A Water Crisis in Newark Brings New Worries

By Liz Leyden

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dec. 3, 2018

Danielle Fienberg and her 4-year-old son, Theo, who has been diagnosed with autism and a form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Theo’s blood lead level surged after he started drinking tap water.

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NEWARK — As evidence mounted that Newark’s drinking water was contaminated by lead, top officials began an urgent giveaway of tens of thousands of filters and told residents that the problem was limited to one of the city’s two treatment plants.

But city documents and other records show that an engineering study that led to the distribution of filters, which was made public in October, only focused on one plant. Now the state is directing Newark to assess whether treatment methods at the second plant are protecting water from being contaminated by lead. Since 2017, samples of tap water taken at residences served by that plant have shown elevated lead levels.

The extent of Newark’s water problem is still unfolding. For nearly a year and a half after high lead levels were first discovered in the water system, Mayor Ras Baraka and other officials blamed aging lead pipes, insisting on the city’s website that the water was “absolutely safe to drink.”

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Oprah, Michelle Obama give N.J. high school students the surprise of a lifetime

Posted Nov 29, 2018

Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama surprised a group of girls that included four students from West Orange High School this summer.

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Students from West Orange High School thought they were just getting to visit the headquarters of Oprah Winfrey’s magazine “O" in Manhattan, but didn’t know that they would be leaving that day with a surprise they would never forget.

Oprah and former First Lady Michelle Obama actually showed up at Hearst Tower in New York City, much to the shock of the four students.

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GREWAL ANNOUNCES NEW RULES FOR HOW NJ LAW ENFORCEMENT DEALS WITH ICE

COLLEEN O'DEA | NOVEMBER 30, 2018

NJ Spotlight

State AG Gurbir Grewal explains his directive on how NJ law enforcement should deal with federal efforts to detain and deport undocumented residents.

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New Jersey law enforcement officials have been ordered to no longer cooperate with most federal agents’ efforts to detain and deport undocumented residents. Under a new directive issued Thursday by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, this makes the state among the most “fair and welcoming” to immigrants in the nation.

Grewal was quick to say his directivedoes not make the state a “sanctuary” for criminals and does not prevent police, prosecutors and jail officials from assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with proper requests. But it directs officials not to enter into so-called 287(g) partnerships that essentially deputize local law enforcement as immigration agents or detain immigrants for ICE without a warrant signed by a judge. Police and others will no longer even be able to ask an immigrant’s legal status in most instances.

“We are issuing new rules that draw a bright line between federal civil immigration authorities on the one hand and state and local law enforcement officers on the other,” he said. “And we’re telling our friends and our neighbors who have been living in fear, ‘You can trust state law enforcement. You can trust state prosecutors here in New Jersey.’”

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‘Productive’ Talk, but No Deal Between Trump and Cuomo on Hudson Tunnel

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Patrick McGeehan

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nov. 28, 2018

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said his meeting with President Trump to discuss the Gateway project tunnel under the Hudson River was productive. But there was no deal over funding.

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He made a video to show President Trump how a critical tunnel under the Hudson River is falling apart. He flew down to Washington to make his case in person — again.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York left Wednesday’s lunch meeting at the White House empty-handed, without a promise of funding from Mr. Trump for what is arguably the most important infrastructure project in the Northeast.

Still, Mr. Cuomo said he was optimistic, and that the president understood the urgency of building a new train tunnel and wanted to find a solution.

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The November snow crippled N.J.'s largest city. Officials don't want it to happen again.

Posted Nov 26, 2018

New Jersey's largest city was paralyzed when the mid-November storm took officials by surprise and forced the state to shut down four major highways that lead in and out of Newark.

As Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose put it: "Our heart stopped pumping and all of our arteries got clogged."

Hoping to avoid another gridlock, Mayor Ras Baraka on Monday announced a new regional task force among local and county leaders in the public and private sectors to plan for unanticipated emergencies -- whether natural disasters or terrorism-related.

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Study Shows How Newark's Lead Problem Got So Bad

NEWARK, NJ - It's "not possible" to pin down exactly when lead started dissolving from pipes and into Newark's water because of possible inconsistencies in testing, according to a city-commissioned report.

The city had CDM Smith, an Edison-based engineering firm, investigate what was causing elevated levels after Newark received its first notice of noncompliance from the state in 2017. Preliminary results from the 143-page study were received by officials last month and prompted the city to distribute lead filters.

The report mirrors what Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has been telling reporters and residents. City officials on Oct. 12 held a press conference to announce what the report had found, but the mayor was unsure when the chemical that is used to prevent lead from dissolving in pipes had stopped working. 

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How Leaves, Icicles and an Old Bridge Can Complicate Commutes

By Patrick McGeehan

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nov. 9, 2018

 

Every day this week, New Jersey Transit has heaped more frustration onto its customers by warning them that their morning trains could be delayed by “slippery rail” conditions.

To some beleaguered riders, that explanation sounded like a concocted excuse for the railroad’s continuing struggle to operate on time. A few even challenged it.

Slippery rails is, in fact, a problem and is just one of the reasons New Jersey has cited to explain the delays and disruptions that have plagued its service. Others have included “manpower shortage,” annulments, a malfunctioning Portal Bridge and the mysterious “ice patrol.” (One explanation that veteran commuters take seriously is “trespasser incident,” which they know means someone was hit by a train.)

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All eyes are on Newark as mayor insists he didn't hide lead problem from residents

Posted Nov 8, 2018

As the city of Newark faces heightened national attention over elevated lead levels in its drinking water, Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday defended the city's actions and messaging before a crush of media. 

He said it was "BS" that he deliberately misled residents. 

Responding to allegations that the city spent months downplaying the issue, Baraka said he didn't know it was a "widespread problem" until last month when outside experts found the city's water treatment wasn't working.

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MURPHY SIGNS LAW BANNING ‘GHOST GUNS’ IN LATEST EFFORT TO CONTROL FIREARMS IN NJ

COLLEEN O'DEA | NOVEMBER 9, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a prohibition on “ghost guns” yesterday.

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Moving closer to his goal of giving New Jersey the toughest gun-control laws in the nation, Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed a prohibition on “ghost guns” — firearms that are homemade, 3D printed or otherwise undetectable by security scanners.

The new law is the latest by the Murphy administration, working with the Democratic-controlled Legislature, enhancing firearms regulations in New Jersey. And it is not likely to be the last, as he and lawmakers unveiled a new bill package just last week.

“We want to be the number-one state in the nation as it relates to commonsense state gun safety laws,” Murphy declared during a signing ceremony in Trenton attended by activists from a number of gun-control organizations, “and we think there is no reason we can’t be that and still respect the Second Amendment.”

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A Trump-Fueled ‘Wipeout’ for House Republicans in Northeast

By Shane Goldmacher and Nick Corasaniti

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nov. 7, 2018

Mikie Sherrill, a Democratic candidate who captured a House seat in New Jersey that had been held by a Republican for decades, was part of a Democratic wave that swept across the Northeast.

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In New Jersey, voters slashed the number of Republicans in Congress from five down to two, and possibly only one.

In New York, Democrats declared victory in three congressional races in President Trump’s home state, ejecting the last remaining Republican from New York City.

And in the six other states in the Northeast, the lone remaining Republican congressman, Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine, was clinging to his seat on Wednesday, his fate to be decided by the second choices of third-party voters through ranked-choice voting.

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