Newark’s location and infrastructure are vital parts of the city’s economy, from the new Newark Fiber internet service to the container terminals at Port Newark to Newark Penn Station along the Northeast Corridor. That was the focus of a summit held on Saturday on Rutgers University’s campus in the Newark’s University Heights neighborhood.
The biennial Leadership Newark event, which this year was called ‘Destination Newark: People, Places and Progress,’ attracted dozens of Newark residents, educators, officials, and business leaders. The summit featured breakout sessions with the themes of Servant Leadership, Newark On The Move, and Getting Clean and Connected, as well as a variety of speakers.
Public Service Enterprise Group Vice President for State Governmental Affairs, Richard T. Thigpen, spoke about the ‘art wall’ at the company’s upcoming Fairmount Heights Switching Station, and how it will “make this switching station experience something positive for the West Ward community.” In addition, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and one of his predecessors, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, discussed how Newark’s location makes its infrastructure unique.
“What a brilliance was shown by the founders of this city when they sailed down a navigable river and said we’re going to start a city right here,” said Booker, adding that “over generations, from canals to eventual airports, Newark has always stood upon a prize in terms of its infrastructure, but that infrastructure is in a serious state of decay,” citing recent issues with the city’s water, NJ Transit service through the Hudson River tunnels to Manhattan, and PATH trains.
“We have work to do,” Booker explained, stating that “the only way we’re going to get it done is if we, all of us collectively, prioritize it and fight for it.”
The conference comes at a time when the number of Newark residents is increasing after decades of population decline, and as a number of new residential, office, transportation, and retail projects are developed across the city, such as the proposed PATH station near Newark Liberty International Airport and several new apartment buildings planned along the Springfield Avenue corridor.
“The infrastructure attracts people,” Baraka said in an interview with Jersey Digs, explaining that millennials specifically “want to be in these communities next to rail, next to buses, and next to the seaport. All of those things make the city attractive so more people are going to want to come back and be a part of what’s happening in the City of Newark.”
Newark Municipal Council President Mildred C. Crump told Jersey Digs that the conference “was good beyond description,” adding that especially because of the recent investment in the city, in five years, “people are going to say ‘wow, what happened?’”
“I’m so glad to be a Newarker,” said Crump.