Business & Finance

Voting Block: In wake of Murphy victory, downtown Newark hopes for action, not hype

346abf85f332f37811f6_pic1.jpg
Dr. Molly Townsend, a postdoctoral researcher at NJIT in Newark, wants to ask Phil Murphy about "what his intentions are with my city" following his N.J. governor's race win. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
a7ceee498ad88e3cae16_pic2.jpg
Kai Campbell, owner of the Burger Walla restaurant on Halsey Street in downtown Newark, wonders if Phil Murphy can overcome New Jersey's infamous culture of political corruption. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
cc4825fbc681142eff6f_pic3.jpg
Benjamin Weber, who helps run the Green Chicpea restaurant on Halsey Street, is hopeful that Governor-elect Phil Murphy's business background will help him lead New Jersey out of its financial slump. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
204cd2c7b3dda22f8d73_pic4.jpg
Chike Uzoka, a men's clothier and unofficial mayor of Halsey Street in downtown Newark, needs to see Governor-elect Phil Murphy make progress toward fixing New Jersey's problems before he believes it. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
3a4cbe23c4d6364b0e79_pic5.jpg
Ana Ortega makes another strong cup of coffee at the La Cocina restaurant on New Street in downtown Newark as she wonders what will happen after Phil Murphy is sworn in as New Jersey's next governor. Credits: Mark J. Bonamo
346abf85f332f37811f6_pic1.jpg

NEWARK, NJ--In downtown Newark, some might say that it was inevitable that Democrat Phil Murphy was going to win the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial election. Others might say that it is inevitable that the ongoing revival of the heart of New Jersey's largest city will continue to pulse powerfully. But for anybody who hangs out on Halsey Street, the live wire that connects the bright spots of new apartments, restaurants, and businesses lighting up downtown in recent years, it is inevitable that they will see the head hustler and prime political street seer of the neighborhood, Chike Uzoka, doing his thing. 

"I didn't vote for either one them. I voted for the Green Party candidate," said Uzoka, 34, a men's clothier by day and a commercial real estate agent by night, as he moved between the bar and table to table at Marcus B&P, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson's new restaurant on Halsey Street, located inside of the newly-renovated Hahne & Co. building that was recently refurbished after years of lying fallow. "I voted for Barack Obama twice. But if you keep voting red or blue, nothing is going to change. If people see and hear some other options, then people might see that they have another way."

New Jersey voters choose to go another way by a wide margin a few weeks ago on Election Day, tapping Murphy, a retired Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany under President Obama, over Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who served under outgoing Gov. Chris Christie for two four-year terms. 

Sign Up for E-News

While Murphy's decisive 14-point victory seems like a mandate, the view from downtown Newark in the wake of his win was a mix of skepticism and optimism. This outlook can be seen through the prism of Murphy's planned policy initiatives, designed to deal with the plethora of problems now facing New Jersey. 

Murphy, for example, backs legalizing recreational marijuana in order to allow law enforcement to use their resources to target more serious crime, according to his website. Murphy has also repeatedly pointed to the potential revenue to the state through taxing legal marijuana as a way to help ameliorate New Jersey’s fiscal woes.

But Ana Ortega, a Newark resident who works downtown at the popular La Cocina restaurant on New Street, thought the Garden State governor-to-be's plan for legalizing marijuana should just go up in smoke. 

"There are a lot of people talking in the street, saying that we're going to get it illegally anyway. They would rather pay whatever they pay on the street than pay extra at a store," said Ortega, 31, who lives in the largely Latino North Ward of Newark along Bloomfield Avenue, despite predictions that taxing legal marijuana will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. "Drug dealers sell you nothing good, and people are still going to do what they do. But Phil Murphy is also actually selling me nothing good." 

Others ideas are being bandied about by Murphy to fiscally fix New Jersey, including a millionaire's tax meant to help replenish the state's underfunded pension plan for public workers, as well as to be used to repair and restore crumbling infrastructure statewide, among a host of other problems.  

