La Casa de Don Pedro’s traditional service area has been the northern reaches of the city of Newark, New Jersey. While that remains true today it should be noted that throughout its four decades of its history La Casa de Don Pedro has served the needs of many “Newarkers” and many others beyond the city limits. In addition La Casa de Don Pedro’s recent asset acquisition of a non-profit that closed its doors has extended its base of operation to the southern section of Lower Broad, Lower Clinton and Lincoln Park.
A snapshot of the northern end that is definitely defined by U.S. 280 taking in all of the North Ward as well as pieces of the Central and Western Wards. At is southern end the community provides key gateways to Downtown Newark’s, with the Broad, Broadway and Bloomfield arteries extending beyond the city limits. The Passaic River runs along the eastern edge and frames the New York City skyline from the street perspective with it gentle ridge moving west. In the center of the community sits Branch Brook Park a priced recreational space with one of the most beautiful cherry blossom displays. The park was the forerunner for Olmstead and Vaux who would later create Central Park. The western end continues to offer choice residential sections that blend into the earlier suburban communities of East Orange, Bloomfield and Belleville.
Newark and in particular the North End is a diverse and densely populated neighborhood with more than 75,000 residents. It was home to Newark’s elite as well as a port of entry for many. Germans, Irish, Italians once inhabited major sections of these neighborhoods. In the same way African Americans have shared many pockets throughout the area since the nineteen twenties and thirties. In the 1950’s and 60‘s these groups were followed by Puerto Ricans who established La Casa de Don Pedro in the early seventies. Today many of the new entries are immigrants from South and Central America as well as from Africa and other global points. At the same time the neighborhoods is “home” for many multiple generations of residents that pride themselves as being “Newarker. Born, raised and still here!” Today this a mosaic of peoples share their daily lives, with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and commuters that use Newark and its communities to have a home, to work, study, and recreate. They all share the hope and dreams for a better City for themselves, their children and New Jersey.
This northern section of the City contains a variety of neighborhoods. Some are Newark’s best neighborhoods, with stately mansions that today are the homes for middle and working families as can be found in the Forest Hill community. Some neighborhood offer simple single family homes that stand next to buildings that over time were converted into multiple dwellings, often these alongside worker’s housing consisting of small sized wood framed townhomes. Throughout each neighborhood small apartment buildings as can be found.
Over the last fifty years earlier redevelopment has scattered a mixture of low and middle income high-rise apartment buildings. All the high-rise low income housing has been redeveloped into attractive townhomes during the last ten years. The Colonnades and Pavilion in the south end as well as several buildings on Mt. Prospect Avenue as well and in the northern reach along the Branch Brook Subway Station continue to provide modern living with exciting views of the City and beyond.
Each neighborhood contains a rich mixture of scattering of commercial and industrial properties and activities that give rise and support unique life styles and characteristic.
The “disturbances” of the late 1960’s physically did not physically affect this, but it provided the “push” and flight of many whites at first and then for some Blacks and Puerto Ricans who sought relief from the blighting urban American of the 70’ and 80’s. During the 90’s stead fast residents and community development organizations like La Casa de Don Pedro initiated the revitalization work that mushroomed in the last ten years that made Newark among NJ’s leading producers of housing.
Newark is New Jersey’s largest city and as such it fits the mold of a central city with a larger segment of its residents being renters and a homeownership rate of 25%. The majority of the adults work outside of Newark as part of the NY/NJ Metro Area labor market. Unemployment in the city is typically higher than the state’s rate. The educational level is also grim for this area; as 40% of adults do not have a high school diploma. Crime has steadily and dramatically been reduced but the occasional riveting crime news and the continuing perception plague some residents and out-of-towners.
There are many positive signs. The number of college-educated residents is slightly higher than the city’s average, due to its proximity to Newark’s University Heights and a desirable ethnic mix. Market forces, strong community organizing and a handful of strong-willed merchants have made a compelling case for investing significant time, energy and money in this area. Over the last decade, new houses have sprung up on vacant sites and sold quickly, although there are concerns about the foreclosures that not only suggest predatory lending but poor lending and investment that affect local markets
This neighborhood’s profile is typical of many urban communities. Residents want, wish for and work for their neighborhood to be more than just a place where they eat and sleep; they seek and environment and quality of life that meets all of life needs for all of its inhabitants.
The challenge for La Casa de Don Pedro is to help weave a community tapestry of services and actions that serves those who are here now and who will inhabit the neighborhoods in the future. This speaks to having quality schools that educate their children. A place where work is accessible and economic viability is a reality. It is about an urban community where residents feel safe. It is about a cityscape that offers an attractive and healthy environment. This means convenient access to daily household needs from milk to shoes that supports business investments. We have the ingredients and opportunities to make “viable neighborhoods” throughout this community.
La Casa de Don Pedro has been in the forefront of fostering the residents and community to be self sufficient, in empowering its citizenry and in revitalizing the community.
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