Newark – Big Apple’s rotting façade
Homes abandoned and haunted by poverty, crime and an uncertainty about tomorrow.
Businesses long out of luck on desolate streets — all in the Big Apple’s backyard — just a quick ride from Manhattan.
“I feel like we’re living in a bad dream where everybody has amnesia. Here is Newark living in the shadow of Wall Street – literally, you can see Wall Street buildings from Newark – and the reason Newark is facing budget cuts is because of a crash that was created, manufactured, distributed by Wall Street,” said Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America.
New Jersey’s largest city is seeing unemployment at around 10 percent. Nearly one-in-four families are living below the poverty line. Ian Francois is a school bus driver. At 28, he has little hope for the future.
“There is really nobody hiring, people go out to try to get jobs, they say, oh well, maybe you could try back in a couple of months. You try in a couple of months and it’s the same story,” he said.
Newark is notoriously crime-ridden. Despite this hard truth, 13 percent of the police force has been laid off due to a budget crisis. High-ranking officials in the police department resisted pay cuts, so jobs went out the window.
“They voted for lay-offs. They kept their salaries, but a lot of Newark had to shrink its police force,” said Joe Weisenthal, deputy editor in chief of Business Insider.
Murders went up by more than 50 percent compared to the same period last year as a result, with locals protecting themselves the best way they know how.
“Do you carry a knife or a gun?” – a question RT addressed to unemployed Darius Francois.
“Probably a knife or a blade, but not really,” was his response.
Shootings, stabbings, robberies and car jackings are a big part of life in Newark.
Throughout the city, drug gang rivalry is a major cause of violence.
On the day RT was in the city, several drug-gang rivalry related shootings took place, one person died. Dozens were wounded. Some say the situation is so out of control that the few police officers still on payroll just stopped trying.
“The same dudes selling drugs every day. The same cops who drive by that don’t do nothing to the same dudes that sell drugs,” said Darius Francois.
School bus driver Ian Francois said priorities have to change in Newark. He wants to leave town and move away from all the drama.
“If somebody makes a left turn without putting the signal on, they jump on them, and they try to act all big with them. But the people they really need to take off the streets – they scared to do that,” he sighed.
An increase in crime isn't the only result of service cuts
Edward Hernandez works in a pantry that has run out of funding – it can’t provide food to those in need any more.
“We’ve been talking for years that in about two years we should be out of this recession, and then in the third year, we continue saying oh, in about two more years. At least at this level, it doesn’t seem like it’s changing, it is getting worse,” said the Director of Youth, Family and Health services Division of the pantry.
As shelters experience hits to their budgets – homelessness is visible in the city, but those that caused the financial woes have moved on.
“People are forgetting that the financial crisis actually caused these cut backs that we’re facing day to day, and a place like Newark having to suffer more is really a crime. That’s the crime,” said Les Leopold.
Decades ago, Newark was booming, but this is no longer, and not likely to change without a shift in political will.
“I’m kind of mad that politicians don’t do really what they’re supposed to do. Governor Christy, one example – he says he’s going to do one thing but he does the totally opposite,” said Cory Alleyne, also unemployed in Newark.
Across the river from the Big Apple, the city is barely staying afloat.
Karl Denninger from The Market Ticker said this phenomenon is nothing new in America, let alone in Jersey.
“Newark’s been a very poor city for a long time. I traveled through there 20 years ago and the decay was very obvious even at that point,” says Denninger. The reason behind the crumbling city, he says, is cities like Newark are taking on more and more obligations without being able to fund them.
“Eventually,” says Denninger, “you hit the wall.”
“It’s a question of making promises that you can’t keep.”
Denninger says that this isn’t necessarily the low-point for Newarks and other cities from coast-to-coast like it. The problem is getting worse, he says, and tells RT that “you can look at the 1930s for what may be coming to America.”