Motorcycle crackdown, green jobs: 5 Newark Town Hall takeaways

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on May 12, 2015

NEWARK — Mayor Ras Baraka addressed a crowd of more than 100 in the North Ward Monday night to address public safety, economic development, and other issues at the city's latest Town Hall meeting.

The mayor was accompanied by North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. and other city officials at First Avenue Elementary School, where he shared news on a number of initiatives and strategy shifts he hopes will surface in the city in the weeks and months to come.

The event was organized and hosted by 28th Legislative District Leader Steve Sacco.

Here are 5 of the most important things we learned at the meeting:

1. The city's police department is moving forward with plans to open a mini-precinct in the North Ward.

The precinct would be located on Bloomfield Avenue, and would be a boon to Baraka's plans to increase police visibility and contact with citizens across the city.

The department added a new precinct in the Central Ward last year.

2. City officials are cracking down on unlicensed motorcycles and ATVs that have drawn noise and traffic complaints from many residents.

Baraka said the ATVs and small motorcycles — "crotch rockets," as one speaker at the Town Hall called them — are being towed by police who find them parked and unoccupied. Because a license is not required for the vehicles, they often go unclaimed, allowing the city to keep them.

The mayor also said the ATVs and motorcycles were "instrumental" in activity following a motorcycle rally on Sunday that led to the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy.

3. The site of the former Boys & Girls Club on Broadway is set to become a mixed use development that will include both 45 units of market-rate housing and retail space.

Ramos said the site, which has been vacant since the non-profit left, benefited from a tax abatement approved by the state Economic Development Authority. A new 7-Eleven location is also on its way to a nearby block of Broadway, he added.

4. The city is developing strategies to attract environmentally friendly manufacturing businesses to add jobs and tax dollars to the area.

Baraka said economic development officials recently attended a conference to help brainstorm ideas on how to make use of the city's industrial assets, including its port, in accordance with a long-term "sustainability plan" developed under Cory Booker's administration. A number of ordinances to help advance the plans are also in the works.

"We have the best infrastructure in this region for manufacturing," Baraka said.

5. Baraka hopes to expand his "Model Neighborhood" initiative to new parts of the city in the near future.

Launched in November, the program is currently operating in a 20-block section in the lower West Ward and a 38-block area around the South Ward locale known as Clinton Hill.

The initiative is premised on directing police, code enforcement and other resources normally spread across the city on particular troubled neighborhoods in hopes of improving residents' health, employment prospects and overall quality of life.

The mayor said the expansion depends largely on identifying funding to bring it to the North, East and Central Wards.

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