Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Booker and Newark Revitalization

Living in Newark for four years, I now see the complicated social-political-economic order that has plagued a city that could be so beautiful if the 17th and 18th century architecture was cleaned. The grungy, neglected old buildings is a metaphoric representation of Newark.

Once upon time, it was magnificent thing to behold. The streets teeming with vibrant businesses, and commerce flowed in-and-out. But today, Newark is like an updated Lagos, a blighted forgotten metropolis that is trying to make a come back via the leadership of its current Mary Cory Booker. But people just don't understand how much detoxing Newark needs in order to really revitalize.

Nevertheless, Booker gets the city great gigs like the NCAA Tournament, the Peace Summit, the NETS and is now on the table to be used for a Batman Movie, this change deletes out the resilient spirit that it still maintained.

Across the country Cory Booker is known as the golden child. He jet sets and supposedly cuddles with Oprah's bestie, Gayle King. He pulls in big contracts like the NCAA tournament at the Prudential Center. He cries about the disenfranchised in his city, yet he is tough on crime. He has brought in businesses, and white people are finally beginning to be visible in Downtown Newark after 6 PM.

White women adore him. White men feel comfortable around him. The  Jewish landlords who own much of the business district entertain his calls. He sounds like a smaller version of Barack Obama. And yes he is, but he exudes the part of Obama I wish was not him. His interests are questionable as he makes serious and needed changes in Newark, but the revisions edit out black and brown folk. Then when we are included we get mere scraps.

I live literally a three minute walk from City Hall, across the street from the Star  Ledger Newspaper, and it feels as if I am a stranger in the city I reside. You see I find out all of these wonderful things that are happening in Newark, after the fact. Take for example the Urban Entrepreneurship Summit at Rutgers Newark that occurred on Monday, June 6. The White House Administration met with NYC entrepreneurs (note NOT Brick City business owners) and Rutgers MBA program, and it was down without local residents having a clue about what was going on.

This was troubling because, Newark is suffering from high black unemployment and black male unemployment. If anyone could give resolution it would be the people who are struggling. If you ever go to a townhall meeting you know that Newarkers are very much about it. Another issue is that local business owners, to my knowledge, were not contacted, or at the very least highlighted. To own a business in Newark, you got to be nothing short of innovative.

 Another event that was boasted about was a peace summit that took place in the late part of May. Everyone from the Dhali Lama to various other Nobel Peace Prize Winners spoke on behalf of peace. Ironically, there was gun clapping going on, on the other side of Newark, and very few people even knew that this event was taking place. It is as if, the less the locals know the better.

Now that wasn't being said by the Team Booker. He boasted that there were tickets given to community members. Who, I don't have a clue, but it was definitely a list of brown nosers who would be good Negroes and not point the obvious contradiction of Booker and the hot summer he is encountering, especially after he laid off 160-plus police officers.

Of course Eco.Soul.Intellectual got into the Peace Summit, and I was laughing to myself. On one end I saw Forest Whitaker, and the other end I saw Dalai Lama followers and their beads, all fucking oblivious of the abject poverty and suffering that was going just around the corner at the YMCA that currently hosts over 400 homeless families.

I probably sound like Cornell West. The Negro who was salty because she wasn't invited. And right now I am honored if I can considered West and his consistent critiques against Obama because my concerns are personal, definitely political, but for the collective of black, brown and poor folk who reside in urban areas and are being hustled by political jockeys.

The Salty White Flight of Newark
Though Newark is definitely changing there are old grudges and habits that haven't dissipated. To give you an idea of the current sentiment in Newark, here is a New York Times article by Andrew Jacobs that speaks to the attitudes around the riots.
To the frightened white residents who later abandoned Newark by the tens of thousands, it was a riot; for the black activists who gained a toehold in City Hall in the years that followed, it was a rebellion. Those seeking neutrality have come to embrace the word disturbance.
“There is not one truth, and your view depends on your race, your age and where you lived,” said Linda Caldwell Epps, president of the New Jersey Historical Society.

If you ever visit Newark, you will be amazed how the white people stick to one area in downtown Newark. You see very few of them of the main boulevard of Broad Street and Market, and you don't see them after dark that much. And they walk with stiff backs as if in motion to run.

The Emergence of Cory Booker
Booker was an audacious attorney who has a residence in a Brick City project emerged as a formidable challenger to the political bulldog, Sharp James over 10 years ago. His mission was to revive a city that became a den of corruption where a handful of people got the spoils of James' booty.

Under the James regime, the city crumbled. But one man can't destroy a nation, though James really fucked up. What people didn't want to admit is that the original landowners, still owned the land, and were not cooperating with James, or any other folk. They just sat on acres of land and massive properties and let them rot, literally.