Around the corner at the Green Chicpea restaurant on Halsey Street, Benjamin Weber paused from serving falafel to point to Murphy's business background as hopefully being the backdrop for New Jersey's economic comeback. 

"In Newark, the biggest city in New Jersey, we need to show that we can continue our success here to generate income for the state. However you find a way to create new sources of income, that's the most important thing to do to get us out of our slump," said Weber, 26, who helps run the restaurant with the rest of his family. "If Murphy facilitates growth in the right way and takes us in the right direction, I think things will pan out." 

There is hope in Newark's business community that New Jersey's bid to convince Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, to build its new second corporate headquarters in the city will result in the biggest business bonanza that the more-than 350-year-old city has ever seen. 

Murphy has expressed support for Amazon's hoped-for arrival in Newark. But Uzoka, the unofficial mayor of Halsey Street, cast a highly questioning eye on the idea. 

"Why would we would want a company that generates billions of dollars every couple of hours to get a 30-year tax free bill, and to get legal tax kickbacks to move a bunch of employees from a whole bunch of other places to here, and to create maybe about 100 or so janitorial and security guard jobs for Newarkers?" said Uzoka, noting some of the reported bait state and city officials are using to lure Amazon to Newark. "Why would we want that?" 

"If Murphy cares about the state and uses his financial knowledge from Wall Street, then he should be able to create and move funds in a way that would benefit New Jersey," Uzoka added. "It's going to take a while. But now he's got four years." 

Others on Halsey Street, however, wondered aloud if Murphy can truly make a difference due to New Jersey's colorful political landscape. 

"New Jersey's greatest commodity is corruption. It's something that we import, that we export, and that we trade in. We live in it, and we're addicted to it," said Kai Campbell, 36, the self-described "envisionary" who owns the Burger Walla restaurant. "It has become so commonplace that it is ingrained in our culture, and this is something that Phil Murphy will have to face." 

Murphy spoke during his campaign about the need for greater socioeconomic fairness in New Jersey. For the governor-elect, one significant component of correcting any perceived imbalance is a greater emphasis on social justice. This concept's practical implementation would include helping ex-prisoners' reentry into their communities after they serve their time.

Campbell, who was an economic development analyst in cities all across America before he opened his place, proposes training those who were incarcerated for drug offenses, including for the growth and sale of marijuana, to run, manage, and profit from stores that sell legal marijuana if Murphy's plan goes through. 

"Where are our taxes going to go? They should go back to them, too," Campbell said before preparing more tasty treats for his customers. "We'll see how the money is going to be spent. I've seen a lot of money misused. And again - what is always the real cost overrun in New Jersey? Corruption." 

Dr. Molly Townsend, a postdoctoral researcher at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark, moved to Halsey Street last summer from California, knowing next to nothing about New Jersey's infamous political culture of corruption. But as a native of Alabama, Townsend used a phrase more likely to be used in the context of Southern culture when assessing the impact of Murphy's victory. 

"I would ask him about what his intentions are with my city. Politicians need to be real," said Townsend, 27. "In general, New Jersey needs a change. It's not going in a direction that's sustainable. Even if I don't agree with certain changes at the time, having any sort of change helps fight the problem. If it's a positive change that benefits New Jersey, that's great. And if it's a negative change, then it influences the next change, and down the line, things will get moving."

"We can't feel the change on Halsey Street unless the change is big enough to be felt," Townsend added. "You can't affect my neighborhood, and all of Newark, without creating more than a few ripples."  

Meanwhile, Chike Uzoka continues to be a key part of the hustle and flow on Halsey Street. He momentarily stepped away from his many friends at Marcus B&P, put down his cocktail, then figuratively looked Phil Murphy in the eye on the eve of him becoming governor. 

