Ask the Mayor

Ask the Mayor

Mayor Ras Baraka answers questions about living and working in Newark.

Jessica Baker
@cjbaker91  

Does Mayor Baraka really believe that the working wage (including minimum wage) is enough for an original Newarker to afford these new lofts and buildings? And I don’t mean the lottery rent, I’m talking market price.

Mayor Baraka: There are Newarkers who can afford market rent. Everybody in Newark does not work below the minimum wage. About 30% of the city lives below the poverty line but our goal is to have an integrated community. We don’t want to concentrate poverty in one area and wealth in another. So we work to have units that are for -people who make more money and units for people who make less money.

Melissa Lyte
@mylisa35  

How do I as a Newark resident get a foot in at companies like Audible so I can live and work in Newark instead of commuting to the city?

Mayor Baraka: Go to the Newark 2020 website, newark2020.com, and click the button that’s for residents. Be patient because there are still some things we are trying to work out. But the Newark 2020 website has a direct link to the companies and corporations that are in the city. That’s a good start.

Debbie Sampson   

How can I get a job cleaning up Newark streets?

Mayor Baraka: You can get a job down at the Newark Downtown District (downtownnewark.com) or go to any of the other special improvement districts. There is the Bergen-Lyons-Clinton Special Improvement District, there is a West Ward improvement district (www.partnershipwestinc.org) on South Orange Avenue and there are several other improvement districts that you can work for -privately to help clean up Newark. And, of course, you can apply for a sanitation job (newarknj.gov/jobs).

Ask the Mayor – Spring 2018

Ask the Mayor – Spring 2018

Mayor Ras Baraka answers questions about youth issues.

How do you personally get involved with youth in the city?
—Elizabeth, 54

Once a month, we hold a Leadership Academy where I personally meet with a group of young people to discuss a wide range of important issues, including what they can do to make a difference. I established the Youth Ambassadors and the Newark Youth Office in City Hall to have a place devoted to young people and to encourage their participation in the life of our city.

What is being done to improve youth unemployment?
—Tiffany, 23

We have expanded our summer youth jobs program to over 3,000 participants. The program is now a unique mixture of education, workforce development and public safety. It’s no longer about just a paycheck.  The program offers pathways to success through advanced academics, high quality placements that match personal interests, financial literacy, and college and career readiness.

What can the city do to help our young people turn away from crime and stay in school?
—Mary, 63

The Newark Street Academy was created to help our young people complete their high school education and gain employment.  The Academy gives participants an alternative to crime and connects them to their community through participation in neighborhood improvement initiatives.

Ask the Mayor – Winter 2017/18

Ask the Mayor – Winter 2017/18

As we look to 2018, we wanted to know from Mayor Ras Baraka what innovation should we expect to see in Newark for the new year.

What innovative ways are you addressing homelessness?

As winter comes to Newark, we recognize that we have a serious homeless population in our city, and that these residents—including veterans, victims of the foreclosure crisis, and the mentally ill—must receive our support.

We are planning to open and operate a city-run homeless shelter, with the help of Catholic Charities, to provide short-term solutions and assistance. For the longer term, we are working toward providing transitional housing built from converted shipping containers. These transitional accommodations will be completely off the grid, having their own water and electrical systems.

What’s new in the pipeline for affordable housing?

We are creating housing cooperatives run by residents. They will include artist and commercial cooperatives, and “infill” housing, which takes empty lots and small, open plots of land and turns them into housing. These projects will create new homes, end urban blight, and restore empty lots to the tax rolls.

What are you planning to do about the lesser known neighborhoods?

Recognizing that our city’s economic success depends not only on its downtown but also on its neighborhoods and their small businesses and families, we are moving to strengthen the economic power of the major commercial corridors in our neighborhoods. We are concentrating development on South Orange Avenue, Clinton Avenue, Bergen Street, Central Avenue, and Bloomfield Avenue, using eminent domain* to remove blighted and empty buildings and turn them into useful housing and productive businesses that will hire Newark residents.

This is development in and for our neighborhoods. It strengthens the lives and prosperity of Newark residents, attracts investment to our city, and continues to define Newark as the pioneer and leader in urban change.

*Eminent domain refers to the power of a state or the federal government to take private property for public use.

Ask the Mayor – Summer 2017

Ask the Mayor – Summer 2017

In line with our ‘Dine Out’ theme, we decided to ask Mayor Ras Baraka his views on food.

We’ve heard that you’re a fan of juicing. What’s your favorite juice concoction?

My favorite juice smoothie is called the “Mayor’s Special” and it was created by the 4 Seasons Café on West Market Street. It consists of spinach, mango, banana, pineapple, whey protein and peanut butter. Try it some time!

Are there any foods you limit or avoid in your own diet?

I do not consume sodas or red meats in my diet. I eat mostly seafood and vegetables.

What is the City of Newark doing to promote healthy eating among its residents?

We have moved to address the slim grocery choices in Newark by encouraging urban farming, both as a business and a community-based activity, and now by proudly hosting the world’s largest vertical indoor farm, AeroFarm. We have welcomed health-oriented grocers like Whole Foods to our downtown, and most importantly, we’ve recognized the importance of public health and made it a safety issue. We have tasked our re-named Department of Health and Community Wellness with leading the charge in the effort to get our residents to replace sugary snacks and fried foods with affordable fruit snacks and baked foods. We will win the struggle to slim Newark’s waistline and create a healthier city for all.

Ask the Mayor

Ask the Mayor

Is Newark the new Brooklyn?

Newark is not Brooklyn. The market forced Brooklyn to become one of the most expensive counties in the country. The development in Newark is being done very differently. It’s very deliberate. And we have local residents in mind.

We are pushing an inclusionary zoning ordinance that requires developers to have affordable units in all of their residential construction. Take the Hahne & Co. project, for example. The [residential] development in that building has a 40% affordability clause in it. We’re not displacing people. So it’s really not accurate to say that we’re gentrifying these neighborhoods. We’re going to make a better Newark for the residents of this city.

 

What do you say to those who are skeptical?

You can’t just be against development and not for the betterment of the conditions we’ve been living in. We’re being very creative about how we’re making these things happen and we need you to be involved. We need you to take part in making this happen, not be cynical about it on social media.

Many of us have the privilege of going shopping and to restaurants in South Orange, Livingston or New York City—while the majority of Newark residents have to go to overpriced, poor quality establishments. We can no longer tolerate that. We have to create better places to shop and to live, better opportunities for work. And that’s what we’re doing.

 

How is development  going to benefit low-income residents?

We’re creating cooperatives in the city of Newark, getting direct sales from the federal government so people are able to buy homes at low rates. We’re continuing to make Newark property available to Newark residents at low prices and get residents the financing they need. And we’re working with corporations to hire more Newark residents, get them to invest in Newark businesses, and get their employees to live in Newark.

Newark residents deserve great stores and restaurants. They deserve to have a nightlife. They deserve places to live that aren’t rat-infested, or where the ceiling isn’t falling in, or that doesn’t contain lead and asbestos. And we’re going to fight for them to get these things.

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