It was a prime environment for someone new, fresh and connected with the people to step in. What was troubling was that Booker's money came mostly from people who did not live in the city, and his residence to this day is not really in a housing projects.

Booker, like every other unoriginal politician uses his "for the people" stance for the cameras. About twice a year you see him jogging down Broad Street or shoveling snow for a woman who is a shut-in, and then you see a camera somewhere in the background.

These people, like pretty much most of the business district in Newark, don't live in the city. They make their money then go to comfortable suburban towns and pay taxes for better schools in those areas.

What is also quite interesting is the contact that I am beginning to frequently have with these white folks in the area. There is a supposition that a black person who doesn't have a suit is a lowly local, or someone who definitely is trying to scam them. They go to the three or four white bars or restaurants, and walk the back streets along a path where most whites park in garages with heavy security.

It is reminiscent of segregation, a self-segregation that bleeds over from the suburban life of not leaving the 2 square miles of your neighborhood in fear of being robbed or jacked.

The Prudential Center's entrances are on Mulberry, Edison and Lafayette streets, away from Broad street, a main avenue for Newarkers. It creates the illusion that Newark faces a small section of Newark called Ironbound, a historical immigrant community that largely houses Portuguese and Spanish immigrants.

I am truthfully most disgusted on hockey night at the Prudential. The Newark Police Department makes sure that not a single white person, be they mostly drunk and male, be harmed in any way. Traffic is stopped, mounted policemen are everywhere, and NJ Transit creates special shuttles so hockey goers can ride to the Prudential Center instead of walking the five minutes from the train station. If this is the change then frankly, I don't want it. Hell, I am not even part of the equation.

Downtown Newark
Booker's main project has been to get downtown Newark cleaned up and opened for business. One of its biggest projects is turning a section by the Broad Street Train Station into a "Living Downtown" community.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has identified the revitalization of the Broad Street Station District as a top priority for the City, and has released a detailed concept plan, dubbed the “Living Downtown,” for approximately 50 acres surrounding the Broad Street Train Station.

The district (outlined in black dashed lines above) lies within a 5-10 minute walk of New Jersey Transit’s Broad Street Station, the Newark Light Rail line, two subway station stops, the Downtown campuses of Rutgers and NJIT, cultural institutions and an increasingly accessible Passaic Riverfront. It is framed by Newark Street to the West, Clay Street East to the North, the Passaic River to the East and Central Avenue to the South.

However, there is a problem. Downtown Newark is half occupied and half abandoned. The lack of development, augmented by a leadership that sucked much of the resources and put it into a slew of dirty, grimy people that were in virtually all decision and power making decisions created the social-cultural-economic implosion in Newark.

For the past year, he has been praised for cleaning up a city that looked like it had been neglected for 40 years. He brought fresh blood into a stale political climate, but he also blocked people who most needed to be revived. Of course they get a couple of bones here and there, but for the most part, people see that ugly hand of politics has made that once "for the people" mayor, a puppet to who's strings we aren't clear are pulling his actions and decisions.

One of the many abandoned buildings.
Locally, he is a saint and a sinner. And when I say locally, I am talking about the large majority of blacks and Latinos (who prefer to be called Spanish in these parts). You see locals holding various positions under Booker's organizations, but they are positions that are crumbs off of a table. The moneybags who deter the progress are in the absentee landlords that refuse to be part of the revitalization.

These landlords are almost all Jewish and pass down land to family members with an oath of "Never Again". However, what is not understood is that thwarting progress, stubs the progression of all.

I applaud Booker for attempting to develop more business ventures in very sensitive matter. It is tough kissing ass at night and smiling in the day. 

But Booker's business decisions are selling Newark's real worth short. Last year, it was revealed to the public that Booker was attempting to sell off the city's water supply, a pristine waterway in the northern part of the state. This waterway supplies numerous cities in various counties, yet folks water had been turned off for months due to landlords who hadn't paid their water bills to the City.

Abandoned building on Halsey Street.
Meanwhile, the coveted Prudential Center still has not paid water or electrical bills that are now in the millions.

As well, I don't agree with him using the ills of Newark to bring in outside folks to stare and look at Newarkers like we live in a zoo. And protecting them at all costs when they visit, yet and still, cutting a police force that was already tapped.

Booker's Higher Aspirations
Recently, reports were released that Booker is vying for the Senate, and will not run against the pension thug, aka, Governor Chris Christie. Well, that's because these boys are thick as thieves, and the win for Booker will be easy because the seat he will run for is currently occupied by the cancer-stricken, 89-year-old Frank Lautenberg who is one foot in the grave and another one on a banana peel.

And in his climb up, Booker will prolly due the usual, forget who made him, and bow to who initiates him in upper echelons of a power structure, where he will still be a do-boi. However, the people of Newark will be feeling the Post-Booker regime.

1 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Cornel West is a he not a she.