Guest Column

Fifty years after the Newark riots, residents (mostly) optimistic about the future

Levon Putney purchased his home for $30,000 in the Central Ward less than a mile from where the Newark riots began in 1967. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
Marisa Vaccari Pedulla, a fourth-generaton Newarker, in front of her home in the city's Forest Hill neighborhood.

Less than a mile from where the Newark riots began in 1967, Levon Putney tends to a small garden of oregano and cilantro in the alley of his modest home on South Jacob Street in the city’s Central Ward.

“I knew from the news business where I was when I bought this house five years ago,” said Putney, 43, the overnight news anchor for a prominent New York City radio station. “The riots are interesting. But they’re not going to stop people from coming here.”

For fifty years, Newark has been trying to plant the seeds of its revival in ground blighted by blood and ashes from the 1967 unrest. For those who are now moving to Newark, and for those who chose to stay, there is a distinct opportunity to build a burgeoning community, finally ready to bloom.

Putney, hoping to own a home when he moved from Jersey City, didn’t mind cleaning the syringes out of his newly bought vacant house. The opportunity was just too good.

“Don’t get mad now, but I bought this house for $30,000,” said Putney, smiling as he described the benefits of getting a Federal Housing Administration loan. “All the folks on this block own their homes. I'm not the only one who got a good deal and who is taking advantage of it.”

Erin Sweeney, 33, a native of rural Sussex County in far northwestern New Jersey, opted for city living six years ago. She has looked at Newark as her portal to the world ever since her childhood, when she went to the airport to fly out for family vacations.

She now works as the executive director for the Newark branch of Schools Than Can, a national non-profit organization that works to improve education in public, charter and private schools.

Paying $2,000 a month for a large one-bedroom apartment in the Eleven80 apartment building diagonally across from Military Park in downtown Newark, she knows she has a good rent deal compared to friends who live in Jersey City and Manhattan. But she wonders how long her good deal will last.

“I look at [the One Theater square luxury apartments] going up down the block, and I know I can't afford that,” Sweeney said. “I hope I don’t wind up getting priced out, because I’m excited about what’s happening here.”

Meanwhile, Sweeney expresses her safety concerns about living downtown simply.

“I don’t know if I should do yoga in the park before or after I go to Starbucks,” Sweeney said. “Now that could be dangerous.”

Crime was not on Tehsuan Glover’s mind when he moved from Newark’s South Ward, known for its relatively high crime rate, to Teachers Village. Instead, it was about convenience.

“I found myself to be in downtown Newark much more frequently because of my job,” said Glover, 37, the publisher of The Newark Times, an online, Newark-focused media organization. “I guess I’m part of the millennial trend – I want to rest my head where I work and play.”

“Revitalization can do a greater good if there are sustainable checks and balances on the process. Then the other wards will grow more and more attractive,” Glover added. “If not, the loud voice that says Newark still has a stigma will be the jacket that the city is going to continue to wear.”

Newark fits Marisa Vaccari Pedulla like a glove. It should – she’s a fourth-generation Newarker. Her Italian immigrant family settled in the city’s North Ward and had old-school jobs over the years such as fruit peddler, public school teacher and silver spinner at the former Tiffany jewelry factory in the city.

Now, Pedulla, 31, has a new-school job – she’s a product marketer at high-tech Audible. To get to her job, she takes a 20-minute Newark light rail ride downtown. And she leaves every weekday morning from the home she recently bought with her husband in the Forest Hill section in the same North Ward where her family has lived for more than 100 years.

“This was not a hard sell. We fell in love with the neighborhood all over again,” said Pedulla about the purchase of her five-bedroom home. “Jersey City was out of our price scope. But people should be in Newark because they really want to be in the city. My family was not part of the exodus after 1967. And now we’re building on the roots that my family already put down.”

The view from other parts of Newark points to a social fabric that is still badly torn.

Denise Williams, a South Ward resident, was visiting her relatives at a housing project in the Central Ward on Livingston Street between 17th and 18th Avenue earlier this summer. Her relatives live one block from where the exact spot were Newark ruptured 50 summers ago.

“We still need a lot of help out here,” said Williams, 37, watching her nephews gleefully shoot each other with water guns on the same streets where in 1967 real guns did real damage. “All these killings are real. Drug selling is real. And a lot of these kids have to fend for themselves. But it’s people that cause these problems to happen, not Newark itself. The riot is over. But people are still rioting within themselves.”

