Tourism in Ne­wark? 50 years af­ter riots, city says it's time

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Tourism in Ne­wark? You might not think of it as a des­ti­na­tion, but boost­ers say Ne­wark is ready for vis­i­tors as part of a come­back. A com­pany called Have You Met Ne­wark? has taken more than 2,000 vis­i­tors on walk­ing tours and bar crawls. Tour com­pany founder Emily Manz points out ev­ery­thing from Nasto's ice cream par­lor, made fa­mous in an episode of "The So­pra­nos," to a church, St. Stephan's, that ap­peared in the movie "War of the Worlds."

The Greater Ne­wark Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bureau has started tak­ing travel writ­ers to see at­trac­tions like the Ne­wark Mu­seum and the Iron­bound, a neigh­bor­hood known for Por­tuguese and Span­ish res­tau­rants and shops. And in Au­gust, the "100 Things to Do Be­fore You Die" se­ries will pub­lish a Ne­wark guide­book writ­ten by Lau­ren Craig, who fell in love with Ne­wark while at­tend­ing Rut­gers Law School and calls her­self the city's "glam­bas­sador." But this sum­mer also marks 50 years since riots scarred the city. "The per­cep­tion of Ne­wark be­ing un­friendly, dan­ger­ous, dirty is some­thing that has been in­grained in peo­ple for many, many years," Craig said. "I fight against that ev­ery day."

Hahne & co, a sym­bol of re­birth

Of­fi­cials point to a mas­sive brick build­ing, va­cant since the Hahne depart­ment store closed in 1987, as a sym­bol of Ne­wark's re­birth. The Hahne build­ing re­opened this year with apart­ments (one-bed­rooms rent for $2,000 monthly) and busi­nesses, in­clud­ing a Whole Foods. Celebrity chef Mar­cus Sa­muels­son plans a restau­rant there. An arts in­cu­ba­tor, Ex­press Ne­wark , hosts work­shops and ex­hibits on­site, in­clud­ing a jazz his­tory show or­ga­nized by Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity's In­sti­tute of Jazz Stud­ies.

On a re­cent day, an­other down­town gem, Mil­i­tary Park , was busy with kids rid­ing a carousel, a jazz band play­ing and the af­ter-work crowd min­gling at a trendy park eatery, BURG. "I've been wait­ing for this," said Jeremy John­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ne­wark Arts, as he sur­veyed the scene in the park. "No one is ask­ing me if the Na­tional Guard is go­ing to pro­tect them when they come to Ne­wark. They asked me that 20 years ago. So this is the dream."

At­trac­tions and ho­tels

Des­ti­na­tion Ne­wark has a lot to of­fer: New Jersey Dev­ils hockey games and more at the Pru­den­tial Cen­ter , con­certs and shows at the New Jersey Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter and Ne­wark In­ter­na­tional Air­port, among Amer­ica's 20 busiest air­ports.

Ne­wark Penn Sta­tion is also just 20 min­utes from Man­hat­tan via PATH, NJ Tran­sit or Am­trak trains. That makes Ne­wark a vi­able lodg­ing op­tion for vis­i­tors to New York City. Down­town Ne­wark ho­tels in­clude the his­toric Robert Treat , which has hosted four U.S. pres­i­dents; the Hil­ton at Ne­wark Penn Sta­tion , pop­u­lar with air­line crews; and the In­digo bou­tique ho­tel. Rates for a July Sun­day night at the Ne­wark In­digo were $136 com­pared with $209 at the In­digo in Man­hat­tan.

Trea­sures at the Ne­wark Mu­seum, a 10-minute walk from Ne­wark Penn Sta­tion, in­clude an 1885 man­sion called the Bal­lan­tine House , a room of paint­ings by Joseph Stella, a Ti­betan al­tar vis­ited by the Dalai Lama and im­pres­sive col­lec­tions of Na­tive Amer­i­can and African-Amer­i­can art. "I go there as much as I can," said Hrag Var­ta­nian of Brook­lyn, New York, ed­i­tor-in-chief of on­line arts pub­li­ca­tion Hyper­al­ler­ . "But it's amaz­ing to me how many peo­ple have never heard of the Ne­wark Mu­seum." Be­fore hop­ping the train back to New York, Var­ta­nian heads to the Iron­bound, where din­ing op­tions range from old-school ba­cal­hau at Seabra's Marisqueira to tapas with a hip­ster vibe at Mom­pou.

