By Dhiren Shah
About two years ago, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and the Newark CEDC announced the opening of a Newark Community Storefront in the South Ward with a bang.
With good intentions and grant money, they trained new entrepreneurs to start their own business. Slowly and gradually they opened Storefronts in all five wards under the banner Newark Shoppes. The first two still have the same name as Newark Community Store Front. That first store in the South Ward had 12 entrepreneurs, but now has only three.
The East Ward Newark Shoppes has already been closed. We received two complaints about wrongful dealings by the Newark CEDC. That’s the reason I visited all five stores, including the closed store in East Ward.
Even the Central Ward spot is not doing good. The image does not look like one combined store, and there is no traffic.
The North Ward has Hispanic entrepreneurs and only three are left at that place. They are barely surviving.
The Newark CEDC, as per our first talk two years ago, got about $35,000 per entrepreneur as a grant. This is from my recollection, and may not be verbatim, but they are now not so transparent, so it is harder to find out the facts.
Karen Baldwin, owner of KayKay Jewels in the West Ward, was a businessperson beforem and her family is also in business. So, she knows how to manage and unite other cube owners in the storefront and work easily between the group. Their group kept the store in good shape, and it seemed like a walk-in business environment.
After two years, the West Ward lost about 9 business owners, but they are getting business now, as the community starts to know them.
Under the program, the first six months they received FREE rent, furniture, façade and setup. After six months, they pay reduced rent.
I would not call this program a success, as the majority of the owners went out of business. Put yourself in their shoes; what a dream they have seen, and what a nightmare they got in return. Also, having to sit for a whole day without any traffic is tougher on the new entrepreneurs.
Rather than failing at trying to sprout new entrepreneurs, those mom and pop stores that are currently out there need some boost. They are already entrepreneurs, but they do not get any help from the city or city agencies.
The Community Store fronts are: Closed - East Ward at 124 Polk Street, North Ward at 216 Bloomfield Avenue, Central Ward at 744 Broad Street, South Ward at 790 Clinton Ave., West Ward at 989 South Orange Avenue.
Mayor Baraka has announced many times and even in his mailer for the election as a success, but this is a false claim by Baraka. We have received two complaints, as they have compared being an entrepreneur living in Newark and working in New York. One was doing good in New York, but the Newark CEDC showed what turned out to be a broken dream, and she has more problems in her life now.
By Dhiren Shah
East Orange Mayor Ted Green was elected last November and took the oath of office on January 1, 2018. So far, he has maintained what he has promised to his constituents and Local Talk. Green is still easily accessible to his constituents and works with the employees like part of the family. So, I have decided to interview him before his 100 days in office on April 10, 2018.
Dhiren Shah: Welcome Mayor Green to this interview.
Ted Green: Thanks for interviewing me and always thinking about the city. We have been in office for 77 days. We are pushing hard and working hard, not just myself, but the employees and the city council. We had some snowstorms, but folks are very happy to see black tops on the streets. Those DPW workers did an outstanding job. Our police department and fire department, they joined hands with us and made sure that when folks woke up they could get around the city.
We are very eager in terms of redevelopment in the city of East Orange. I was part of the push up till now, but I can’t take all the credit for the redevelopment; there was a group of people that was consciously working on the redevelopment. Sussex Avenue was a blighted area for years, the place where I grew up at. I was able to have a role seeing that project come in, with a ground breaking coming pretty soon. We have another ground breaking on Walnut Street. All over the city you will see redevelopment, ground breakings, ribbon cuttings. We had a ribbon cutting at a restaurant today, Green Apple on Central Avenue. It gives us an opportunity to embrace businesses who want to come to city of East Orange. $700 million in private and public money is going through the city of East Orange. Our initiative is to push this even further.
DS: What are you doing to change the teen street area?
TG: Valerie has played a role in getting that jump started. Roger is the acting individual in that role. We are working with the council, we have developers now for the Greenwood Section and you will see development there, single family homes coming to that area. Although we are focused on the entire city, our main priority is that area. We feel that if we get that up and moving and develop that area, it’s an overall push throughout the city. The 4th ward and 5th ward for a long time were kind of isolated, and growing up in that section, friends I grew up with who have hung in there and stayed down there, we want to make sure that there are better living conditions and see the redevelopment blooming in the teen streets.
We are working with the city council to rename the streets instead of 17th or 18th streets. We’re going to come up with some different names. We believe that if we can change the image with the redevelopment, we can change the perception. We welcome anyone who wants to invest in the city of East Orange, want to come in with a plan, and the plan has to make sure that it coincides with what we are doing throughout the city.
DS: You are talking about the teen streets, but what about the 4th Avenue area, which is a mostly Muslim community?
