"Hold the Line": Newark's 2019 State of the City

Last Tuesday, March 12, 2019, several thousand Newarkers gathered to watch Mayor Ras Baraka’s State of the City for the year 2019, while thousands more listened or watched at home. Unlike it’s better known cousin, the State of the Union, which is given live before an audience of elected individuals and their invited guests in the grand marble of the Capitol, the State of the City is given publicly to an audience of residents of the City of Newark in the city’s largest performing arts venue. Also, unlike its federal cousin, the State of the City included not only a speech by the chief executive of this city, but performances by Newarkers and video testimonials on what’s going on here in our city. The entire program included: an introduction and welcome by a young Newarker; an invocation by a member of the clergy; a rendition of the United States national anthem by what seemed to be the youngest singer ever; a singing and interpretative dance of the classic Lift Every Voice and SIng; a poem; a video entitled “We Are Newark”; a speech by the mayor; and, finally, a closing benediction by another member of the clergy. The entire presentation clocked at over two hours.

By far, the crux of the State of the City was the speech given by Mayor Baraka. He began with an all-too-prophetic quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., admonishing us that “[h]uman progress never rolls on an inevitability.” He then shares his personal narrative of how and why he became mayor (something that would become a recurring theme throughout the speech). He migrated from topic to topic, beginning each section with a video testimonial. The sections could be broadly described as: Economic Development; Jobs; Education; Youth Leadership; Public Safety; and Quality of Life. He ended with an enthusiastic and climactic exhortation to the crowd to “Hold the Line.”


Halashon Sianipar— Halashon is a Newark resident, engineer, and former Newark Public School math teacher. He holds a BS in computer science and MAT in math. Currently, he is a board member of the Urban Cooperative Enterprise Legal Center and a member of NJ Communities United. He is dedicated to creating opportunities for people to express themselves and has written several articles on Newark.

Articles & Background:

  • A YouTube video of the State of the City presentation: click here

  • A transcript of the speech as published by the Mayor’s Office: click here

  • Halashon’s author page on Brick City Live, with links to his pieces Dear Ras Baraka and Dear Cami Anderson: click here

"Alexa, Is Amazon Coming to Newark?": Amazon's Second HQ and Courting Businesses to Newark

A few days ago, I asked my brother to do me a favor. I asked him to pose a question to his Amazon Echo. He asked, “Hey, Alexa, is Amazon coming to Newark, New Jersey?” This was her dulcet-toned response:

Amazon selected Arlington, Virginia as the location for its second headquarters. The company will invest more than $2.5 billion to create more than 25,000 jobs. In addition, Amazon selected Nashville for a new “center of excellence” for its operations business which will create more than 5,000 jobs. Amazon will also continue to grow and hire across its 17 corporate offices and tech hobs across the U.S. and Canada.

Not quite the answer I was looking for. What was missing from that response was the fate of Amazon’s bid to open a second headquarters in New York City. Last week, in a very subdued press release, Amazon announced that it would no longer pursue the construction of the second headquarters in New York City. All of this came at the end of a year long courtship between Amazon and several cities and states, including Newark and New Jersey which submitted a joint bid, where cities competed to vie for Amazon’s attention with tax incentives and, in some cases, colorful video presentations. Immediately after Amazon’s announcement about New York, almost every media outlet offered its own autopsy of the situation. Some said the push to prevent Amazon from establishing the new HQ there arose from a groundswell of grassroots activism, primarily from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and State Senator Michael Gianaris, specifically decrying the special tax incentives offered to Amazon, its anti-union stance, and its relationship with ICE, among other things. Others argue that these were merely the loudest voices in the room and didn’t represent the views of the actual New Yorkers on the ground, which some polls suggested were in favor of Amazon coming. Either way, within a few days, Mayor Baraka published a piece (not surprisingly) in the Washington Post seeming to say that the administration wanted Newark to be in contention for the second HQ offered to Amazon. Its unclear whether Amazon is still searching to place this HQ, after its experience within New York.


