2 Billion dollars worth of residential and commercial construction is presently taking place all over Newark, New Jersey. Investors are betting on Newark to become the next Brooklyn pouring their money into vacant lots for development. The Deputy Mayor of Newark’s Economic and Housing development Baye Adofo-Wilson seems to beg to differ, “Newark’s not trying to be the next Brooklyn, or the next Jersey City, We have our own richness and our own culture here that isn’t just an expansion of Wall Street, but really an expansion of Newark and an expansion of New Jersey.” Newark is the largest city in New Jersey and carries some of the largest problems in our state. Investors such as Goldman Sachs and Prudential Financial have turned a blind eye to the city’s failing school systems and high crime levels. For many residential and commercial development seems like a short-term solution to a long-term problems. Over a third of all Newark’s residents live under the poverty line and it doesn’t seem to be making much improvement.
According to Katila Velez of the Ironbound Community Corporation “[Newark’s] infrastructure was built for half a million people. We’re currently at 280,000 residents, The Ironbound neighborhood is a hub for the Portuguese community as well as residents from Spain, Ecuador, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Not surprisingly, Vélez says, “the strongest point Newark has is its diversity.” Concerns that a rise in rent could drive long time residents out, economists warn that Newark’s economic engine needs to be revamped to create new jobs for locals. One of the solutions for this rising concern is mixed use buildings, the city being home to Rutger’s University Newark campus the potential is evident. The NY times highlights one of the city’s vacant buildings as a prime candidate for this mixed use concept “The Hahne’s building, a gracious structure with grand staircases, wrought-iron banisters and a 6,000-square-foot atrium skylight, is an example. Whole Foods is expected to bring 200 jobs, and Express Newark, a Rutgers University arts and cultural program, is intended to draw students and faculty into the city. Forty percent of the 160 apartments will be affordable.”
For many, commuters being drawn to Newark will not be enough to revamp this city lost in the shadows of the big apple. Residents worry that displacement is imminent and with rent for a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment averaging less than $2,400 New Yorkers are being drawn to Downtown Newark quickly. The rising demand for residential buildings by New Yorkers and even residents of Jersey city has been believed to be the start of the Gentrification of Newark. “Gentrification always has a beginning and the beginning may not be displacement; it may be part of a market movement,” said Mr. Della Fave, who was a member of the Hoboken City Council in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the gentrification of that city was in its infancy. “It’s not like one day it’s not here and the next day it’s here,” To avoid the displacement of thousands of residents Mr. Fave has called for an inclusionary policy that will provide these locals with affordable housing within the infrastructure of these new developments. Mr. Adofo-Wilson said his office is drafting a proposal for such a policy to present to the City Council. Brick city is slowly developing its way out of the shadows but the question still remains, at what price ?
- Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning, Levy, 10th edition. Academic Publishers, 2007.