Newark council’s approval of zoning rule brings gentrification fears

Residents came out in droves Wednesday, pleading with Newark’s city council not to approve MX-3, a new zoning ordinance they say will change the Ironbound as they know it. It would allow development of high-rise, high-density residential buildings in the East Ward.

“The more you add the market rate units to the neighborhood, the more pressure you’re putting on rents outside of the immediate neighborhood right there,” said Ironbound Community Corporation Executive Director Joseph Della Fave.

Beyond the rising rents, a lot of people said they fear that this tight-knit, largely immigrant community will be gentrified by suitcases and briefcases moving in from New York and Hoboken.

“The Ironbound is a successful working class neighborhood. We got a place in the New York metropolitan area where people of color can live, can still afford apartments. And that right now is becoming an artifact,” said Newark resident Emily Turonis.

“I am not against development in the city of Newark. I know that we need that,” said resident Janise Afolo. “The residents are concerned. Their concerns are about the education, the schools being overcrowded. They’re also concerned about the parking.”

Others worried about stress on the aging infrastructure in a region that already floods easily, and often, and will only get worse as vacant lots fill up. Despite the pleas, council members, including East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, unanimously approved the measure.

“As long as I am the representative of the East Ward and the Ironbound, the character of the community will not change,” Amador said. “The only big difference we have right now is the height issue. We can talk about gentrification, we can talk about other issues, which will be important to the community, and are important to the community. … We’re not going to be able to stop these folks from coming into the community, we’re not.”

Many of those who came to the meeting in protest of MX-3 left disappointed, but there was also resolve. Some of them said it’s up to them to hold their elected officials accountable and make their own investments in the community. As for the Ironbound, change is coming.

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