Newark, NJ—April 18, 2023 – Mayor Ras J. Baraka presented his ninth State of the City Address this evening at the Prudential Theater of New Jersey Performing Arts Center, located at 1 Center Street. The speech, themed “Newark Leading. And Proud of It,” drew a packed house and was livestreamed.
This year’s State of the City Address highlighted the wide range of initiatives that directly impacted residents through the reimagining of public safety, and through innovative and pioneering approaches to job creation, economic development, homelessness, and affordable housing. These forward-thinking policy pathways have become models for other cities across the country.
The evening featured videos of personal testimonies from residents on how the Baraka Administration’s vision has improved their lives today and raised their trajectories toward a better tomorrow. Laced with those videos, the evening unfolded with poetry passages and a celebration of the unity and creativity of the people of Newark.
Mayor Baraka began his speech by giving credit for his administration’s nationally acclaimed success to the collaboration of partners within the city and throughout the state. Looking toward the future, he said, “I am convinced that our collective efforts can help us tackle some even bigger issues like ensuring that the majority of the affordable housing we are building goes to Newark residents…that we create a substantial fund to invest in communities that have been left behind purposefully for decades, disinvested because of redlining and racism…ensure we are not building more incinerators, but more opportunity...that we can stop saying that there is a shortage of workers and begin to invest more in those that have been locked out of labor for too long.”
A PDF copy of the speech in English is attached. Check the City of Newark’s YouTube page for Spanish and Portuguese translations, which will be made available in the coming days.
In his speech, the mayor highlighted a few of the many accomplishments of his nine years in office including:
Newark Leading in Public Safety
· Newark began changing its approach to public safety in 2014, six years before the tragic Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd, and has become a national leader in addressing crime as a public health issue that requires treating the underlying conditions.
· The City’s public safety success has made us a model and mentor to elected officials and law enforcement professionals from cities across the nation. The city reported year-end reductions in almost every crime category in 2022 from the previous year, ending in an overall 6% reduction in violent crime.
· Newark’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery (OVPTR), is now replicated by the state of New Jersey and municipalities nationwide.
· The City added 196 Police Officers to the Police Division and 51 Firefighters to the Fire Division.
· Spearheaded by Newark’s Brick City Police Collective’s (BCPC) Guaranteed Education pilot program, the City partnered Saint Elizabeth University to provide a debt-free college education to 40 young people with GPAs between 1.8 to 2.5, who were affected by violence and incarceration.
Leading in Empowering Residents
· Newark initiated Mayor’s Scholars, a collaboration with NJIT to cover the cost of four-year housing and on-campus room expenses for up to three incoming first-year students.
· To expand literacy and readership and increase pathways to education, Newark partnered with the Newark Teachers Union, Newark Public Library, and the Newark Board of Education to distribute 40,000 books through the Office of Comprehensive Education.
· The City hosted the two-day “Roadmap to Educational Equity Conference” in October, highlighting educational inequities that exist in New Jersey with an emphasis on Newark. Educators, administrators, non-profit staff, government officials, students, parents, businesses, philanthropists, charitable organizations, unions, police agencies, and community members came together to identify priorities and develop recommendations to achieve education equity.
· The City partnered with Nassan’s Place to open Ridgewood Park in the South Ward with playground equipment for youth aged 2-12, and a separate section with sensory play equipment for children with autism and special needs.
· The Newark Fiber program increased fiber connectivity by 30 percent for businesses, affordable housing developments, and recreation centers, and is bringing Newark closer to providing access to free or low-cost high-speed internet to every Newark resident.
Newark Leading in Equitable Growth
· The Newark360 Master Plan is the result of the largest community engagement process in Newark history involving more than 10,000 touchpoints with residents via the city’s website, Facebook live sessions, focus groups, community meetings and surveys. This plan will guide Newark’s resiliency to climate change for the next 10 years by making neighborhoods more connected and accessible through public transit and pedestrian infrastructure, enabling more tree planting, green zone expansion, and affordable housing. Newark360 earned an award for excellence from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association.
· The City’s guaranteed income program, the Newark Movement for Economic Equity, celebrated its first full year of operation with more than $3.5 million directed to 430 residents facing economic struggles and to address economic insecurity.
