NEWARK, NJ — The City Council on Tuesday authorized the selling of city-owned land for development of headquarters for Bronze Shields of Newark.
The nonprofit is relocating to the South Ward from 43 William St., where the area is undergoing redevelopment.
Bronze Shields of Newark consists of African American police officers within the Newark Police Department. The group celebrates its role as protectors of liberty and justice for more than 60 years.
“We knew it would be a home run for everyone,” said Levi Holmes, president of Bronze Shields of Newark and retired police lieutenant. “It’s so beautiful because that area is very challenging for the city with a lot of crime. Our presence is going to totally revolutionize the area.”
After the closing process, the headquarters will be built in Newark’s South Ward on a vacant lot at 23-27, 29-31, 33 and 35 Wright St. Bronze Shields of Newark will pay the city $2 per square foot of land, though city officials expect the nonprofits’ positive impact will far outweigh the minimal financial gains.
The 6,000 square-foot headquarters plan to feature an outdoor picnic area with a sound stage. Holmes said the new HQ will host turkey drives, toy drives and community events such as movies in the park. Newark Police Explorers Post 2808 and Boy Scout troops will operate out of the space, as well as continued police recruitment.
Holmes said the process has taken four years since the idea’s inception.
“This is a great partnership for the city,” said Allison Ladd, acting director of Newark Economic and Housing Development. “The work that Bronze Shields does is also a partnership that they do nationally as an organization.”
“There will also be an element of community policing that will be involved, as well as bringing fellowship and community events to the neighborhood, to a part of the city in which we need more eyes on the street,” Ladd said.
Councilman-at-large Carlos Gonzalez argued for consistency in disposing of city-owned property. While he approves of Bronze Shields and the property sale, he supports deep restrictions when selling city-owned property for a few dollars per square foot.
Council members spoke in support of the headquarters, agreeing the nonprofits’ presence will enhance the neighborhood.
Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver said vacant lots continue to cause crime in the South Ward, and the new headquarters will offer a commitment to the community in providing the area its necessary support.
“This is exactly what we should be doing in our city; building up nonprofits who are doing work in our city everyday,” McIver said.
East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador suggested beginning the process of building a “mini precinct” in the neighborhood between the third precinct and the East Ward and fifth precinct and the South Ward as a measure to combat crime. According to Amador, residents refer to the area as “no man’s land” during community meetings.
North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. said he is hopeful the Hispanic Law Enforcement Society will be afforded a similar opportunity with city-owned property.