The Brian Lehrer Show

Newark Emergency

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sampson Davis, New Jersey-based board certified emergency medicine physician, founder of the Three Doctors Foundation, and the author of The Pact and Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home (Spiegel & Grau, 2013),  talks about growing up in and working as an ER doctor in Newark and what it taught him about healthcare in America.


New Jersey News

Mixed Reviews for Wanding in Newark Schools

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Metal detectors and security guards have been part of high school life in New Jersey’s largest city for more than 30 years. And students are pretty happy about it.


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The Brian Lehrer Show

Cory Booker on His Political Future

Friday, December 21, 2012

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has announced that he will not run for Governor, but will instead "explore" the possibility of running for a New Jersey Senate seat. Brian and Nancy Solomon, managing editor for New Jersey Public Radio, talk to Booker about his political future and Garden State politics.

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New Jersey News

Judge: Newark Must Release Facebook Grant Emails

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A judge has ordered Newark Mayor Cory Booker to release internal emails related to a $100 million grant to the city's schools made by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.


New Jersey News

Analysis: Booker’s Political Fortunes

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Newark City Mayor Cory Booker’s is a politician on the rise. The Democrat’s name is often mentioned for higher office, and this year he spoke at his party's convention. But some of his actions closer to home have been controversial, raising questions about his future prospects.


New Jersey News

Melee Breaks Out at Newark City Council Meeting

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Newark City Hall Tuesday night was the scene of council members walking off in protest, a crowd of angry residents rushing the podium and police using pepper spray on residents and a union leader.

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New Jersey News

Concerns Grow Over Flooding From an NJ River That’s Also a Superfund Site

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Passaic River in New Jersey isn’t one of those waterways with its source in a pristine mountain lake.

Comments [3]


Storm Challenges Compounding for Newark Residents

Thursday, November 01, 2012

This week’s storm knocked out power for 95 percent of Newark residents. It’s coming back now, neighborhood by neighborhood. But as the week wears on, residents are realizing electricity is just part of the challenges they now have to contend with.


New Jersey News

Facebook Foundation Turns Corner with Contribution to Newark Contract

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Foundation for Newark’s Future, the organization created to distribute Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark schools, hasn't exactly set the world ablaze.


New Jersey News

Newark Teachers Contract, a Game-Changer for NJ's Often-Troubled School District

Friday, October 19, 2012

It is touted as a historic agreement, one that will remake how Newark teachers are judged and paid -- one that may even serve as a model for other school districts around the country.


New Jersey News

Revitalizing Newark Through Jazz

Friday, October 19, 2012

Before World War II, Newark, N.J., was a cultural hub. The city’s trying to recapture that legacy with a new jazz festival taking place this week.

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As NHL Owners and Players Mull Possible Proposal, Area Businesses, Fans Hope for Resolution

Thursday, October 18, 2012


National Hockey League players are mulling a new offer from team owners that could put an end to the lockout that began more than a month ago. At the heart of the matter is how to divide revenue, but area businesses are also concerned about how the lockout and hockey’s delayed season will hit their bottom line.

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Transportation Nation

Port Authority Board Gets an Earful from Public Over 9/11 Memorial, Community Relations

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One World Trade Center (photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) The day after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released a consultant's report lauding the agency's newfound zeal for transparency and accountability, the public showed up at the agency's monthly Board of Commissioners meeting with a very different assessment.

It was a full house.

A contingent of 9/11 family members used the public comment period to urge the Commissioners to reject a Memorandum of Understanding entered into last week between the bi-state agency and the National September 11th Memorial and  Museum. The deal, reached a day before the eleventh anniversary of the terror attacks, cleared the way for work to resume. Construction at the site had halted last year after a funding squabble.

Sally Regenhard, who lost her firefighter son on September 11th, took the Port Authority to task for not sufficiently involving the 9/11 families in the process. "Do not approve this MOU until we can have full public disclosure involving the 9/11 families as well as the community."

Richard Hughes of the Twin Towers Alliance told the panel it was being expedient with their deal with the Memorial and Museum that calls for passing ownership of the former site of the Twin Towers to the non-profit in exchange for adjacent land where the Deutsche Bank building once stood.

"You have eight acres of prime important downtown real estate -- a site that is sacred to all of us  -- and you are giving it away or swapping it, but it is really giving it away, without public debate, behind closed doors," Hughes said.

Under the agency's public comment period protocol, Commissioners don't respond directly to the public. But speaking to reporters afterwards, officials defended the deal as breaking a lengthy impasse and insuring the project stays on budget while guaranteeing the site remains a memorial.