· In September 2022, the unemployment rate fell below five percent – its lowest in 20 years, after having reached 21 percent in July 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Newark used the Workforce on Wheels (WOW) Bus to serve more than 21,000 residents with career counseling, vocational, technical training and supportive services, deploying it to more than 200 events in all five wards.
· The Summer Youth Employment Program overcame COVID-19 to offer Virtual Reality World Building classes to youth, enabling them to work in this new arena.
· As Newark becomes the backdrop for an increasing number of big-budget movies and TV shows like Joker, The Many Saints of Newark, and Law and Order, Lionsgate Studio will open a major new video and film production facility at the site of the former Seth Boyden public housing complex that will also offer senior housing, a wellness clinic, and retail spaces. Reviving this South Ward neighborhood, the studio is expected to create more than 600 new long-term jobs and generate more than $800 million of annual economic impact for Newark and New Jersey.
Newark Leading in Affordable Housing
· Newark is investing $20 million in housing for households that earn less than $32,000 a year.
· In all, the city has built more than 9,000 units and more than 2,400 affordable units, creating about 13,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, and generating $2.5 million for the affordable housing trust fund.
· With the help of Invest Newark, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), and Bank of America, Newark hires local Black and Brown developers to renovate city-owned properties and turn them over to new homeowners. Public housing Section 8 rental vouchers are being used to enable renters to become homeowners. In another new program, residents will be sold property for $1.00, their mortgages will be equal to the property rehabilitation cost, they will have no down payment, and enjoy some of the lowest interest rates in the nation. The program will simultaneously put property back on the tax rolls, create homeownership and tackle the wealth gap.
· This year, Newark launched a strategic plan to end chronic homelessness. This comprehensive, data-driven plan was developed as part of a collaborative process involving more than 100 partners from public, private, business, and non-profit sectors, and including committed individual residents.
· Newark Hope Village turns shipping containers into apartments and provides educational and job training, along with medical assistance, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation counseling.
· Newark is working with the state to create a “drop-in center” at Newark Penn Station to enable residents without addresses to have access to necessities many residents take for granted, such as a place to sit down, wash their clothes, use a bathroom, and take a shower.
Newark Leading in Progress
· Newark made powerful efforts to respond to COVID-19, and today, 82 percent of the city’s residents are fully vaccinated, and 98 percent have received one shot. The hospitalization rate remains low and the mortality rate lower.
· The Department of Health and Community Wellness will expand its reach and efforts to make Newark a healthier city by opening a clinic at Speedway Elementary School in May, serving patients Mondays through Fridays.
· To save costs for its dedicated workforce, Newark removed itself from the new state employee insurance plan, which would have dramatically raised costs and imposed increased hardship, and instead became self-insured. This ensures that workers can afford the highest quality medical care at the lowest cost to taxpayers.
· The City ended Fiscal Year 2022 with a budget surplus to be re-invested into community growth and success.
Mayor Baraka wound up his extensive catalog of accomplishments by touting the history and pervasive spirit in Newark encapsulated in the process of erecting a monument to Harriet Tubman in the heart of this city when the rest of the nation was toppling statues.
“Every day, we hold the line and show them how beautiful we are, how amazing and resilient we are,” the Mayor concluded. “We show them that all we really need is a rock and slingshot and we will find our way to the top. This is why we are so proud, why we are leading the way. Not because we are trying to be first…we do this because we want to be like a well-watered garden, a spring whose waters never fail. We want our light to break forth the dawn. We want to restore the broken walls. And have our children love the images they see in their mirrors. And we know this can only happen when we work on behalf of the hungry, satisfy the needs of the downtrodden and the oppressed. When we provide the poor wanderer with shelter, and decide not to live alongside of inequity, then we will be known as the repairers of the breach. The state is moving forward because Newark is moving forward. The state is prosperous when Newark is prosperous. The state is great because you are great. The state is leading because Newark is leading.”
The event was streamed live on the City of Newark Facebook page and will air on Newark’s Government Access Channel, NWK TV (Ch. 78 on Altice/Ch. 28 on Fios).
The State of the City Booklet can be accessed here.
For photos of the event, click here.
For videos shown during the address, click here.
For the entire video of the delivered address, visit the City of Newark Facebook page here.
For more information on the City of Newark, please visit our website