“Newark is in worse shape now than in 1967 considering that the poverty rate in 1967 was 18 percent and today it’s nearly a third of our city,” said Marylou Bongiorno, a Newark resident who together with her husband Jerome Bongiorno made the critically-acclaimed documentary Revolution ’67.

"If we don’t reduce the poverty in Newark, no amount of building in the downtown or extra police is going to improve the city,” she said. “And if Ferguson and Baltimore can erupt into riots, then Newark, with a far higher poverty rate, can easily do the same.”

Then again, even for those locked into a cycle of violence, the events of 1967 lack immediacy.

“You tell some Bloods and Crips gang members about 1967, they don’t want to hear it,” said lifetime Newark resident Rasheed Mason, 34. “They can’t believe tanks rolled down Springfield Avenue.”

During an event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Newark riots at Abyssinian Baptist Church, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the keynote speaker, gave the crowd a seminar about Newark history and the state of urban America.

He reminded the crowd that to him, what happened in 1967 was a rebellion, not a riot. Its purpose – to let democracy, powered by the people, address issues such as poverty, economic disparity, access to quality education, and combating crime.

“If you are alone, then you are defeated,” Baraka said. “It is important that we build alliances, not isolate ourselves and destroy ourselves.”

“It’s impossible for five days to fix hundreds of years of oppression,” Baraka told TAPinto Newark. “The narrative of 1967 diminishes what we’ve gone through. This is a protracted, generational struggle that takes us to where we are today.”

Back on South Jacob Street, two blocks from the same Springfield Avenue that was shattered 50 a half-century ago, Levon Putney stopped tending to his garden for a minute. He looked down the block at his neighbor’s home on the corner of Gold Street. He was jealous, yet determined.

“That guy is going crazy on his plot. He’s straight up harvesting veggies and melons,” Putney said. “Used to be there was no way in hell I was coming to Newark. Now look. There are roses growing up from the concrete.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Morristown

AtlantiCast: Episode 007

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll see how Atlantic Health System is driving innovation and finding new ways to solve tomorrow’s health care challenges, find out how a near tragedy on the tennis courts was averted thanks to some world-class training and technology at Chilton Medical Center and meet the 70 cancer doctors you need to know about – plus much ...

Coastal Sports NJ Teams up with BMartin Sports Academy and Prime Time Football

Fairfield, N.J. - November 22, 2017 -  The 60,000+ Square Foot facility at Coastal Sports welcomes a new partnership to their already extensive array of sports activities and programs. Brian Martin, founder of BMartin Sports Academy, and his certified staff of performance coaches and experts bring 25 years of experience training pro football players and prospects, as well as running local ...

Peck Girls Win Core Values Award and Advance to State Robotics Tournament

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The Peck School in Morristown fielded three teams at last weekend’s FIRST Lego League Regional Robotics Competition in Clifton, NJ. All three teams were great ambassadors for Peck and one team – Peck’s first ever all-girl robotics team - won a Core Values award and will progress to the state-level tournament on December 9.

Judges rate teams in three ...

Assault at CCM

November 21, 2017

Arrested: Anthony Rodriguez Age 20 Wharton NJ On November 8, 2017, upon the request of CCM security, patrols responded to CCM for a report of an assault that had occurred earlier in the evening. Patrols met with security who advised an 18 year old male had been assaulted in the parking lot by an unknown male. This was not initially reported to security, which became aware of this incident when ...

Rutgers Leaders to Join Governor-Elect Murphy’s Transition2018 Team

November 22, 2017

More than 20 leaders at Rutgers University, including Rutgers University–New Brunswick Chancellor Deba Dutta, will join Governor-elect Philip D. Murphy’s Transition2018 committees to undertake policy analysis and recommendations on a host of state issues and new initiatives as the new gubernatorial administration prepares to take office.

The committees, comprised of policy experts ...

Santa Will Make an Early Stop In Morristown Sunday November 26

November 21, 2017

MORRISTOWN, NJ - With Christmas right around the corner, Santa will be making an early stop in Morristown on Sunday November 26 at 5pm. Santa will be taking early holiday wishes while posing for pictures on the Green. Hot Chocolate and cookies will be provided by Hyatt Regency Morristown. The evening will also highlight special performances by the Morristown High School Theater Program and ...

