N.J. legislators, civil rights leaders call for task force on reparations over slavery

Posted Feb 26, 2021

New Jersey legislators, including several members of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, are once again calling for the passage of a bill (S322/A711) that would create a task force to explore reparations over slavery.

In a Zoom meeting, attended Thursday by several prominent religious leaders and heads of statewide civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the New Jersey Institute For Social Justice, legislators called for the formation of a reparations task force, which they said is necessary and long overdue to address systemic racism.

“There’s not enough money that can be given to us that will make us whole. However, this is a start to look at everything that has been done to our ancestors,” said Rep. Angela McKnight (D-Hudson).

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This Newark school building was shuttered in 2012. Now, it’s becoming a homeless shelter.

Posted Feb 25, 2021

A Newark school building that was sold around 2017 when the district was under state control will be turned into a 166-bed homeless shelter that will operate year-round, city officials announced Thursday.

Miller Street Elementary School closed in 2012, but now officials expect the building to become transitional housing for men, women and families by September. The shelter will feature a commercial kitchen and drop-in center for people to use individual bathrooms, showers, laundry, phones and televisions.

“The drop-in center will serve as an opportunity for case managers to engage our shelter-averse population, build relationships and take the steps to build the trust that is necessary to engage them into services,” said Newark Homelessness Czar Sakinah Hoyte.

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Newark Working Kitchens Receives $2M Award to Continue Operations

NEWARK, NJ — A Newark-based free meal delivery service was awarded $2 million on Thursday to continue its efforts to assist the city’s low-income residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Newark Working Kitchens, an organization launched by Audible in 2020 amidst the pandemic, partners with local restaurants and cooks offering nutritious meals for low-income seniors, families and homeless residents. The organization was awarded $2 million by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (NJEDA) Sustain and Serve NJ Program to help local restaurants continue their operations. Upon announcement of the funds, the organization said it also surpassed the 750,000 meals served-mark to the area’s residents in need. 

“Newark Working Kitchens continues to prove itself as a vital response model for aiding the Newark communities most affected by COVID-19,” Don Katz, Audible founder and executive chairman, said in a statement. “New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority’s generous support will help Newark Working Kitchens expand its impactful reach to communities across the state.

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They warned NJ needed to borrow billions. Now there’s a booming surplus. What happened?


NJ Spotlight News

They warned “winter is coming” and said then-President Donald Trump’s administration deserved “shame” for not sending New Jersey more robust federal aid.

Democrats who control both houses of the state Legislature last year said they needed an emergency borrowing issue — bypassing the constitutional mandate for voter approval — as a “last resort” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goal: address what Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration was calling a “historic fiscal crisis.”

But now the state’s fortunes are nowhere near as dire as predicted. A revenue collapse that at one point was being forecast by Murphy to be on par with the Great Depression has not fully materialized.

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COVID infection rates are down in 7 N.J. counties, offering hope that nursing home may resume visits

Posted Feb 24, 2021

Infection rates for coronavirus are down in seven counties in Central and South Jersey, a promising sign that may lead to the resumption of nursing home visits, but only if the facilities can show they have been COVID-free for two weeks, state officials said Wednesday.

COVID activity has declined from high to “moderate” levels in Hunterdon, Mercer and Somerset counties in the central-west region of the state, and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester counties in southwest New Jersey, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced Wednesday.

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Report Shows Increase in Willingness Among Voters to take COVID Vaccine

Rev. Pamela Jones of Liberating Word Ministries receives a COVID vaccine does on Feb. 17 at the Department of Health and Community Wellness in Newark.


NEWARK, NJ — As Newark officials increase efforts to roll out vaccines into the city’s underserved communities, a new poll found that more New Jersey voters were willing to receive the vaccine with a notable gain among Hispanic voters. 

The survey, conducted by Change Research and commissioned by Newark-based non-profit Project Ready, interviewed more than 900 people and found that the number of voters willing to be vaccinated increased from 60% in November 2020 to 71% in the most recent poll. One of the largest gains since the November tally came from Hispanic voters as well whose willingness to receive the vaccine increased from 55% to 77%. 

“While it’s encouraging to see acceptance of the vaccine increase, we clearly have more work to do to ensure that the distribution is equitable,” Project Ready Executive Director Shennell McCloud said in a statement. “We encourage state leaders to double-down on efforts to engage communities of color when it comes to the vaccine.”

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Murphy on early voting: ‘I’ll take anything’

By Nikita BiryukovFebruary 24 2021

New Jersey Globe

Gov. Phil Murphy. 


Gov. Phil Murphy is sticking by an early voting bill moving its way through the legislature despite it providing for significantly fewer days for residents to cast their ballots ahead of an election than he would prefer.

“Without getting into the specifics of early voting, and I mean this not facetiously — I’ll take anything,” Murphy said at Wednesday’s virus briefing. “I think anything early is what the doctor ordered.”

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How New Jersey Averted a Pandemic Financial Calamity


Feb. 23, 2021

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey released a $44.8 billion budget on Tuesday that shows better-than-expected revenue projections.Credit...


It has been five months since New Jersey officials issued warnings about a coronavirus-related financial calamity. The dire outlook contributed to lawmakers’ decisions to increase taxes on income over $1 million and to become one of the first states to borrow billions to cover operating costs.

But the doomsday forecast has since brightened considerably, officials said, enabling the Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, to unveil a $44.8 billion spending plan on Tuesday that calls for no new taxes, few cuts and tackles head-on a chronic problem — the state’s underfunded pension program — for the first time in 25 years.

The governor also said there would be no increase in New Jersey Transit fares.

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N.J. attorney general orders end to weed arrests, prosecutions now that state has legalized marijuana

Posted Feb 23, 2021

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday announced he’s told law enforcement to end arrests for minor weed crimes and to drop pending cases immediately.

That word was sent to law enforcement officials Monday night after Gov. Phil Murphy signed three marijuana reform laws. One of those decriminalizes possession of up to six ounces of marijuana.

Grewal’s order falls in line with the decriminalization law.

It calls for prosecutors to drop all pending cases for possession of marijuana and hashish, selling less than one ounce, having paraphernalia, possessing marijuana in a vehicle, being under the influence its influence or failing to dispose of it.

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Plan for new N.Y. Penn Station would allow for more trains from N.J.

Posted Feb 22, 2021

A grand plan to build an annex south of New York’s Penn Station to create more track and platform space for NJ Transit commuters could be reality by 2028, draft plans said. But it will come at the price of building skyscrapers, some up to 400 feet high, in the neighborhood surrounding the station.

The draft plans for redeveloping the much-maligned subterranean station, building an addition to it and redeveloping the midtown Manhattan neighborhood around it were announced by the Empire State Development Corporation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday.

A proposed addition south of Penn Station would have nine additional tracks and five new platforms to accommodate NJ Transit trains, and be in operation in 2028, the same time it predicts new Gateway Hudson River tunnels would be completed, the report said.

But some experts reiterated their original criticisms that the addition would park NJ Transit trains in a dead end station that’s not as flexible as the current Penn Station track layout.

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