Blizzard brings out the best in some Newark neighborhoods

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on January 29, 2016

A North ward street near the Branch Brook Park station is nearly spotless after NJ Transit hired contractors to clear away the snow. The transportation agency also cleared surrounding streets for residents.


This is not a Newark gripe session, as the city continues to clear snow from its streets and works to regain citizen confidence.

While many who live in Newark have more of the same to say – and rightfully so – the following entry is about what residents and homeowners elected to do, and what many have always done, when blizzard-like snow brings life to a halt.

They take action, with many getting help from neighbors and good Samaritans.

On Cedar Avenue, the men were able to get Bobcat machinery to plow their street, according to a Facebook post.

Twenty residents of Holland Street, men and women alike, shoveled their street, the parking lot of a townhouse complex and Blum Street – working as late as 10 p.m. Tuesday.

"They dug the street by hand until the city came,'' said Emma Walden, a resident of Corinthian Homes. "They just pulled together.''

Crystal Hayes thanks the rescue squad of Newark's fire department for plowing its way to her doorstep on Mount Pleasant Avenue Sunday night, but she should pat herself on the back, too.

She's asthmatic and ran out of medication about 9:45 a.m. Sunday. Hayes, however, a certified nursing assistant, used a remedy she learned during her training to help her breathe until help could arrive.

"I got a brown paper bag, and was exhaling and inhaling in the bag,'' Hayes said. "My chest was hurting, but I kept saying 'I can make it, 'I can make it.' ''

She did that until 7:15 p.m., when the fire department knocked on her door. She had called the city's response number that was posted on Facebook earlier, but no one could get to her until then. By nightfall, her breathing sounded like a whistle blowing from a kettle. But the hissing sound was silenced when the rescue squad members gave her oxygen.

Hayes said the squad kept her calm and called EMTs to take her to St. Michael's Medical Center.

"Now, I'm okay,'' she said.

Let's give a big up to Alyce West, of East Orange, for getting food to a Newark mother of three young children. Phylicia Jean, whose kids are 5, 3 and 1, was running low on supplies and reached out to a Newark church member for help on Monday. That person called West, who is also a volunteer for the East Orange Office of Emergency Management.

West traveled an hour – on two buses – from her East Orange home on Dodd Street to get to a food pantry across town on North Arlington Avenue. She and the church member who originally contacted her then got in a car and delivered the food to Jean, who lives on Broad Street near Broadway.

What Jean didn't expect was for West to return on Wednesday with additional food.

"I wasn't expecting it at all,'' Jean said. "It helped out a lot.''

 In the North Ward, kindness played out with NJ Transit getting involved to clear streets for its buses – and the residents – near the Branch Brook Park station. It's so clean over there it doesn't even look as if snow had fallen.

Hector Corchado, a former Newark councilman, lives in the area and said residents on Ropes Place, and North Fifth and Anthony streets, tried to pitch in as plow trucks from NJ Transit worked to clear the snow. When that didn't quite work as a solution – the situation was made worse by a water leak – Corchado said NJ Transit returned Monday morning and stayed all day.

Employees of the transportation agency went door to door first, getting residents to move their cars.

"Much to our disbelief, the trucks began to arrive early, around 7 a.m.," Corchado said."They cleaned the sidewalk and everything.''

The good folks on Tuxedo Parkway fired up their snow blowers to clean up the sidewalks and driveways, because pitching in is second nature to them. That's just what they do.

"It's something I don't think about,'' Henry Hester said."I've been doing this for as long as I've been here."

That's 30 years worth of winters.

Paul Valerius, a minister at Central Assembly Church of God in Newark, didn't know how parents were going to drop off their children at the church's preschool. He tossed out a plea for help on Facebook and Jamie Murray of Livingston drove in with a plow truck.

"It's no a big deal,'' said Murray, who owns a construction company. "Everybody has to do their part.''

Such as The GEO Group, a Newark re-entry center, which called Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins and asked how it could help. She said the center's clients shoveled several Newark streets. "They didn't have to do that,'' she said.

Nor did a college student on Ashley Lane, who refused to take money from senior citizens after he shoveled snow on that street.

On that note, Newark is still digging out.

In his video blog this week, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the city would not stop until the job was done. 

"I know there's a lot of frustration and anger, lots of tension,'' he said. "People think that we're not going to get to them, but I guarantee you, we're going to get to every block and every individual. We will not leave anybody behind.''

And that's what residents are counting on, even as they continue to help each other.

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