Newark takes center stage at star-studded NYC film festival

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for
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on April 18, 2016

Ras Baraka appears in this shot from "Newark On The Rise", a short documentary produced by Prudential that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City Sunday night.


NEW YORK CITY – This year's Tribeca Film Festival in lower Manhttan attracted Hollywood mainstays like Julianne Moore, Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman.

But for more than an hour Sunday evening, it was the Big Apple's often overlooked neighbor to the west that took center stage.

A short documentary, "Newark On The Rise", was shown to a full house in a theater at the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho as part of the festival. Funded by Prudential, it showcased Mayor Ras Baraka and his efforts to guide the city out of decades and poverty and blight into a new age.

A panel discussion featuring Baraka, Prudential Vice President of Impact Investments, Ommeed Sathé and New Jersey development magnate Ron Beit followed the showing, with each discussing Newark and its recent success in attracting investors.

"If you come to Newark you can feel that it's different, that people actually believe collectively," said Baraka. "You can see visibly these things taking place. So it kind of reinforces people's sentiment."

While many of the projects touted by the panel – a downtown Whole Foods building, the Teachers' Village development on Halsey Street, the world's largest vertical farm in the Ironbound – will be familiar to locals, a crowd of largely new faces looked on intently as New York Times reporter David Gelles peppered the group with questions.

Baraka acknowledged that crime and outside perceptions about the city's safety remained an obstacle, but stressed that the city was succeeding in spite of any biases.

He also addressed fears about gentrification pushing longtime residents out of the city, saying Newark had plenty of space to fit new residents without triggering displacement, and that newly introduced job training programs and affordable housing requirements would help ensure any new prosperity extended to all.

"That's always important for me that we make sure the folks that have been in the city 40, 50 years actually benefit from the renaissance that takes place," he said.

Beit attributed much of the city's recent success with developers to its access to major transportation networks and thousands of new college graduates each year, presenting an appealing new market for those priced out of saturated Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City.

"We have this historic street grid, we have this historic streetscape," he said. "When we're done with it, it's going to be very hard to compete."

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