Morris Township Kids Encouraged to Write Letters to Santa

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ -  Morris Township kids between the ages of 4 and 8 are encouraged to write letters to Santa. All letters will be answered by Santa.

Letters can be mailed to: Santa c/o Township of Morris Parks and Recreation Department at 50 Woodland Avenue, PO Box 7603, Convent Station, NJ 07961-7603.  Make sure to include the child's name, age, phone number and ...

Morristown Veteran's Day Ceremony to be Held, Nov. 11

MORRISTOWN, NJ -  The Town of Morristown will hold a Veteran's Day Service on Saturday November 11 at 11:00 a.m. on the Morristown Green. Mayor Timothy Dougherty will provide opening remarks and local veterans who have served the country will also speak.

In the event of rain, the event will be moved to the Morris Township Municipal Building

This past week, Andrew Lachawiec, ...

6 Top Turkey Trots in Morris and Sussex Counties

November 22, 2017

Before you tear into that turkey on Thanksgiving Day, get out of the house and head to one of these top Turkey Trots in Morris and Sussex Counties.  Team Nest Builder promises you won’t feel quite so bad about that second helping of pumpkin pie after running a 5K--gobble, gobble!

Morris Township Thanksgiving Day 5K/1M Turkey Trot presented by Interfaith Food Pantry & ...

Paranormal Event Scheduled for Saturday in Morristown

 MORRISTOWN, NJ - Halloween is gone, but the ghosts have stayed.

Ghost hunters can experience the phenomenon known as 'ghost hunting' on Saturday November 18 from 7:30pm - 11pm. Join experts in exploring the 1890 historic Frelinghuysen Mansion while learing about the different methods and equipment used.. The paranormal adventure will be run by the Island Paranormal ...

Morris Township Announces Two Special Events; Breakfast with Santa and a Hockey Game

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ -  Morris Township is sponsoring two events for residents; Breakfast with Santa and NJ Devils Hockey Night.

Breakfast with Santa will be held on Saturday December 2 from 9:30 am - 12noon at the Collinsville Fire Station. The event is for children between the ages of 3 and 8. Reservations and payment must be received by  Monday, November 27th.  Cost ...

TAPinto Morristown Wishes Everyone A Happy Thanksgiving

November 22, 2017

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The TAPinto Morristown staff wishes all our readers and their families a very Happy Thanksgiving. 

 

Morristown High School Graduate Part of the Navy; Building and Fighting Around the World

SAN DIEGO - “We Build, We Fight” has been the motto of the U. S. Navy’s Construction Force, known as the “Seabees,” for the past 75 years. A 2003 Morristown High School graduate and Morristown, New Jersey, native builds and fights around the world as a member of an amphibious construction battalion center located in San Diego, California.

 

Lt. Karen ...

Widower Lost Ring in Morristown; Please Help!

MORRISTOWN, NJ -  A recent widower has lost his wedding ring in Morristown. If you are in and around the Morristown area please keep your eyes open!

The man who has been married for 62 years was making donations at the Bargain Box, on Market Street and then at Staples when he noticed his ring was missing.

The ring is a yellow gold band with filigreed edges not to mention ...

November 22, 2017

MONTVALE, NJ-- In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Community Blood Services (CBS) is raffling off a Vizio 32” LED HDTV. One donor who gives blood at an open blood drive held by CBS (full list can be found here), or at the fixed sites in Lincoln Park, Montvale, Paramus, and Parsippany from November 22 to 26 will win the TV.

“As we begin the season of giving, we are trying ...

New Jersey Transit Offers Rail Shuttle Trains for Sunday's NY Giants vs Chiefs Game

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- New Jersey Transit will offer rail shuttle service to the Meadowlands Sports Complex for the NFL game between the New York Giants and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Service to MetLife Stadium begins at 9:41 a.m. from the Secaucus station, with the final Meadowlands-bound train leaving Secaucus at 2:01 p.m. Commuters are encouraged to purchase round trip tickets at their ...