Jorge Santos—Jorge is the Vice President for Economic Development Policy at Newark Community Economic Development Corporation. Jorge has worked in a variety of government offices and political campaigns including the Office of the Governor, the legislature, federal, state and local campaigns. At NCEDC, he focuses on the Riverfront Park expansion project, Newark Fiber and attracting real estate and business development to the city. Jorge attended The Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy at Rutgers University where he received dual master's degrees in Public Policy and City & Regional Planning. He has held fellowships with the Eagleton Institute of Politics, New Leaders Council and currently Leadership Newark. 

Rory MacQueen—Rory is a software engineer who currently works Uber. Prior to his current role, Rory worked at a number of startups in San Francisco and abroad in Brazil. He has lived in NYC for over a year and takes a keen interest in the intersection between politics and technology.

Christian Dean Smith—Christian is a technical problem-solver at Impact in NYC. Originally from Newark, Christian spent years in product management and sales engineering in Seattle & Silicon Valley.  He is passionate about music, education, and uplifting the human voice.  Christian is an alumnus of Stanford University and a Newark Wight Foundation Scholar.

Articles & Background:

  • An article by Matt Yglesias explaining the downsides of Amazon’s HQ bidding process: click here

  • An article by guest, Christian Smith, on the “Amazon Sweepstakes”: click here

  • Mayor Ras Baraka’s Article in the Washington Post: click here

  • The official website of Newark’s Amazon bid: click here

  • An article arguing why Newark was the “socially responsible” choice for Amazon: click here

  • An article detailing the six sites in Newark that would host the HQ: click here

  • An article explaining why Amazon pulled out of New York: click here

"12 Stories High and Developing Fast": MX3 and a Developing Ironbound

In October of 2017, the Newark City Council adopted an ordinance amending the Newark Zoning and Land Use Regulations, establishing a new type of zone within the City’s Master Plan known as MX-3. This new area, located right outside of Penn Station in the Ironbound, would not allow for buildings of up to 20 stories in height, up from the previous restriction of 8 stories. The change was not without controversy. Many people and groups showed up to the council meetings to protest and make their opposition to the change known. One group of residents went so far as to file a lawsuit against the City Council, saying that it violated the City’s Master Plan rules as well as notice requirements under state law. A state judge ruled in favor of the residents on the lack of notice. A few weeks ago on January 9, 2019, the City Council revisited the issue and voted in favor of creating the zone with higher height restrictions.


Lillian Ribeiro—Lillian is an activist, artist, and community organizer. Born and raised in Ironbound Newark, with a long history of fighting for social justice with local national grassroots and community organizations. She has been fighting MX3 for over a year with residents of her neighborhood and the Ironbound Community Corporation and was the lead organizer of “Newark at the Intersections: Who is the Renaissance for?,” a curated art exhibition including film documentaries and performances throughout the Newark community, summer and fall of 2017 at LIPS with co-curate Daniel Joseph and other Newark artists.

Lisa Scorsolini—Lisa is a founding member of PLANewark and currently serves as its Treasurer. She is a practicing municipal attorney and has been a resident of the Ironbound since 2004.

Drew Curtis—Drew is with the Ironbound Community Corporation, which a 50-year old, community-based organization delivering early childhood education and youth development programs, family services, and workforce development programs, as well as environmental justice and community development initiatives, in line with its stated principles of justice and equality.

Articles & Background:

  • A video article from NJTV documenting the January 9, 2019 City Council Vote: click here

  • Two stark videos by Myles Zhang of what the Ironbound would like under the proposed height restrictions: click here & click here

  • An article from TapIntoNewark describing the litigation between the residents and the City over MX3: click here

  • An article from BrickCityLive describing the lead up to the December 11, 2018 City Council meeting: click here

  • A city generated map outlining the current zoning restrictions: click here

  • The complaint and the summary judgment order from the PLANewark v. Newark Municipal Council litigation: click here for complaint & click here for summary judgment

End Quote:

“A man in himself is a city, beginning, seeking, achieving and concluding his life in ways which the various aspects of a city may embody.” William Carlos Williams, Paterson

Podcast also available at Newark.FM