Essex County News

Fifty Years After Newark Burned, Gates Tell Story of Changing Landscape

0e0136d477156918f0f6_Gates-1.jpg
Roll down gates, seen all over Newark since the 1967 unrest, could soon be a relic of a troubled past as the city continues to transform. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
38ea6dcb0d3b1c3cc17e_Gates-2.jpg
Across the street from the recently-built Teachers Village project in downtown Newark, the brand-new Tonnie's Minis bakery has no roll down gates. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
8a9d606cbf1f0644dcd1_Gates-3.jpg
Tonnie Rozier, 47, the owner of Tonnie's Minis. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
8aeb905079a44a9c46cb_Gates-4.jpg
Dan Phillips, Jr., owner of Dan's Hats and Caps on Branford Place in downtown Newark, talks business with customer and Newark resident Rasheed Mason. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
471bbc940d928c197948_Gates-6.jpg
Bill Scully, head bartender at McGovern's Tavern in downtown Newark, calls working in the city for 50 years "an act of faith." Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
99eb0e892872404bb632_Gates5.jpg
A picture of McGovern's Tavern taken in 1964, three years before the Newark riots. The newly remodeled McGovern's will include wide open windows once again. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
0e0136d477156918f0f6_Gates-1.jpg

NEWARK, NJ - Two downtown corners, one block apart, offer a dramatic example of how much Newark has changed in 50 years.

On the corner of Halsey Street and Branford Place are two restaurants and two clothing stores, all of which have one thing in common: corrugated metal shutters, pulled down every evening after closing time. 

To mark the 50th Anniversary of the Newark riots, TAPinto Newark has written a four-part series looking at the riot and its impact on the city.

Sign Up for E-News

Part I: Witnesses to history reflect on Newark riots 50 years later

Part II: Son of only Newark firefighter killed in 1967 riots remembers tragedy

The gates were installed sometime after the civil upheaval in July 1967 that led to widespread looting of downtown stores and prompted shopkeepers – at least those that stayed – to adopt a bunker mentality.

One block south near the corner of Halsey and Maiden Lane, the newly opened Tonnie’s Minis bakery in the recently completed Teachers Village looks more like a storefront in suburban Essex County, with a sign touting "world famous cupcakes." There are no gates to cover the expansive plate-glass windows.

More than just a visual contrast, the two scenes offer evidence that Newark has finally emerged from the pall cast over the city after the riot that began on July 12, 1967 and lasted for five days.

During the riot, looters smashed windows of shops throughout downtown and walked off with inventory – an image seared into memory from old black and white photos. The roll down gates that began appearing on stores gave the city a forlorn feel after hours.

But the newer developments that have gone up in the last few years – from Teachers Village, to Prudential’s new office tower to the rehabilitation of the former Hahne & Co. building that sat vacant for nearly 30 years – feature wide open windows that suggest a new confidence in the city.

“There is positive psychic baggage here from memories people have about how Newark used to be, such as the memories of the Hahne’s building – it’s very powerful. Legacy strengths and new energy are coming together,” said Ommeed Sathe, 39, vice president and head of impact investments at Prudential Financial, one of the anchor institutions in the city that did not flee Newark after 1967.

“Optimism and confidence become a self-fulfilling cycle. And no gates helps lead to a feeling of safety and contentment,” Sathe said.

Roland Anglin, who spent 25 years in Newark, including as senior advisor to the chancellor and director of the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University-Newark, said that the changes in Newark are part of a national trend.

“The new architecture in cities such as Newark reflect a newly open, post-industrial landscape that helps people look outside a formerly industrial, closed, windowless world,” said Anglin, who was recently appointed the dean of Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.

“People are coming back to the cities, which means that we’re at the front end of a shift in population back to Newark,” Anglin said.

In many parts of downtown, the new and the old Newark sit side by side, each a striking reminder of the city’s not-so-distant past and emerging future.

Near Branford on a recent weekend, a sharply dressed man in a gray suit and red bowtie handed out copies of The Final Call, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam, to passersby. Just down from the corner, the Memories of Soul music store blasted the Isley Brothers out into the streets. 

“I would like the gates to be gone, but for my store, not yet,” said Dan Phillips 2nd, 48, the owner of Dan’s Hats and Caps, a haberdashery that has been a fixture on the corner of Halsey and Branford for 18 years. “There was a time when people would run cars through store windows to steal. The opportunity for crime still exists. But Newark’s revitalization is coming. And people will have to prepare.” 

Steps away down Halsey at the corner of Maiden, a brand-new convenience store now caters to the residents of Teachers Village. In front of the new apartment complex, which offers lower rent to educators who chose to live and work in Newark, pots of red and purple flowers hang off the side of the building. On sale in the convenience store are the official newspapers of global capitalism – the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times

Tonnie’s Minis is located on the same block. 

“When you look at where we are, the change has to start with us. I can't be worried if I want to commit” said Tonnie Rozier, 47, the store’s owner, as he took a fresh tray of double chocolate cupcakes out of the oven. “The faith we have in ourselves and our community tends to grow. Therefore, I have no gates. And I’m not going anywhere.”

A New York City native, Rozier is no refugee from his homeland. Instead, he sees himself as a part of a movement.

“Why not Newark?” Rozier said, referring to developers such as Ron Beit, the force behind Teachers Village, and others who encouraged him to come to New Jersey’s largest city. Rozier lives in Teachers Village with his family. “The drive behind what is here now is socioeconomic, not racial. As long as law enforcement is policing crime, not people, Halsey Street can be like Manhattan or Brooklyn. There has to be a continuing flow of new blood and energy from all over country, even the world.” 

