Sorry it’s been so long since my last entry. I came down with a severe case of writer’s baby. If you have never heard of the condition, it occurs when you sit down on your couch, pick up your laptop and formulate two coherent sentences. As soon as you start the third one a toddler is grabbing you by your index finger and leading you to the kitchen to show you how he took everything out of your silverware drawer and put it in the garbage pail. He is so incredibly helpful.
So I wanted to write about an incredibly historic day in one of everybody’s least favorite urban neighborhoods. Yesterday Sharpe James was sent home from The FCI Petersburg Low. Never heard of it, well you can see a lovely photo of it on the Federal Bureau of Prison’s website. If you’re not from these parts you might not know the name of Sharpe James. James was the mayor of Newark, New Jersey who was indicted on 25 criminal charges ranging from mail fraud (never fuck with the mail,) wire fraud and conspiracy. He was convicted on five and sentenced to 27 months. The man was legendary in The NYC metro area. He was mayor for 20 years. In addition he was also a state senator of New Jersey for ten of those years. Wait a second, hold the phone. He held two elected posts at the same time? Hmm, I’m thinking I might be able to hold two elected posts at the same time. The first being P.T.A. president, while at the same time being the North East Chairman of The Justin Bieber Fan Club. Not the mayor for the 65th largest city in the country, and a senator for an entire district as well. If we look at James’ laundry list indiscretions we see a modern day Boss Tweed without the cool middle name of Marcy, oh and without the results as well. Tweed was corrupt, maybe the most corrupt but in between stealing millions he did accomplish a good deed or two.
So with James now out (and finishing out his term in a half way house) if he ever goes back to the scene of his crimes he will see a very different Newark than the one he sucked dry. Newark had always been a joke of a city. It is the largest city in the metro area that is not one of the five boroughs. From as long as I can remember it has always been straight up ghetto, but a second rate one at that. Nobody swelled with pride to say they were” representin Brick City.” Not like you would if you were from Jamaica, or Brownsville which had the nickname of A Square Mile of Death. When you hailed from East New York, you could brag that the Seven Five Precinct had more murders than most of the cities in America. Growing up, the joke was that Newark was so crappy that even the airport didn’t want to be there. This stems from the fact that Newark Liberty Airport is actually in Elizabeth, New Jersey and not Newark.
Then all of a sudden something changed. The laughter just stopped. Well actually it wasn’t sudden, but I remember waking up one day and saying to myself “Is Newark a respectable city now?” The fact of the matter is that Newark will never be confused with the Upper West Side, but you cannot deny that the place has made huge strides to becoming a place where people don’t have to cower in shame when they say they come from it. If you have to put your finger on what the biggest factor for that change it’s pretty obvious that it all falls on the lap of one man, Cory Booker.
Now when I say that Cory Booker is responsible for the turnaround I should really say that it falls on the backs of Booker and the men and women who serve under him. But what I can pin squarely on the shoulders of Booker is that he allowed those people to do their respective jobs. I’ve seen firsthand what a mayor can actively do to reduce crime. I was hired as a police officer under David Dinkins. Whenever the shit hit the fan we were told that angry mobs just need to vent. Really? A group of heated up idiots taking to the streets to behave lawlessly is an entity that should be allowed to exist? Is it any wonder that Dinkins held the distinction of being the mayor who had the highest murder rates on his watch. This is not joke, just look at videos of The Crown Heights Riots. Under St. Rudy (I’m not a fan, but you can’t argue with his results) the amount of murders dropped to the lowest levels in forty years. Booker seems to have charted a course for the same results.
Newark hit a milestone last week by going thirty eight consecutive days with without a single murder. Now this is just plain amazing. Cory Booker and his cops have managed to not have anybody killed intentionally by another person for more than a month. But at the same time I think about it, is it that big of an accomplishment to not kill? I’ve gone 39 years without killing, using this logic shouldn’t the media be covering my every step then? I’m not a bible scholar, nor am I that religious but I wholeheartedly understand the commandment Thou Shall Not Kill. There are times I’d like to violate it, but I don’t.
So I would like to congratulate Mayor Booker and the entire Newark Police Department for reaching their milestone. I mean they do have a former brilliant NYPD guy in Garry McCarthy at the helm calling the shots. Most of all I would like to congratulate the citizens of Newark, New Jersey for behaving like human beings for a short period of time. Stay Classy Newark, Stay Classy!