What will happen to Newark’s working-class residents — most of whom are renters, not home owners — if the city’s long hoped-for comeback becomes a reality?
A Brick City renaissance looks increasingly possible: Within the past few weeks, Mayor Ras Baraka announced a major development on a 22-acre site linking the Ironbound neighborhood to Newark Penn Station and the central business district, and the conversion of the old Hahne’s department store into a commercial and academic hub — with a Whole Foods, a Barnes and Noble, a Rutgers University arts incubator, and apartments.
The mayor said longtime Newark residents will not be left out of any comeback, and he announced that 40 percent of apartments in the Hahne’s building will be affordable.
Affordable housing allocations aside, there is peril for existing residents in a new Newark, according to Chris Niedt, director of suburban studies at Hofstra University. Fewer than one in four city residents own their own homes, according to the 2015 Census. Niedt said, “Because the level of home ownership is so low, most of the people affected by redevelopment are renters … We know these renters are vulnerable to displacement.”
Alikah Green, 26, who has lived in Newark all her life, says that most locals she knows are in lower-paying jobs that make it difficult to pay market rents, let alone own a home in their own city.
City officials say the mayor is keen to protect those born and raised in Newark as the city develops.
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