TG: That is really included in the Greenwood development. All that ties in with the 4th ward, 5th ward. 4th Avenue will be a landmark also.
DS: Are you doing anything for the Ampere train station?
TG: We are going to set up a meeting with our governor and lieutenant governor. People are focusing around the transit village piece that is up by Shop-Rite. We want stops by 4th Avenue, by Main Street, the front of city hall, and the stop by Evergreen Place. We have money slated for transit village, but we are looking to get more money slated. We are here only for 77 days. We are going to look at what type of money out there. Torricelli even gave me a call and talked me how viable East Orange is going to be.
South Harrison Street is booming, with Blackstone and other developers who are investing in East Orange. Even single houses, people are investing in them. We have an auction coming up, that we are excited about. I can tell you, from day one, all of us rolled up our sleeves and started to get things done. I’m not saying we’re perfect, but people here love this city. The biggest challenge we have is trying to get major restaurants.
DS: On Main Street, are you making any façade improvements?
TG: We have a 90% occupancy rate on Central Avenue, but Main Street unfortunately is not the same. We went out to each and individual store and we are trying to bring it up to where Central Avenue is. We are trying to make sure that Main Street is one of the premier places in East Orange.
The whole thing behind Cicely Tyson performing arts school was for folks to come out, see a show, and go to Main Street and dine and eat with their families. I think after this Novus development piece goes in hand, we will see that. Even if they come from New York, they are able to eat, dine, go to a show, and guess what, the city profits from it.
DS: The main problem with the Cicely Tyson school is that they close that door on Winans Street.
TG: We always had, and we are continuing conversations with the school, school district, and the superintendent. But right now, we are not at par with main street yet. I believe that we have a partnership and always had a partnership with board of education. I don’t see no reason why they would refuse us having access of that entrance going forward. Once the Main Street corridor really blossoms, it will help businesses around there, and there will be no problem with the school opening the doors. Some of the teachers and the district can come out and eat during their lunch time.
DS: Connie Jackson told me that the crime went down by 19%. How many murders have you had in 77 days?
TG: We haven’t had a murder. I have to commend the East Orange police chief and the entire police department; they are the professionals. If there is any disturbance in the city of East Orange, they are investigating it and getting the job done.
DS: Murder, rape and assault are the main violent crimes.
TG: Yes. I tell you the truth, we’ve had some, but we found out they were not from East Orange, but from outside the city. We have addressed them.
DS: East Orange is a place where many artists were born. Are you planning to promote new artists?
TG: We already have MACFest, and that has been very successful. A lot of events took place prior to me coming in, and I look at those events and the programs that are very viable to the city. We want to enhance them. The other day, Cicely Tyson school had a jazz concert. We are embracing all those folks they are culturally based in the city. We are not pushing back on anything that’s positive.
DS: Mayor Green, I’d like to suggest having a contest between the areas for the best clean area award and we will publicize it in the newspaper, full page, with the photos of that area.
TG: We would love for Local Talk to partner with us. We have five wards, and we’ll pick groups from those wards, and give a certificate, plaque. That’s a good idea. We will work on it.
We are cleaning our city up on Earth Day, April 21st. I do believe that when your city is safe, and your city is clean, everything kind of borders around that. As I say from Day 1, I am rolling up my sleeves to help. I will be out that day. We do believe that with that initiative, when people drive through East Orange, they are seeing now. We are not there at 100% yet, but we are driving cleanliness and neatness and bringing folks together to be part of this initiative. If you live here, you love East Orange, then help us to keep East Orange clean.
DS: East Orange has very high taxes.
TG: East Orange is a bedroom community, but we are looking at it. Over the last five or four years, the council and the administration had taken a strong position. There only has been a 1.2 percent increase. The increase can come from the county, board of education, but we work really hard not to raise taxes. That’s why it is so important for all of us to bring in the tax ratables, to bring businesses to build houses. We want to relieve some of the pressure off our residents.
DS: If your ratable increases, do the taxes come down?
TG: We have to look at the budget and some of the services. Our police department, each year we have a bargaining union, and they have a certain percentage we have agreed on. Health benefits goes up, we have people who have retired. So, when we look at our budget, we have to anticipate certain things. But we look at all aspects of what we need to do.
My goal is to never increase taxes. I believe that we have relationships with state and at the county level. We’re looking to do shared service with other municipalities. We are trying to cut costs with street sweeping by getting it done in house. As a homeowner here, I feel what other people feel. Even tenants feel it because landlords have to go up on rent to meet their costs.
By Dhiren Shah
On March 7th and March 8th, a major nor’easter snowstorm handicapped the daily routine for New Jerseyans with blizzard like conditions. A few thousand people lost power. From 15” to 24” the snowstorm made life a little harder for everyone.
