Soak the Poor; Arena for All
Gaetano found a noxious letter to the editor of the West Milford Messenger in which Republican candidates for township council in West Milford advocated rezoning Newark's watershed property within the township and charging the City of Newark ten times the present property taxes. I was livid, and wrote a reply, which appeared on the Messenger website today and should be there awhile.
It occurred to me only after I had sent that letter off that I should have made the further point that there is another option: for the State of New Jersey to merge West Milford into Newark. After all, if we own much of the land of that and any other municipality in our watershed, why shouldn't we also govern it? Yes, there is a geographical gap between present Newark and West Milford. So what? There is a little chunk of Delaware on our side of the Delaware River. (Did you know that? It's about 5 miles west of the town of Salem, county seat of Salem County. I want to get there someday, just to take a picture.) That doesn't make it any the less Delaware. Lots of places are separated by water but joined in government. Why not have two areas separated by a gap on land but still part of the same city? I repeat: if we own the land, why shouldn't we govern it?
WNYC on Arena. A reader from just over the city line in Bloomfield sent me a link to an almost 8-minute report on hostility to the Arena among some Newarkers.
I heard this yesterday on the radio and thought of you and your blog. The story focuses on how [it is that] many current African American residents of Newark feel alienated by the Arena because it seems to cater to white middle-class people, of whom there are not many in Newark. I know you're a big proponent of the Arena precisely BECAUSE it's designed to bring people who don't already live in Newark to the city, and I couldn't agree more.I listened, then replied:
Anyway, I thought if you hadn't already heard this spot, you'd be interested, the coverage is pretty extended, considering it's coming from a NYC public radio station that usually gives anything in NJ short shrift.
Thanks for that. I'll mention it. I have to take issue with the endless repetition of the assertion that Newark is "pre/dominantly black". Not according to the Census, it's not. Only 54% of Newarkers identified themselves as black. Yes, some areas of the city are pre/dominantly black, like mine. But Forest Hill and the Ironbound are now pre/dominantly white and mestizo. The repetition of this mantra, "black city", "black city", "black city" needlessly scares people who don't understand (a) that it's not true and (b) that black people in Newark are not, for the most part, the chip-on-the-shoulder welfare scum hassling people for handouts or targeting [them] as crime victims that so many of us know from New York. "Black" in such use really means "N-word", the meaning not being dependent on the word used. (That's why attempts to change attitudes thru euphemization of bad things always fails. A "disadvantaged neighborhood" remains a "slum" or "ghetto" in people's minds, and a "developmentally disabled person" remains a "rétard", because it is not the words that people are reacting to but the reality under them.
In any case, the implication from that street bitch [on the radio segment] that everything in the city of Newark has to be oriented to her to have validity is idiotic. The Arena is an engine of development. It is designed to bring people into Newark, at once to patronize local businesses and, far more important at first, to see that everything they have been told about Newark, even if once true, is wrong.
The suggestion by the gent that there is nothing to do because community centers have been closed down is an outrite lie. The fact is that the bulk of people who can't find anything to do are empty inside, and the fault is in them, not society. I can't find enuf time to do all the things I want to do. And it doesn't matter how many basketball-at-nite programs or community centers government opens, the people who bitch about there being nothing to do will continue to bitch that these things aren't of interest to them. "I'm 46 years old. What am I going to do with a nitetime basketball league?"
Our local City recreation center has been extensively improved of late, as by adding tennis courts.
We should, however, endeavor as a society to fund free seats for the poor so they can attend this and that, at NJPAC, the Arena, etc., and make sure that there is a fair representation of the interests of a fair cross-section of the city's population at all these venues. For special occasions, such as the opening concert, we should arrange huge video screens and speakers outside the Arena/NJPAC for people willing to stand or sit in a parking lot or closed-off street for a free concert. But nothing we do will ever satisfy the malcontents among us, the chip-on-the-shoulder types who blame everyone and everything for the emptiness and failure that is their life. Cheers.
I think that a greater diversity (even if it's only a correction of the PERCEPTION that there is a lack of diversity) in Newark is a good thing, and that events that cater to and can be enjoyed by everyone are a boon and a benefit to everyone, too, as well as to the varied communities that surround Newark proper.There was one semi-subliminal message on the radio tape. In introducing mention of the opening act for the Arena, they played a segment of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer". At the end, they played a slitely more extended clip of the same song's refrain, "Oh, we're halfway there. Oh-oh, living on a prayer." Is that a bit of New York sneering at Newark? I can sneer at New York too. I lived there for 35 years, but escaped.
The report on NPR kind of got under my skin, too.
Perhaps the City's recreation centers should be open later.
Little note: in checking Wikipedia to see where Jon Bon Jovi is from, I see Sayreville. I drove an ice cream truck around Sayreville one summer. I was a terrible ice cream man; dreadful waiter one blizzard weekend in a gay bar in Manhattan; mediocre McDonald's employee my first job, in Middletown; sensational word processing operator in dozens of the best law firms in New York. And a halfway decent propagandist and, now, fotografer in my spare time. It takes a while to find your métier ($3 word for a thing you are naturally suited to do well). It's a lucky person who finds out early what their* métier is, and even luckier who can make a living at it.
* Purists who objéct that "they" and "their" are only plural have to fite the realities that this commonplace use (1) is much simpler than the awkward "his or her" and (2) is now widely accepted, even by highly educated people — who aren't pedants.