Newark's renaissance is just around the corner, city leaders say

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on February 12, 2015

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka hosted a town hall at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Wednesday about economic development.

 

NEWARK — Newark will experience a similar economic development and population renaissance that has occurred in Jersey City and Brooklyn, city leaders said Wednesday.

"Newark is clearly next," Housing and Economic Development Director Baye Adofo-Wilson told a packed audience at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

"The city can hold hundreds of thousands (more) people...They can live their lives here."

Adofo-Wilson along with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Deputy Mayor of Employment Rahman Muhammad, M&M Development Principal Maria Yglesias, and Prudential Director of Social Investments Ommeed Sathe participated in the town hall on economic development Wednesday night.

The event comes just days after the city announced a number of new initiatives to get rid of excess land, including a Valentine's Day land sale for couples and "forgiveable loan" program for teachers and city employees.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the city has not fully recovered from the federal policies that were implemented in the wake of WWII, which he said spurred an exodus out of Newark for the suburbs.

"We still haven't recovered from that disinvestment," he said. " We have not fully come out of that completely."

But Newark has the resources to be a thriving city, from its multiple colleges to the seaport and Newark International Liberty Airport, the panelists said.

"Our problem is we have not been able to leverage those resources simultaneously," Baraka said.

Baraka said one way to spur that development is make sure there is a thriving arts scene, including potentially creating an arts district in the city.

"Arts bring cities back to life," the mayor said. "The epicenter of arts and entertainment in New Jersey is here."

Responding to a question about where the city will be in five years, Muhammad said he hoped to curb unemployment.

"I would love to see that we have more residents trained" for available jobs, he said. "And we have Newarkers working."

Yglesias said she envisioned Newark as a vibrant city.

"I believe the city has had a complex of inferiority," she said. "I want to shed that."

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