WHERE I LIVE: Why would Sharon Adarlo want to live in Newark?

Journalist Sharon Adarlo at home in downtown Newark

Journalist Sharon Adarlo at home in downtown Newark

By Cristina DC Pastor

Because she and her husband found a really cool brick house downtown, a short walk to Prudential Center and Lincoln Park. Their home is just outside the predominantly Portuguese Ironbound district with plenty of bars and restaurants offering large servings of grilled meats and salted ‘balcalhau’ fish.

“It’s a pretty safe part of Newark,” said freelance journalist Sharon Adarlo, who writes for Wall Street Journal and Al-Jazeera. “Not a lot of crime.”

There. She said the C word.

Fact is – or is it mere perception, as some residents insist? – Newark is a working-class, high-crime city in New Jersey, the second most dangerous after nearby Irvington, according to 2012 stats provided by City-Data.com. Murder is up and so are carjacking and drive-by shooting. It’s not the white picket fence community some FilAms aspire to have as an address.

New Jersey’s most populous city is divided into five wards. Sharon and her husband live in the East Ward, a shopping and dining district . “I know there is crime in Newark but so is there in any big city like Jersey City or Brooklyn,” she said.

Newark, she stressed, is such a beautiful city and will put any so-called ‘Best Place to Live’ city to shame. “I looked at some parts of Brooklyn, and I think Newark is better. Compared to Newark, Brooklyn looks like butt, and you do not pay as much here.”

As a freelancer, Sharon works from home most of the time. Her morning begins with phone calls to sources for a developing story. Then, she goes down to TM Ward on Broad Street for her first cup of coffee. Some days she would grab lunch at Elbow Room on Hasley Street for some mac-and-cheese, and if deadline is not that urgent, she would go check out the Pedal Farm community garden by Lincoln Park just to see what is going on for the week.

Her husband, who is a project manager for an upscale window company, works in Manhattan.

Weekends are ideal for visits to the Branch Brook Park, Newark’s largest public park, further north. Around first week of April, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival transforms Branch Brook into a palette of pink reminiscent of Monet’s “Springtime in Giverny.”

“Newark has a beautiful park and it’s more spread out,” said Sharon, who makes it a point to visit every year when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. “New York parks are always crowded, there’s way more space here.”

The Monk Room on Green Street is another favorite watering hole for the couple when they have a craving for gourmet pizza. They find themselves doing a lot of walking around the pleasant downtown neighborhood.

The neighborhood is ideal for visiting friends in New York as the PATH Trains are close by. They are also served by several bus lines to Manhattan, and the airport is just 20 minutes away. “It’s a great location,” stressed Sharon.

The gentrification of this industrial port may have begun more than 20 years ago, but the pace was faster when the popular and charismatic Cory Booker was mayor from 2006 to 2013. His administration kept a close watch on the crime rate, which encouraged large investments and financial contributions to flow into the city. One that attracted the most attention was the $100 million education grant courtesy of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Newark still has more crime per capita, said Sharon.

“I think this perception that the city is crime-infested rests on actual news reports and statistics, not just history. The city has a bad image because of the high crime in certain areas, the Newark riots, and the subsequent time in the 1970s when the city had a rash of property fires. It is recovering though,” she said.

“Sure, I’ve seen some drug action, some prostitutes,” she continued, but that has not stopped the construction of more loft houses downtown. People are migrating in big numbers because of Newark’s accessibility to transportation, schools, jobs and opportunities. “I keep on running into ex New Yorkers who are moving into the city,” she said.

Rental rates, while stable for now, are worth watching. Construction of loft houses is up to speed. A small apartment remains affordable at about $850 a month, which is likely double the rate in places like Jersey City or Brooklyn. A really large loft with ample space is a bargain at $1,800 a month.

“Newark is gentrifying, and some are afraid of that,” she said. Some, like the artists who have set up studios taking advantage of the city’s affordable housing are anxious. “They’re asking, how long is this gonna last?”

‘Where I Live’ is a new section in The FilAm where Filipinos provide a snapshot of their neighborhoods while giving us a glimpse into their borough or suburban lives. WIL pries open the sprawling maze that is the New York metropolitan area – from NYC to New Jersey, Connecticut and Northern Pennsylvania — where Filipinos find their homes, raise their families and live their ideal of the American Dream.

Branch Brook Park: ‘Newark has beautiful parks. There’s way more space here’

Branch Brook Park: ‘Newark has beautiful parks. There’s way more space here’

Exploring one of the loft houses under construction

Exploring one of the loft houses under construction

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