Of particular concern to family members at the hearing were the plans to place several thousand of the unidentified remains from the attack in the museum. Boosters of that plan say it will permit work to continue on identifying the remains. The 9/11 families want the surviving families to be polled.

The full board approved the MOU over their objections -- but after the vote, Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye reminded reporters the agency had lost 84 employees in the attack. He said he understood the families' concerns about the remains. "Given the grievous loss those family members experienced that is an issue that resonates with me," Foye said.

But it isn't only how the Port has handled Ground Zero that had members of the public fuming.

Casandra Dock came with residents of of the city of Newark. She chastised the Commissioners for not holding public meetings of the board west of the Hudson in New Jersey.

"I come before this board today -- since this is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey  -- to ask this board to have some of these board meetings over in Newark, New Jersey," Dock said.

In the board's brief public meeting it did move on some items without controversy. John F. Kennedy International Airport will host a animal handling facility that the Port Authority says will be the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the nation. The board also approved the deal with ARK Development LLC to convert a vacant building at JFK into what Foye says will be a state-of-the-art facility that will handle everything from household pets to horses.

"And this facility will provide animal daycare and kenneling services, more efficient animal transport services--a full service veterinary hospital. The facility is expected to serve approximately 70,000 wild and domestic animals a year,"Foye said.

The deal will net the agency more than $100 million dollars in rent over the next 20 years.

The Port also funded a study looking at the feasibility of taking over Atlantic City International Airport. It will also take a look at running its existing PATH train from where it currently ends -- in Newark Penn Station --  out to Newark Liberty Airport.

The latest board actions come as the agency grapples with how to fund some $44 billion dollars in upgrades it says the region's transportation infrastructure will need by 2020.


The World Trade Center construction on 3/8/12 (photo by Kate Hinds)
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Transportation Nation

U.S. Airlines Set On-Time Record: Feds

Thursday, August 09, 2012

According to the Department of Transportation: "The nation’s largest airlines set record marks during the first half of this year for on-time performance, the fewest long tarmac delays, and the lowest rates of canceled flights and mishandled baggage."

The press release goes on to say: "The 15 largest U.S. airlines posted an 83.7 percent on-time arrival rate during the first six months of 2012, the highest mark for any January-June period in the 18 years the Department has collected comparable data. The previous high was 82.8 percent in January-June 2003."

You can read the full report here.

Also this morning, a department within the DOT (the Bureau of Transportation Statistics) released data breaking out June's on-time numbers by airport. The upshot: you want to fly in or out of Salt Lake City, and avoid Newark. "Salt Lake City (90.59) had the highest and Newark (68.51) had the lowest on-time departure performance of the 29 busiest airports in June."

Other highlights:

  • There was one international flight with tarmac time of more than four hours: Air Canada Flight 711 from New York LaGuardia to Toronto, which was on the LaGuardia tarmac on June 25 for 248 minutes before taking off.
  • In June, the most delayed flights were: JetBlue Flight 24 from New York JFK to Syracuse and JetBlue Flight 23 from Syracuse to New York JFK. Both flights operated 10 times during the month and were 30 minutes late or canceled 80.0 percent of the time, averaging 81 minutes late.

You can see that data here.


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Transportation Nation

Newark Gets Its Very First Bike Lane

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

(Photo via Newark Department of Engineering)

Newark, New Jersey now boasts 277,000 residents and one bike lane. Six more green textured bike paths are set to open by the end of 2012.

The inaugural lane runs eight proud blocks through downtown, roughly half a mile along Washington Street. The official city statement explains: "The route runs by Rutgers-Newark, the Newark Museum, the Newark Public Library, and Washington Park."

Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, paid for the design work and the city covered the construction costs of $100,000.

Mayor Cory Booker issued an car-metaphor as encouragement to cyclists. "I commend the Department of Engineering and Rutgers-Newark on this partnership, and urge residents to put the pedal to the metal on Washington Street." We assume he means bike pedal.

Newark has invested in other traffic and public spaces redevelopment recently, but not many bike additions. Park expansion has received over $40 million  in the past several years, and Newark just launched a $27 million plan for streetscaping, road re-surfacing, traffic calming, and traffic signal installations.

As we've reported previously, pedestrian deaths are correlated with lower income neighborhoods, making Newark is particularly dangerous for pedestrians. Lack of safety-conscious shared street design is part of the reason. So are lack of non-car transport options.

Cycling will, hopefully, get a little safer with these new lanes.