At this juncture, Governor Phil Murphy criticized JCP&L and other utility companies for not restoring the power in time. Coincidentally, I took the interview of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) President Joseph L. Fiordaliso, who has been an Essex County resident throughout his life. He was a native Newarker and is right now living in Livingston, and also a former mayor of the town.
Dhiren Shah: Welcome sir to this interview. What is the duties of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and Commissioners?
Joseph Fiordaliso: The Board of Public Utilities’ mission is to provide safe reliable service to the consumers and the citizens of the State of New Jersey. We regulate all investor owned board of companies. We regulate the energy companies and distribution companies like public service JCP&L, Atlantic City Electric, Rockland Electric. We also regulate some telecommunications. Also, we regulate clean energy laws for the state of New Jersey.
DS: We heard many complaints that all the public utilities companies charge extra here and there. If you call, then obviously they give you credit, but why isn’t it systematic, that the consumer doesn’t have to worry about anything?
JF: They can only charge what we have approved. Some of these charges are some of the taxes involved and benefit charges to help provide funds for clean energy benefits. They cannot charge without our permission. That part of the regulatory process.
DS: Some of the audit companies on the large bills, they audit them and if they can save money for consumer from their bill, they take 50% of the savings.
JF: If they make mistakes, obviously they have to correct it. If a particular consumer has a specific problem, they should contact the board of public utilities.
DS: All the utility companies’ billing habits is to charge more and then give so many discounts and trying to confuse customers. How can they be made to give straight billing, or at least explain in detail where any phantom costs come from?
JF: We try to make over the years, make the bill as understandable as possible. Sometimes a bill is confusing, I admit that. We work with the energy companies, so your monthly bill is self-explanatory as possible. We have strived for that. If there are specific people who have these issues, we have to know about that. I can tell you I have a little trouble reading the bill. That’s why I pay what they ask me to pay.
DS: What kind of changes will you bring to improve the quality of public service?
JF: We will continue to abide by our statutory duties, regulating the industry. I think you will see Governor Murphy’s clean energy program.
DS: The utility industry is changing. Our honorable Governor Murphy brought changes to offshore wind energy the beginning of this month. The order directs the state Board of Public Utilities to write regulations governing how utility customers will subsidize an effort to develop 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind generation along the Jersey coast by 2030. The current plan is only 1,100 megawatts, why 3,500 megawatts now?
JF: We will work towards a goal of 3,500 megawatts. The advantage is that we are providing cleaner energy. The more megawatts we have, the cleaner the energy.
DS: How many megawatts is the state of New Jersey utilizing?
JF: I understand what you are saying. We are going to replace the energy that is dirtier. We are working to minimize the effects of climate change. In 2000 we have 6,000 units of solar energy; now we have 100,000 units. So, we work towards these goals to improve the quality of life and improve the economic development to the state of New Jersey. What scientists tell us tis hat climate change is real, and that will affect the way people live. We have a moral obligation. I am not going to be around to see the dramatic effect of climate change, but my grandchildren will be. So, it is important that we do whatever we possibly can to minimize the effects of that change.
DS: Governor Murphy talked about a “green” New Jersey. What is the difference between a green NJ and Garden State?
JF: “Garden State” is what we produce by all the vegetables and fruits. A green state means reducing the amount of carbon in the air. Greener means generating energy that does not pollute the air.
DS: What about the multiple buildings that are going up? Are you going to restrict that?
JF: Well, it depends on what kind of building you are making. What kind of light bulbs you are using, what kind of energy saving programs are you using. The cheapest energy is the energy you do not use, and thus you do not pollute the air. So, energy efficiency is extremely important.
DS: When you talk about lights, LED lights create a lot of rays and waves, which might impact the quality of life in our bodies. What is your opinion about it?
JF: I don’t know that anything is proven scientifically. Sometimes, we become conservative about it without knowing the full story. If it is proven scientifically, then it has to be visited.
DS: You talked about climate change. President Trump does not believe in global warming. What is your take on Global Warming?
JF: I think climate change is real.
DS: How people can contact BPU?
JF: Our general number is (800) 624-0241. (Cable TV: 800-624-0331, 609-341-9177)
DS: Thank you very much for your time.
By Walter Elliott
NEWARK - The 2018 Mass in memory of Roberto Clemente here at Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart Jan. 13 was different from its previous editions in at least two distinct ways.
First, the memorial mass honoring the late Major League Baseball Hall of Fame baseball player and humanitarian Saturday afternoon was where Councilman Luis Quintana and State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz announced that part of New Jersey Route 21 will be renamed the Roberto Clemente Memorial Highway.
