Ensuring Newark's Revival Doesn't Make it the Next Brooklyn

New Jersey's largest city is celebrating a downtown revival, but city leaders want to ensure that Newark avoids the displacement that often accompanies revitalization.
August 12, 2017, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The good news is that this city of 280,000 residents, long associated with racial strife and decay, has been undergoing a revival. The challenge facing Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the city council is how to ensure that longtime residents are not displaced, reports Rick Rojas, metro reporter for The New York Times. 

Descriptions of Newark as 'the next Brooklyn' are bandied about regularly but just as often swatted down by city leaders, who say they have looked to other cities’ experiences not as potential road maps but as cautionary tales.

First, a bit of history

The drain of the city’s white population started with the advent of the highway system and the rise of the suburbs. But the unrest in 1967, triggered by anger over racism and police brutality, with days of deadly demonstrations, intensified the exodus and cemented the negative view of Newark that it is still trying to shake.

Fast forward to today, and the city still has its socio-economic problems.

Poverty in Newark remains at a rate well above the national average, and only 18 percent of the people who hold jobs in Newark live here, according to a report from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; in other large cities that figure is often between 30 and 50 percent.

For example, "[i]n New Orleans, local residents hold 46 percent of jobs; in Detroit, local residents hold 25 percent of jobs," according to the institute's report, "Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond," released last April.

The major tools to avoid gentrification include a local hiring program and inclusionary zoning for larger developments that Baraka is trying to get the city council to approve.

White flight reversal

Whites are returning to this city where people of color constitute 72 percent of the population. But this in-migration need not result in displacement.

[S]ome argue that there is plenty of room for newcomers, considering the city’s spacious footprint, the abandonment of many neighborhoods and that most development is focused downtown, where few people had lived and that essentially became deserted at the end of the business day.

“I think it gives it a leg up in trying to do this kind of work,” Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Rutgers-Newark, said of the city’s geography. “There’s so much empty, available real estate that, at least initially, the wave of development doesn’t require displacing people.”

But that creates its own problem, explains Max Herman, an associate professor of sociology at New Jersey City University, who wrote an oral history on the 1967 riots in Newark and Detroit and studies gentrification.

“There’s been a vast improvement,” Professor Herman said. “The downtown is a much safer place. It’s a much more interesting place.” But, he added, “The rest of Newark has not benefited.”

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 in The New York Times
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