Portions of this article have been updated.
Bypassed by most travelers through Liberty International Newark Airport en route to more far-flung destinations, Newark is in the midst of a comeback, though not completely revitalized. Two developments, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, completed in 1997, and the Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, opened in 1999, are injecting life into this once beleaguered city. The proposed arena is bringing the New Jersey Devils to town. The downtown is compact and home to many examples of early-20th-century architecture, though still punctuated by empty warehouses and vacant buildings, especially on side streets. Tourists of urban decay flock to the old Essex County Jail (120 Newark Street), a crumbling 1837 edifice, unused since 1989; for more information see the Preservation New Jersey website. Oversized signs aid the visitor’s journey to all points, including the optimistically named University Heights, a sterile stretch of land that comprises the Newark campus of Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Essex County College. On the other side of the McKim, Mead & White-designed Pennsylvania Station lies the Ironbound District, a picturesque Portuguese and Brazilian neighborhood replete with cafés, eateries, wine stores, and fish markets. According to Manuel Morais of Century 21 Central Realty in the Ironbound, rents in this area are higher than in the rest of the city, and apartments more difficult to obtain, as most are rented directly by owner and found by word of mouth.
Boundaries: Belleville to the north, the Passaic River to the east, Elizabeth to the south, and Irvington to the west.
Transportation: From Newark’s Penn Station, PATH trains take 22 minutes to the re-opened World Trade Center station, and under 40 minutes to 33rd Street, with a transfer at either Journal Square or Grove Street; NJ Transit trains reach New York’s Penn Station in about 20 minutes. The historic Newark City Subway runs four miles below and above ground, and the Loop bus shuttle links many city attractions.
Main Drags: Broad Street, the city’s north-south thoroughfare, mixes discount and chain shops with attractive art deco skyscrapers. It intersects with Market Street, another commercial hub. In the Ironbound District, Ferry Street is the nexus of old-world charm, providing residents and tourists with a mix of Portuguese and Brazilian businesses, including popular coffee shops and restaurants.
Average Price to Rent: one-bedroom, $800 to $1,200 ($700 to $1,000); two-bedroom, $1,000 to $1,450 ($1,000 to $1,300); three-bedroom, $1,400 to $1,600 ($1,100 to $1,400).
Average Price to Buy: Single-family house, $120,000 to $250,000 ($150,000-$200,000 and up); two-family house, $170,000 to $290,000 ($200,000-$350,00 and up).
Museums, Galleries: Renovated by Michael Graves, the Newark Museum (49 Washington Street), houses an impressive collection of Asian art, with a strength in Tibetan works (including a Buddhist altar blessed by the Dalai Lama). African art, past and present, is another focus; “My Ethiopia: Recent Paintings by Wosene Worke Kosrof” is on view through August. Two contemporary galleries promoting emerging artists are Aljira (591 Broad Street) and City Without Walls (6 Crawford Street).
Local Stores: Behind Penn Station, Tropical Music (50 Ferry Street) is a friendly shop stocking Brazilian CDs, DVDs, and magazines. At the nearby Pegasus Sporting Goods (113 Ferry Street), Portuguese team jerseys are big sellers, according to sales staff. Teixeira’s Bakery (186 Ferry) seduces with a mouth-watering display of breads—sweets, coffee, and seating are also available.
Green Space: Washington Park is flanked by the Newark Museum, the public library, and a number of other historical buildings. Come springtime, the cherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park (located in the North Ward and accessible by city subway) surpass those in Washington, D.C.
Cultural Institutions: The Italian Renaissance-style Newark Public Library (5 Washington Street) was built in 1903. At the more modern New Jersey Performing Arts Center (1 Centre Street) the free outdoor summer concert series is a big draw. The New Jersey Historical Society (52 Park Place) houses Garden State archives, and its neighbor, the nonprofit WBGO (54 Park Place) promotes jazz (listen in at WBGO.org).
Local Landmarks: Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart (89 Ridge Street), a looming French-Gothic structure at the southeastern edge of Branch Brook Park, can be seen from afar. City Hall (920 Broad Street), a gold-domed beaux-arts building, anchors the downtown.
Famous Residents: Queen Latifah, Redman, and Shaquille O’Neal hail from here; Brick City native Amiri Baraka is active in community arts and politics.
Best Restaurants: Locals and out-of-towners sample soul food at Je’s (260 Halsey Street), where huge portions of barbecued ribs and fried chicken are the norm. In the Ironbound, Casa Vasca (141 Elm Street), offers an Iberian menu that includes paella and sangria, and the second-story Brasilia (99 Monroe) serves up classic rodizio (grilled meats on skewers).
Bars/Clubs: A comfortable spot to sip cappuccino during the day, Euphoria (17 Academy Street) transforms into a bar with a happy hour and cocktails toward the evening; manager Howard Lawson recommends the Wednesday night underground house party (8 till 2). McGovern’s Tavern (58 New Street) and Hamilton’s Pub (27 Central Avenue) are two reliable boozers.
Happenings: April brings the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to Branch Brook Park. Ferry Street plays host to the Portuguese Day Parade and Festival in June and the Brazilian Independence Day Festival in September.
Politicians: Mayor Sharpe James (serving his fifth term), Coucil President Donald Bradley, and an eight-member governing body serve the city.
Crime Stats: The New Jersey State Police reported for Newark City 86 murders, 81 rapes, 1,410 robberies, 1,407 aggravated assaults, 2,195 burglaries, and 5,859 motor vehicle thefts in 2004. (Preliminary reports from the Newark Police Department indicate 84 murders in 2003, up 29 percent from 2002; 90 rapes, up 2percent; 1,365 robberies, down 13 percent; 2,290 burglaries, up 2 percent; and 1,269 aggravated assaults, down 14 percent).