Phillips wants those bars off, but doesn't want the lifting of Newark’s post-1967 physical and burden to mean the loss of what kept the city alive during its decades-ling time of trial.

“Old Newark can’t die, it's the backbone of the community. But I need a bigger demographic of customers, not just the national orders we get,” said Phillips. “I need more people to come in to my store who are part of the fabric of the community, not just people from outside.”

“The question now is this – is this revitalization or gentrification?” Phillips said. “I think it’s revitalization because there is opportunity for those who have been here to remain here.”  

The fear of gentrification prompted Mayor Ras Baraka to propose an ordinance that will require a sizeable percentage of affordable housing to be included in new residential developments. The City Council rejected the ordinance earlier this week, though it remains on the table for further consideration. 

The upscale Whole Foods that opened in the Hahne’s building is perhaps the most obvious symbol of a gentrifying city. 

Prudential’s impact investment fund helped fuel the renovation of the Hahne’s building, which includes an art gallery, a bookstore and new market-rate and affordable apartments. 

Sathe, whose job at Prudential is to help shape the stream of financial capital flowing into Newark, said it is the refurbishment of Newark’s smaller buildings that play just as an important role in transforming the city’s terrain. 

“The new properties are intentionally not being designed for commuters from elsewhere, but for residents who walk to them,” Sathe said. “These are not just best practices in urban design, but come ultimately from a belief in Newark’s potential. It’s not a defensive posture. It’s optimistic.”

Transforming Newark has its challenges.

“Downtown Newark was never a residential downtown. It was a commercial and retail center. You have to figure out a way to bring these large buildings back to function in a different way,” said Sathe, a Harvard-trained real estate and land use attorney.

“Progress goes from nothing to all of a sudden, you open a massive building. A lot of land was utilized for institutional use. Parking lots, which are so valuable, are in some ways being mothballed for growth 20 to 30 years from now, but hurts the short run,” Sathe said. “If you look at a map of Newark in 1945, there were a lot more streets. From an urban design perspective, you want as many streets and as many blocks as you can. “

McGovern’s Tavern is another Newark institution that refused to leave the city after 1967. In fact, the downtown bar, opened in 1936, stayed open even when the buildings across the street on New Street were empty, a victim of the flight from the city, a product of its destruction.

Sean McGovern, the bar’s owner, is about to expand his family’s building. It will expand about 1,000 square feet horizontally and become a three-story building vertically. Apartments and studios will be in place both above the bar and into a long-vacant building next door at the corner of New and Washington Streets. Construction is scheduled to begin later this summer. 

The original bar next door will retain its dimly lit, historical character, its windows to the world still shuttered. The well-known murals, photos, posted articles and memorabilia will remain and be seen only after customers’ eyes adjust after going through a sole, green metal door. 

But the new bar and restaurant will be very different. There, there will be no gates. There will be windows. And there will be light. 

“The perceived risk is no longer there, not in our minds,” McGovern, 50, said. “Is the riot over? I hope so and I think so. I’m betting on it.” 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Orange/Orange

Essex County Will Host A Job Fair Thursday

May 22, 2018

EAST ORANGE, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Essex County Department of Economic Development Office of Training & Employment cordially invites you to this year’s Essex County Job Fair.

The Job Fair will be held this Thursday May 24, 2018 at the Essex County College Gymnasium 303 University Avenue Newark, NJ.

For ...

Memorial Day Service and Parade Monday May 28th!

May 20, 2018

EAST ORANGE, NJ - One of the most certain signs of spring soon turning into summer in East Orange is the towns annual Memorial Day Parade. The parade has been a city tradition for decades and continues to be one of the major rallying events for community pride and camaraderie. 

Mayor Ted R. Green and the East Orange City Council cordially invites our residents, supporters and friends to ...

Governor Phil Murphy to Speak at Bloomfield College Commencement

May 15, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The 145th Commencement at Bloomfield College will take place Friday on the 11 acre campus in the heart of Bloomfield at 9:30 a.m. 

The program will include  remarks from honorary degree recipients New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; Christian McBride, six-time Grammy-winning jazz bassist; and Prof. Deog-Seong Oh, President of Chungnam ...

The Best Stress-Busting Exercises

In the last article, we discussed how to spot bad stress. Now we want to look at some of the best exercises for beating stress. These can be physical and mental exercises.

Physical Exercise

Physical exercise relieves stress, increases energy, and enhances mood. It can also help you lose weight and feel great. Any exercise is great if it gets you up and moving, and away from your desk at ...

When Good Stress Becomes Bad Stress

In the last email, we looked at how to set your own goals in life so you do not feel as if things are out of control and that everyone is driving your life except you. Your boss can’t have that kind of stressful power over you if you know you are doing your best and actively adding to your skills all the time.

Your mother can’t pull your strings like a puppet if you cut them and ...

Two Goal-Setting Techniques to Gain Control of Your Life

In the last email, we discussed how keeping a stress journal can help you identify your stressors. Then you can come up with various success strategies for dealing with them.

In this article, we want to discuss one of the most useful things you can use your new stress journal for is goal setting, in order to take control of your own life so you don’t feel as if you are at the mercy of ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_89b7833f137f24d5e750_invitation_to_ciao_sioree_-_6.15.18_-_front__1_

Fri, June 15, 7:00 PM

The Van Vleck House and Gardens, Montclair

Taste of the Oranges Soiree

Giving Back

Experts Detail Opioid Epidemic’s Impact on Essex County

May 23, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Essex County experts provided residents a comprehensive look into the opioid epidemic ravaging the county and the state at a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series hosted Tuesday night by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.

The opioid crisis has impacted Essex County as much as any of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Of ...