The Bal­lan­tine House and the Iron­bound are fea­tured in Craig's "100 Things to Do in Ne­wark Be­fore You Die" book, too. On a re­cent day, she also took a vis­i­tor to the Off the Hanger bou­tique , where "Ne­wark Vs Ev­ery­body" Tshirts are promi­nently dis­played; the Jimenez To­bacco cigar lounge and bar; Casa D'Paco , an Iron­bound restau­rant; and Gate­way Project Spa­ces , an art gallery ad­ja­cent to Ne­wark Penn Sta­tion. At one point on Craig's whirl­wind tour, a taxi driver dis­puted the idea that Ne­wark was ready for tourists. "I beg to dif­fer," Craig said po­litely, then said to a guest, "You see what I'm fight­ing against?"

The city past and present

Of course, prob­lems per­sist. Ne­wark's pop­u­la­tion de­clined from 400,000 in the 1960s to 280,000 to­day. Thirty per­cent of res­i­dents live in poverty. Crime re­mains a top con­cern, though it's de­creas­ing: Ne­wark is sta­tis­ti­cally safer than Wash­ing­ton, DC, At­lanta and Mem­phis, Ten­nessee. But Ne­wark's de­cline in the last half of the 20th cen­tury wasn't iso­lated. Many ur­ban ar­eas lost pop­u­la­tion as fac­to­ries closed and white mid­dle-class Amer­i­cans fled to the sub­urbs. Even Ne­wark's riots were part of a larger pat­tern: Riots rocked more than 100 cities in 1967, and many - in­clud­ing Ne­wark's, which erupted af­ter the ar­rest of a black cab­driver - were sparked by al­le­ga­tions of po­lice bru­tal­ity amid racial in­equal­ity and lack of op­por­tu­nity in African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties. More than 20 peo­ple died in Ne­wark's riots; mil­lions of dol­lars in prop­erty dam­age was sus­tained.

Karin Aaron, CEO of the Greater Ne­wark Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bureau, left the city in the early '90s be­cause she "didn't see any progress," even though her mother of­ten spoke about "how great Ne­wark used to be." Aaron moved back in 2016 and be­lieves a re­nais­sance is un­der­way, say­ing: "Ev­ery­body loves a come­back story." — AP

This im­age pro­vided by Reedy Press shows the cover of ì100 Things to Do in Ne­wark Be­fore You Dieî by Lau­ren Craig, who de­scribes her­self as the ìglam­bas­sador of Ne­wark.

Photo shows Ferry Street in the Iron­bound dis­trict of Ne­wark, NJ, a Por­tuguese neigh­bor­hood.

Photo shows Lau­ren Craig, who calls her­self the ‘glam­bas­sador’ of Ne­wark, NJ, watch­ing as san­gria is poured into a glass at Casa d’Paco, a Span­ish restau­rant in the Iron­bound sec­tion of Ne­wark.

A band per­forms in Mil­i­tary Park in Ne­wark, NJ. — AP pho­tos

The lobby of Ho­tel In­digo, a bou­tique ho­tel in down­town Ne­wark, NJ.

Photo shows a jazz ex­hi­bi­tion in Ne­wark, NJ, with Ella Fitzger­ald per­form­ing on video next to the gown she was wear­ing.

Photo shows a dis­play of bags and shoes made from cork in the win­dow of CS Cork, a shop in the Iron­bound dis­trict of Ne­wark, NJ.

Photo shows Lau­ren Craig, who calls her­self the ‘glam­bas­sador’ of Ne­wark, NJ, point­ing to a ‘Ne­wark Vs Ev­ery­body’ T-shirt on dis­play at the Off the Hanger and ANE bou­tique on Lin­den Street in Ne­wark.

Photo shows ‘The Iron Man’ sculp­ture of a hockey player next to the Pru­den­tial Cen­ter where the New Jersey Dev­ils hockey team plays in Ne­wark.

Photo show cigars be­ing hand-rolled at Jimenez To­bacco, which op­er­ates a cigar lounge and bar in Ne­wark, NJ.

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