"I think he can do a good job. But they say faith without works is dead," Uzoka said. "I believe it can happen. But I just still need to see it happen." 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - July 19, 2018

TRENTON - Once the state budget is adopted June 30, you'd think the governor gets a break from scrutiny. Unless you are former Gov. Chris Christie, sitting in that beach chair. Or, now, Gov. Phil Murphy, getting wacked for having the players on his Sky Blue FC pro women's soccer team living in alleged squalor. Living in houses with plastic bags for windows, sleeping in bunk ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 18, 2018

STATEWIDE - One business in Pleasantville has flooded 32 different times since the early 1990s, and rebuilt each time with taxpayer money. A single-family home in North Wildwood has been flooded and rebuilt 23 times, again, on your dime. NJ.com reports that New Jersey is filled with 3,330 properties that have routinely flooded since the 1970s, some as many as 20 or more times, yet ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 17, 2018

CAPE MAY - Call it a slow news day, nationwide, as the story of a lost dog somehow hit all the news wires. The pug named "Bean" escaped its owner's rental house over the weekend and wandered around backyards before police scooped it up on New Jersey Avenue. Cape May cops, likely not overrun with rampant crime from the bed-and-breakfast set, had plenty of time to post the ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 16, 2018

STATEWIDE - No one really wants to talk about it. But every time you turn on a household faucet for tap water, its likely messing with a centuries-old system that's possibly leaching lead. And, because of so many World War I-era systems, some parts of the state have an over-abundance of water, while others easily face drought. Of course, upgrading our water ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 12, 2018

WAYNE - Honey! Cancel our Aug. 9th anniversary dinner! I've got other plans! That's the night you can join this bozo and scores of others at "Lace," a Wayne "gentleman's club" where America's favorite tramp - Stormy Daniels - will strip live and in person. Stop at the bank, trade in your wad of 20s for stacks of singles.

The Jaffe Briefing - July 11, 2018

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL - There's a Democratic primary in New York between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and "Sex in the City" star Cynthia Nixon. And why do we care? Because our governor is not blindly throwing his support behind Cuomo in the race, reports New Jersey Globe. "We're not getting involved in that," Murphy said, when asked who he supports, admitting he ...

Rutgers Prof to Climb Alps for Climate Change Study on Glaciers

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Lauren Neitzke Adamo has long enjoyed hiking along trails and through forests and over rock formations largely to see the natural surroundings.

“I’ve been a huge science nerd all my life,” said Adamo, who has a doctorate degree and is co-director of the Rutgers University Geology museum in New Brunswick.

Next month Adamo will head to the Swiss Alps ...

RU ready for RU Brewfest?

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - There's a lot of promotions planned this fall, as part of the Rutgers football season.

Single game tickets go on sale Thursday, July 12, with seven home games. There's matchups against Big Ten East opponents Michigan and Penn State, and a first-time cross divisional meeting with Northwestern.

If football is not your thing, there's plenty else ...

New Brunswick Man Charged in Sex Assault of Ex-Girlfriend

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A city man was arrested today and charged with sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend and assaulting a bystander who tried to intervene, Rutgers University police said.

Frank Ferraro, 26, was arrested and charged with sexual assault and aggravated assault, university police said.

They said the victim was attacked about 5:27 p.m. Tuesday, July 3,  at the ...

Prosecutor: FBI Agent Took Improper Photos of Woman in Dressing Room

July 20, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK,NJ  - An FBI agent was arrested and charged with illegally photographing a 22-year-old woman in a dressing room, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said today.

The agent, Danuel Brown, 30, of Piscataway, was arrested was Thursday and charged with a single count of fourth-degree invasion of privacy for allegedly using his cell phone to take pictures of the woman while ...

OPINION

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

The Somerset Patriots And 9-1-1 On FOX Are Looking For Hero First Responders

July 20, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Patriots and 9-1-1 On FOX are asking for Hero First Responder nominations from the community.

Nominate a first responder to be recognized on the field during the pre-game ceremony and throw out a ceremonial first pitch at the Saturday, August 4th Somerset Patriots game against the New Britain Bees at TD Bank Ballpark. Three first responders will be chosen ...

Make the Call, Save a Life

July 12, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - There is much focus on preventative opioid abuse education. Rightfully so. However, the goal in addressing the opioid epidemic is saving lives. Even if that means just saving one life. While people are becoming increasingly aware of resources relating to rehabilitative services, support groups for friends and family of addicts, and training parents for signs of opioid and ...