NJ Devils (NHL), NJ Nets (NBA), Red Bulls (MLS), Newark Bears (Can-Am League), NY Liberty (WNBA), and so forth.

These income pillars will give Newark the leeway, which it will need.

With a renewed “Citizens First” criteria, the plan has been to move light speed forward to a newer economy, which would attract, settle, and develop higher paid and higher educated Newark citizens.

The Future of Newark::

Yes. There certainly can be a bright future for Newark and its residents.

Leap Frogging” can summarize what Newark and its administration has been pushing, in the last several years. With things being equal and the city not made a “police state”, it certainly is an energizing initiative.

The plan has been to (1)leverage the strengths of Newark, (2) benefit by strengthening the core attributes of Newark, (3) strengthen its educational philosophies & practices, and (4) supply opportunities to its citizens- both residents and businesses. The city aims to tackle these by implementing smarter land development, better business partnerships, water protection, green neighborhood initiatives, smarter energy consumption, green workforce, and public health agendas.

It’s a hearty and hefty task, to be sure. A legacy like Newark will be hard to steer on to the better rails, quickly. However, the vision is high and achievable- albeit a plan that can take decades.

With a renewed “Citizens First” criteria, the plan has been to move light speed forward to a newer economy, which would attract, settle, and develop higher paid and higher educated Newark citizens.

And the very important middle class, can return.

Summary::

Founded in 1666, by Connecticut Puritans, Newark’s glorious decades started in the industrial revolution- initially powered on the back of leather refining. It has come a long way, and has even a longer way to go. But in some sense, the city has turned a corner and out of that hole it had dug itself in from its past.

Simply, the city is getting ready for the ‘money shot’. And the public and its residents can’t wait to see the city get there.

The question is, will Newark be ‘lost’ in its way, again? Who knows.

But as a premier NJ powerhouse city, Newark no doubt has the constitution to recover (sans government corruption).

And for opportunity seekers, out there, Newark can be a great place to look.

Lets just keep the fingers crossed.

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Article by Jason Kim appears on CityJuJu.Com HERE

As human beings, I think we love thing from “higher up”. I mean views of view points that give us a glimpse of how birds look at our world every day. I think we humans are very jealous =D

We are, after all, terrestrial beings. Animals that have occupied the dry lands (as temporary Inn keepers) for a time, expanding, spreading, cultivating, devastating, and at the same time innovating.

But just like the Wright brothers (and countless other humans), who just wanted to be flying like birds, we terrestrial beings just aren’t satisfied with the view which we have.

That’s why we have persons and groups that love traveling to the tops of the highest mountains, tops of the highest buildings, flying in dare devil planes, and flying out (trying hard) towards the vast cosmos.

Of course, we all do not carry such “first person” ambitions for adventure, but we all do sometimes profess the odd, “ohhs”, and “ahhs”, when we see photographs and videos showing us the seldom bird’s eye view.

Most of us (and this is my inkling) love the Discovery Channel, Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, and so forth. This is because, in the safety of our sofas, we can enjoy and get a “glimpse” of how birds always see the world. Or we love those big zoom perspectives of the Himalayas, or Mount Kilimanjaro from our ant’s view, because the magnitude and scale of those colossal leviathans in wide angle is “unimaginable”.

Yep. We as species appreciate nature’s giants. Structures that make us go, whoa!

As for me, I’d love to be able to fly like a bird. That would be just fab!

All images copyright mediaform jasonkim photograph

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