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Newark works to curb gentrification, long road ahead

in Politics & Social Justice by

Working to curb gentrification, Newark’s City Council adopted inclusionary zoning ordinance mandating new projects with 30 or more residential units to set aside 20% affordable housing.

The city’s mayor, Ras Baraka has been pushing for more inclusionary policies from developers transforming the city with commercial and residential property that the average long-time resident cannot pay.

Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey

As well, Baraka says that he is working for franchises and high-end businesses that are moving into the area, to include employment opportunities for Newarkers.

Leading up to the passage of the ordinance bill, contentious battles have taken place during city council meetings. Residents complained that they were left out of decisions and elected officials were not answering critical questions.

In redevelopment efforts, Newark city council approved for a more dense city, meaning high-rise buildings are the focus to accommodate a growing population. For low income residents, they complain that they are being pushed out, while the city council passed ordinances to approve the construction of a 40-story building on the riverfront for more affluent migrants.

The Passaic River is an old water passageway since the 1600s, and is known as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States. With toxic sludge dumped into the river by manufacturing plants and toxic sludge from nuclear materials used in World War II, it undergoes decontamination by federal government in a $165 million cleanup project.

Some residents, at a city council meeting found it ironic that at the moment the Passaic starts to undergo needed removals of toxic waste, Newark officials broker a deal with high-end real estate developers.

After the passage of the zoning ordinance, Mayor Ras Baraka said, “Once again, Newark is leading the way, defining to the nation how a city cares for its residents, and what a city should be.”

While some advocates applaud the passage of the bill, others think that the percentage should be higher because Newark, being the largest city in the New Jersey, and one of the highest percentages of poor and low-income residents.

A caveat in the bill states that developers can opt-out of mandate by paying into the city’s affordable housing trust fund in lieu of providing low- and moderate-income units. The amount is not known at the time of press.

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