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Brick City: The Streets of Newark, NJ

newark ghetto newark gangs

Brick City: A Breakdown of the city of Newark

Often labeled as the 6th borough with its close relation to New York City, but the streets of the Newark ghetto have built their own separate reputation, a reputation that became known as Brick City.

The streets of the Newark ghetto and what is portrayed by the media with Newark gangs like G-Shine and Grape Street or the Hispanic affiliations of the Latin Kings or Trinitarios (3ni) in Newark’s North Ward has given many people throughout New Jersey various opinions about the city.

With the large number of legendary neighborhoods that were mostly the many housing project complexes that the city once consisted of, the alias of “Brick City” was given to Newark.

little bricks projects newark nj

The Little Bricks Projects of Newark, aka Felix Fuld Court

As an attempt to provide temporary housing, the city of Newark began to build a number of housing projects, starting during the 1940s, that were originally meant to be segregated with some complexes being for white families and others for African-Americans.

Decades later, before the city began to demolish most of its housing projects beginning in the 1990s, Newark’s projects were some of the most notorious neighborhoods in the Tri-State area.

Officially, or unofficially, the city of Newark is divided into separate sections that are known as wards, for instance there is a North Ward, South Ward, East Ward, Central Ward, and West Ward.

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The community of the East Ward, known locally to some as the Down Bottoms, is a diverse community of multiple racial groups but has small housing complexes like Pennington Court, Hyatt Court, and Riverview Court, which is officially the Terrell Homes.

The West Ward, which is near the city of Irvington and the Garden State Parkway, is mainly the Valisburg area that is divided into Ill Hill (Ivy Hill) and Hoodaville, along with the Bradley Court projects.

The South Ward is mainly the Clinton Hill and Weequahic areas of the city with neighborhoods around streets like Lyons Avenue, Bergen Street, or Clinton Avenue.

newark ghetto newark gangs

Around Bergen Street in a section that is on the border of Central Ward and South Ward.

The most known section of South Ward and the area with the most notoriety are two neighborhoods along Frelinghuysen Avenue, the Dayton Street and Seth Boyden housing projects.

The North Ward community was historically the city’s Italian neighborhood until hundreds of families decided to make a home outside of the city, the North Ward is now home to Newark’s Latino community.

The North Ward was once home to the old Columbus Homes high-rise, while still being home to the Grafton Avenue projects, or the Thomas Walsh Homes, Stephen Crane Projects (SCP), and the Spiers (Garden Spiers Projects).

newark ghetto

As most of the original brick houisng projects have been demolished, this image provides an example of today’s Newark’s public housing complexes

The vast majority of Newark’s old housing projects resided in the city’s Central Ward, especially between Springfield and Clinton Avenue where the once Prince Street (Stella Wright), the Hayes Homes, and Crazyville (Scudder Homes) were located at.

Other former neighborhoods of the Central Ward once included the Little Bricks (Felix Fuld Court), Brick Towers and High Street (MLK Blvd.), Slash T (Baxter Terrace), and Norfolk Street.

Above is a map that does not necessarily breakdown the Newark gangs, but instead shows all of the hoods within the Newark ghetto and the location for many of the city’s old housing projects.

The Past and Present of Newark, NJ*

Between the 1940s and the 1970s, the city’s population was decreasing as people were relocating outside of Newark’s city limits into more suburban areas of northern New Jersey, especially as the city lost many of its manufacturing companies.

Before the exodus or white flight from Newark, redlining and block busting, along with the refusal and denial bank loans and mortgages, contributed to much of the city’s racial makeup within the neighborhoods.

With these practices, blacks were only able to live in certain areas, mostly the Central Ward community, and were not able to live outside of the Central Ward until other racial groups began to leave the city of Newark.

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Throughout the years, the African-American suffer much but not until the late 1960s did the frustration within community reached its peak as the city experience of the worst race riots after a black man was brutally beaten by the police as this event escalated the already tension in the community.

Rioting in Newark became so bad that the state police and National Guard had to be called in and after a few days of rioting over 20 people were killed and fires and looting caused over 2 million dollars worth of damage.

The ability to have no influence within the local politics or in the school district, harassment by the police, and the decision to turn parts of the all-black Central Ward into a medical college created this frustration in the community.

After the riots, the city gained its first black mayor as the majority of the population became predominantly black and Latino, in which the city’s Latino population began to arrive during the 1950s.

newark ghetto newark gangs

The city has been declining years after the riots as the plan of gentrification has taken a toll on numerous neighborhoods.

Today, even though the city is experiencing gentrification, the black and Latino community makes up the majority of the city with Hispanics residing mostly in the North Ward and parts of the East Ward, while the Central, West, and South wards are home to most of Newark’s black population.

With the occurrence of gentrification and the city’s plans of rebuilding its downtown area, together with the surrounding communities, the name of Brick City seems to be less relevant as neighborhoods are being torn down.

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Click to check out more City Stories of different urban communities

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

*Newark History Fact Sources:

“Report of the National Advisory Commision on Civil Disorders”. New York Times. Bantam Books. 1968

Curvin, Robert “Inside Newark: Decline, Rebellion, and the Search for Transformation” Rutgers University Press. 2014

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