If you live in Newark, here's where the new lanes are coming next:

  • Mt. Prospect Avenue between City Line and Heller Parkway
  • Irvine Turner Boulevard between Clinton Avenue and Springfield Avenue
  • Jones Street between Springfield Avenue and South Orange Avenue
  • Norfolk Street between South Orange Avenue and West Market Street
  • Clifton Avenue between Orange Street and Victoria Avenue
  • First Street between West Market Street and Sussex Avenue
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The Brian Lehrer Show

The New Black Politician

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark, and Post-racial America, Emory University associate professor of political science Andra Gillespie uses Newark as a case study to explain the breakdown of racial unity in black politics.

Comments [16]

Transportation Nation

Heat From Climate Change Will Kill More Americans This Century: Report

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

(photo by Lori Greig via flickr)

150,000 Americans will die from excessive heat by the end of this century if carbon pollution continues unabated.

That's according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which released a report (pdf) Wednesday projecting future heat-related mortality in the U.S.'s 40 largest cities.

"We think, if anything, (those estimates) are low," said the NRDC's Dan Lashof, explaining during a conference call with reporters that researchers didn't adjust for expected increases in population. But, he said, these stark numbers show "climate change has real life and death consequences -- one of which is that carbon pollution, which is continuing to increase our atmosphere, is going to continue to make climate change worse and increase the number of dangerously hot days each summer."

Thirty seven of the 40 cities studied would see increases in deaths. Larry Kalkstein, a professor of geography and regional studies at the University of Miami and co-author of the research, said they found a "regional coherence" in the heatwave effect. And perhaps counterintuitively, cities in the South appear to be spared the worst.

According to the NRDC, the three cities with the highest number of total estimated heat-related deaths through 2099 are Louisville, Kentucky (19,000 deaths); Detroit (17,900); and Cleveland (16,600).

"The Midwest is particularly hard hit," Kalkstein said, explaining that cities that experience sharp temperature fluctuations are more at risk than those cities with more constant temperatures, even if they're hot.

"Take a typical day in Washington or Philadelphia or New York, where most of the summer days are in the eighties," he said. "And then all of a sudden you get a hot streak, where the temperature goes up to a hundred degrees plus for a week -- and that is what causes the problem. The fact that people are not used to this high variable climate, that all of a sudden you have a 20-degree rise in maximum temperature...for this reason, many less people die of the heat in cities in the deep South."

But just pinning down how many heat-related deaths there are each year is more of an art than a science. "People tend to understate the threat of heat, and the medical examiners tend to under-report the number of people that die from heat," said Kalkstein.

The NRDC praised cities like Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, which it said have upped their game in responding to heat-related emergencies and have adopted strategies like cooling centers, "heatlines", and organized programs where neighbors look in on local at-risk residents. Some cities also won't cut off power to residents who have failed to pay an electric bill during a heat-related emergency.

Case in point: New York City, with its eight million residents, sees an average of 184 heat-related deaths each summer. But just across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey -- population 280,000 -- that number is 56.  "New York has one of the most aggressive local health departments in the country," Kalkstein said. "They're one of the few cities in the country where the Health Department calls the heat emergency, rather than the National Weather Service...they are doubling down on every effort to deal with heat."



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New Jersey News

Airport Worker Allegedly Had Man's ID Before Death

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More details are emerging in the case of a Newark Liberty Airport security supervisor who allegedly has been using the identity of a dead man for the last 20 years.


New Jersey News

For Those Making Less, A Greater Chance of Being Hit by Cars

Monday, May 14, 2012


In Newark, roughly 500 pedestrians are struck by cars each year. It’s one of just two dozen cities across the country singled out by the federal government as a pedestrian safety focus city. Experts say that's not an anomaly: there's a statistical correlation between high-poverty neighborhoods and the likelihood of being hit by a car.

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Transportation Nation

Poor Pedestrians More Likely To Be Struck by Cars

Monday, May 14, 2012

Listen to an audio version of this story here.

Three years ago, Sharon Rodriguez was walking to her job as a bartender at a hockey bar in downtown Newark, near where the Devils play. She says the light turned green, and she stepped out into the intersection.

"And then a car came towards, me, turning. It just hit me from the front. And I slid across the hood." She wound up under the car - at which point, she said, the driver backed up and drove away.

Sharon Rodriguez (photo by Kate Hinds)

Rodriguez says her head hit the hood with such force her fillings popped out of her teeth. She needed stitches in her chin, and her jaw had to be reconstructed. She was taken to the emergency room at The University Hospital in Newark. Dr. David Livingston, its chief trauma surgeon, says he sees 300 pedestrian injuries a year.

