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Niches for Newark

Newark is very near the center of Megalopolis, the enormous megacity that stretches from Greater Boston to Greater Washington, D.C. and includes Providence, Hartford, New Haven, New York, Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore. Downtown Newark is only 15 miles by road from Midtown Manhattan, and closer than that to Downtown Manhattan, the second pole of the region's metropolis and Nation's largest city and cultural, financial, publishing, and media capital, New York City — which happens also to be the world's capital, as site of UN Headquarters. How can Newark distinguish itself in such a swirl of cities, industries, and attractions?

Historically, Newark is old, established in 1666. But other municipalities in New Jersey are older (Middletown, my former hometown, and Elizabeth, both founded in 1664). New York City was founded as New Amsterdam in 1628. And the oldest English settlement in the U.S. North, Plymouth, was established 40 miles from what is now downtown Boston in 1620. Newark was much involved in the American Revolution, but nearby Morristown, not Newark, was Washington's headquarters, and the famous New Jersey battles of Trenton, Princeton, and Monmouth were dozens of miles from Newark. Downtown does contain Military Park, a Revolutionary War parade ground where colonials/early Americans trained for war. Gutzon Borglum's largest bronze statue, "Wars of America", graces Military Park. But no important battles were ever fought within Newark.

Financially, Newark is home to the Prudential insurance and financial services empire, and to other insurers and major corporations, but it certainly can't compare with New York City in that regard.

In performing arts, Newark has the brilliant New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC, "En Jay Pack") and Symphony Hall, but it doesn't hold a candle to New York's Theater District, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, and other theatrical venues. Nor are the great outdoor stadium or indoor arena venues of New Jersey, such as Giants Stadium and the Continental Arena, within Newark (tho a new arena for the Nets and Devils may — or may not — open in Newark within the next several years).

Newark has some museums and cultural exhibition spaces, such as the Newark Museum and Newark Public Library, but it certainly can't compare to New York's hundreds of museums and specialized exhibit areas.

New York has the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, so it would be difficult for Newark to establish a zoological center sufficiently distinct and distinguished to draw visitors in quantity. Oh, we might focus on animals native to North America or the U.S. East, but the Bronx Zoo may have all those anyway.

Moreover, New York has two botanical gardens, one in the Bronx and the other in Brooklyn.

Still, it may be possible for Newark to do something distinctive in botany. How about a botanical garden complex devoted to Urban Gardening and Low-Maintenance Gardens for people who have little time and money but who want to know how to plant a small area with extremely hardy plants that need little or no attention, not even watering in our climate zone? A garden exhibition center with examples of rock gardens, "weed" gardens of plants that flower, and an agricultural research station to breed "weeds" into showier "wildflowers" might be just what the doctor ordered.

It could serve as a center for poor and lower-middle-class people who would like something pretty and green but who are too tired after long hours at physically demanding jobs to putter around the garden, and who can't afford to buy fancy plants (that might die with neglect), do expensive soil testing and preparation, and pay the high water bills that come with regular hose watering — if they even have an outdoor connection for a hose.

Such a gardening institution would offer advice on things like :

It would itself :

Such a gardening center could be created on a relatively small plot (a couple of acres), and indeed could comprise a number of scattered sites linked by a tourbus to show different approaches in different spaces.

People who have little money or leisure time need greenery and flowering plants to brighten their lives too, and Newark can turn a negative, its relative poverty, into a positive, as a showcase for what people can do without a lot of money.


What else might Newark do that would distinguish it from its neighbors?

Well, Newark has an Anheuser-Busch brewery within city limits, but no Busch Gardens or theme park appurtenant to it. Why not?

Why shouldn't Anheuser-Busch create a Busch Gardens Newark?

Perhaps it would need to be under a geodesic dome, or large, vaulted area created from adjoining geodesic domes, to make it comfortable to visit year-round. But that technology is well understood, and Anheuser-Busch could certainly afford to employ it.

Newark is at the heart of the Nation's most densely populated area, and a Busch Gardens Newark would surely produce great numbers of visitors and thus great publicity for the Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. If a park like the others in the Busch chain requires more space than the Newark site (and adjoining property Busch might buy) affords, there are at least three alternatives:

Anheuser-Busch is an enormously wealthy company. It can easily afford to create a Busch Gardens Newark, and to do so would give it ready access to millions of residents of the 18 million-strong Tristate Metropolitan Area and further millions of tourists who visit New York City each year. Since favorable publicity for the company's products is the basic reason Anheuser-Busch runs parks across the country, creation of a Busch Gardens Newark (by any name), with its potential millions of visits a year, would seem a very wise investment. This is especially true given that Busch Gardens Newark would be an easy day trip for the families of top executives from many of the Nation's largest corporations and media companies. These are exactly the kinds of people any major corporation most wants to impress. Indeed, given the presence in New York City of both the United Nations Headquarters and scores of foreign consulates, a Busch Gardens Newark would be very well situated to improve Anheuser-Busch's international reputation.


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