Second, there was more security around and in the basilica. "Local Talk" counted 11 Essex County Sheriff's Officers and Newark Police officers - including a sheriff's officer staying within arm’s length of Mass Celebrant Bishop Manuel A. Cruz.
"There was an interruption last year," proclaimed Quintana among an estimated 200 celebrants, "but there is no stopping us now."
Quintana, in the last half of his sentence, was referring to more than Ruiz's announcement of Newark's part of Route 21 becoming the Clemente memorial highway. The dean of the Municipal Council and former interim mayor is hoping the highway naming will be the start for future honors for the late Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder.
"We are pressing for Major League Baseball to permanently retire Clemente's No. 21 like they had with Jackie Robinson's No. 42," said Quintana. "It makes sense: 21 times two equals 42."
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig retired Robinson's "42" from future wearing by any player April 15, 1997. Selig signed the order exactly 50 years to the day when Robinson (1919-72) took his first at-bat with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
When Robinson stepped up to the Dodgers' home plate at Ebbets Field that day, the former Montreal Royal and Kansas City Monarch broke a five-decade "gentlemen's agreement" among club owners that kept non-white ball players out of the MLB.
MLB and minor league players refrain from wearing No. 42 with one exception. Since 2004, every ball player on April 15 wears that number in tribute.
"42" has a permanent place in every ball park or stadium. That number can still be viewed at soon-to-be-demolished Newark Bears-Eagles Riverfront Stadium from Broad Street.
Route 21, which runs immediately east of the stadium's back wall, is to be renamed after Clemente pending warmer weather later this year.
"We're just waiting for the weather to break," said Quintana. "The funds have been raised, the honorary street signs have been paid for and printed."
Route 21's length in Newark - 5.68 miles from U.S. 1-9 South at Newark Liberty International Airport north to the Belleville border - will be renamed in Clemente's honor. The Clemente Highway name will be co-billed with "McCarter Highway" - the latter after attorney, New Jersey Attorney General and PSE&G founder Thomas McCarter (1867-1955).
Gov. Christopher Christie (R-Mendham) signed the joint State Legislature Resolution June 30, 2016. Bills S-1462 and A-3417, sponsored by Ruiz and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (both D-Newark), were approved by their colleagues.
Quintana and Ruiz are among a group who want to nominate Clemente for a posthumous Alfred Nobel Peace Prize for the Norwegian Nobel Committee's consideration.
Such an awarding would be unprecedented for the Nobel Committee. They had considered a posthumous Peace Prize to the assassinated Mohandas Gandhi in 1948.
It and the Swedish Academy of Sciences have otherwise considered only living people as eligible in its 118 years. There were three individuals who died, the last in 2011, before awardees could notify them; they were still awarded.
EAST ORANGE - The inaugural East Orange Hall of Fame (EOHOF) held last Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017 at the Cicely Tyson Community School for the Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, NJ, attracted an overflow turnout of more than 750 people. They were enthusiastic participants in the festivities to help celebrate the induction of a class of 35 honorees.
A stellar cast of entertainment luminaries were honored including: actor John Amos, the Hip Hop Rap group Naughty by Nature, and singer Dionne Warwick who also represented her cousins, basketball star Gary Garland Houston, and singer Whitney Houston who was honored posthumously. The event celebrated the extraordinary achievements of 35 honorees in total who have achieved distinction in five different categories: Civic and Community, Arts and Letters, Sports, Enterprise and Performing Arts.
“The response to the inaugural East Orange Hall of Fame event was overwhelming. It exceeded all expectations. It was a triumphant occasion that was long overdue but will linger in the collective memory of all the 700 plus who were in attendance. On behalf of the Organizing Committee, my sincere thanks to the community for the extraordinary show of support, Judge Theodore N. Stephens, II, chairman of the EOHOF Organizing Committee stated.
“We were especially gratified to announce the donation of a state of the art field intercom system for the East Orange Campus High School varsity football program from the company PortaPhone owned by John Hooper inventor, legendary football coach at Upsala College, and honoree in our Enterprise Category. Hooper made history back in the early 1960s by inventing a way to communicate from the sidelines with coaches in the press box. His intercom system has become the industry standard - his headphones are worn by every coach and have transformed the game of football at the high school, collegiate and professional levels.
“This was a historic milestone occasion - to tell our story ‘like it really is’ and to pay tribute to the pioneering legacy of innovation and achievement - that is deeply embedded in our cultural heritage in the great City of East Orange.” Stephens said.
A full listing of honorees and a photo gallery is available for viewing at www.eohof.org or on the East Orange Hall of Fame Facebook page.