Dr. David Livington, head of the trauma center at UMDNJ-University Hospital in Newark (photo by Kate Hinds)

"And not surprisingly," he says, "they tend to be a lot of the times quite severe, because there’s a car, going at a moderate-to-high rate of speed, and a person!"

In all of Newark, roughly five hundred pedestrians are struck by cars each year. It’s one of just two dozen cities across the country singled out by the federal government as a pedestrian safety focus city.

Another thing about Newark: its average household income is about half the state’s median.

While a grad student at Rutgers, Daniel Kravetz starting sifting through data for several counties in Northern New Jersey.  "And I started to notice that all the roads that were most likely to have a lot of intersections with high crash counts, were in communities where the population was either highly African American or highly Latino," he says.

Dan Kravetz (photo by Kate Hinds)

So he dug a little deeper. And found what he calls "a statistically significant relationship" between low income neighborhoods and high pedestrian crash totals.

That correlation shows up everywhere. "The higher the income level, the lower the likelihood for crashes to occur in an area," Kravetz says. "And that was found in almost any study that analyzed that relationship."

Researchers are trying to hone in on why this is. One obvious reason: car ownership is out of reach for many low income people – so they’re walking more, literally increasing their exposure to cars. But poorer neighborhoods often lack even the most basic pedestrian infrastructure. And advocates are turning their attention to trying to improve intersections, one corner at a time.

The intersection of Park Avenue and 4th Street in Newark (photo by Kate Hinds)

Alle Ries is director of community and economic development at Newark nonprofit La Casa de Don Pedro, where she runs the group's Caminos Seguros program. Ries takes me to one city hotspot – the intersection of Park Avenue and 4th Street. Ries said the group chose this intersection because "there were three serious pedestrian accidents in about an 18-month period, and a lot of car crashes. So that is pretty high. If you have one pedestrian accident in a two year period, that’s considered very significant."

The intersection is also home to a city light rail stop and a busy NJ Transit bus stop. Two schools are also nearby.

Last year the group partnered with the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) and performed a road safety audit of the intersection to determine exactly what its deficiencies are.

Members of Caminos Seguros observing road conditions, 2011 (image courtesy of La Casa de Don Pedro)

And there are many. "Well, let's start with crosswalks," Ries says. As in there aren't any painted across Park Avenue.

Also: there’s no pedestrian light telling you that it’s safe to cross, the sidewalk is in bad shape, and there’s a streetlight located on the edge of the sidewalk that keeps getting knocked over by cars.

"There’s nothing safe about that," Ries says. At one corner she points out a driveway doubling as a wheelchair ramp. "You can see that no attention has been paid whatsoever to that issue."

Another view of Park and 4th in Newark (photo by Kate Hinds)

Newark officials say they’re working on this. This year alone, they’ll spend $27 million dollars across the city on pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements. Jack Nata, the city's traffic manager, says that's more money than the city has ever spent on this issue. He's working on a number of fronts to reduce the number of pedestrian crashes --- not only through infrastructure improvements, but by educational outreach programs and increasingly using red light traffic cameras to calm traffic. But Newark, like many other municipalities in New Jersey, doesn’t always have final say over its own roads.

"Unfortunately there are certain streets in the city – Park Avenue, Bloomfield, South Orange, Springfield, Lyons – these are all county roads and the city has no jurisdiction over it," he says. Meaning: the city can't even paint a crosswalk on those roads -- they belong to Essex County.

Essex County has applied for a $350,000 grant from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority to overhaul the intersection of Park and  4th. If the grant is approved, work could be completed by this fall.

The New Jersey State Department of Transportation is also trying to convince cities and counties to adopt the state's "complete streets" policy. Under this approach, roads are designed for all users -- bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders -- not just cars.

But changes to Park and Fourth can’t come soon enough for one local resident. "This intersection: if you are not careful, you are definitely going to get hit by something," says Edward Vargas, a 20-year old who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life. He's just exited the light rail station and now he's heading home on Park Avenue. "You gotta know how to cross the street – that’s just Newark in general. You gotta know how to cross the street...I don’t know why it is, it’s just how it’s been, since I’ve been growing up here."

But advocates and city officials hope if they can break the link between low-income neighborhoods and pedestrian crashes, it won't always be that way.

An intersection in downtown Newark, complete with paved crosswalk and a pedestrian crossing signal (photo by Kate Hinds)


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