Morristown National Historic Park Hosts Piano Recital; Nov. 19

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The Morristown National Historical Park is welcoming Hungarian pianist Peter Toth back for a piano recital this coming Sunday. Toth will play selections from American composer Arthur Foote and Hungarian Franz Liszt on the park's 1873 Steinway Grand piano.

The recital will take place on Sunday November 19 in the auditorium of the National Historical Park, located at 30 ...

Do you have high blood pressure under the new guidelines?

New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology announced last week revised the reading at which high blood pressure is diagnosed from 140/90 to 130/80.  This change increased the number of Americans with high blood pressure from about a third to almost half of all adults. Previous guidelines had a systolic reading of 130-139 as pre-hypertension or ...

6 Top Turkey Trots in Morris and Sussex Counties

Before you tear into that turkey on Thanksgiving Day, get out of the house and head to one of these top Turkey Trots in Morris and Sussex Counties.  Team Nest Builder promises you won’t feel quite so bad about that second helping of pumpkin pie after running a 5K--gobble, gobble!

Krogh’s Annual Turkey Trot 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run Benefiting Sparta Public Schools

23 White Deer ...

A Night of Redemption

FLORHAM PARK,N.J.-MetLife Stadium was a beautiful hue of green on Thursday night, November 2nd, as the New York Jets took the field.  67 degrees at game time under an almost full moon, with absolutely no breeze, was the perfect setting for the New York Jets to take home a win against their division rivals, the Buffalo Bills.

After a delectable meal at Gencarelli's of Lyndhurst, a ...

Bakersfield Mist contrasts art and reality

‘Bakersfield Mist’ explores art versus reality

By Liz Keill

MORRISTOWN, NJ – The Bickford Theatre presents a touching, often hilarious, two-person play about a woman in a trailer park in Bakersfield, California, who thinks she has purchased an original Jackson Pollock at a thrift shop.

With this unlikely premise, the play evolves into a matter of wills, wishful thinking ...

Family Health

Be Aware of Pancreatic Cancer’s Warning Signs

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and nationally renowned gastrointestinal (GI) cancer physician-scientist Angela Alistar, MD thinks it is critical that everyone learn how to recognize the warning signs of this aggressive cancer. Dr. Alistar is medical director of GI medical oncology at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center of Morristown Medical Center, Atlantic Health ...

Join Us in A Hunger Strike: to demand a #CleanDREAMAct

November 19, 2017

As Congress comes home for the Thanksgiving recess, DREAMers from across New Jersey will be launching a hunger strike to demand a #CleanDREAMAct - a DREAM Act that provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth without funding Trump's deportation machine.

The hunger strike starts this Monday at 11am EST and will go through Thanksgiving Day. Strikers and ...

Three Health Safety Tips During Long Flights

November 22, 2017

During my 18-hour flight from JFK Airport to Cambodia, two thoughts entered my mind. The first thought was, ‘How in earth am I going to pass the time, crossing multiple time zones, in a cramped position within this massive Boeing 777-ER aircraft?!’  My immobilized and uncomfortable posture led to my second thought: ‘What can I do to prevent or ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, November 24

The Wayrick Wildlife Gallery, at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Gallery, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: The Wayrick Wildlife Art Gallery -- ...

Arts & Entertainment Education Green

Carousel_image_c510348cd013a6f9ba79_image1

Fri, November 24, 8:00 AM

Florham Park

Ring in the Holidays with Black Friday and Small ...

Fri, November 24, 10:00 AM

The Red Mill Museum Village, Clinton

Festival of Trees

Arts & Entertainment Education Home & Garden Other

Morris County Police Arrest Three for Narcotics

November 16, 2017

MORRIS COUNTY PARK POLICE  BLOTTER 10-28 through 10-31, 2017

10/29: ARREST FOR NARCOTICS: Officers executed a motor-vehicle stop for a moving violation in Dover. An investigation led to a juvenile to be charged with Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance. The juvenile was released to a parent from the scene.

10/31: ARRESTS FOR NARCOTICS: Officers executed a motor-vehicle stop ...

Liam's Room Funds Pediatric Palliative Care Education for Nurses

November 23, 2017

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Due to a generous donation from Liam’s Room, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and support for families of pediatric patients who spend great lengths of time in the hospital, three nurses from Atlantic Health System’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital were able to attend the Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition’s Third Annual State ...