Son of a Son of Trenton

Like many in Central New Jersey, my Trenton roots run deep. This blog will serve to examine the good, the bad, and the promise of the city of Trenton. Well, that mixed with some miscellaneous ramblings along the way.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Higher Education

Camden, New Jersey, quite possibly one of the most reviled cities in the nation, especially after attaining the title of "Most Dangerous" two years in a row. Though we don't relish it, (at least I don't) we Trentonians have a saying: "Well it could be worse, we could be as bad as Camden." Not long ago, Diane Sawyer went to Camden with 20/20 to show the American people just what kind of conditions existed in the city by profiling the lives of three children living there. Sawyer also demonstrated the outside municipalities' view of Camden by visiting nearby Moorestown. A young caucasian boy when asked "What do you know about Camden," replied very matter of factly, "You're not supposed to go there." The airing of the report sent the Governor's Office into a flurry of activity with various state agencies descending on the city like jackrabbits.

Yet despite the fact that Camden suffers an arguably worse fate than Trenton, there exists something in the city far beyond Trenton's wildest dreams. What is it? It's a 40 acre model of urban revitalization, employing 700 people total, with 5,384 people coming and going every day-550 of them living on location. It's a place where students come to study business, law, liberal arts, and more. It's a satellite campus of a school with a highly regarded national reputation and a lot of Jersey pride. Rutgers University maintains a presence in Camden and suffers no shortage of students enrolling. Can anyone argue why Trenton couldn't emulate such a feat? After all, Trenton was the birthplace of Rider University, The College of New Jersey, and Mercer County Community College, all long since moved out to Lawrenceville, Ewing, and West Windsor, respectively, though MCCC maintains a small presence in the city. Just to be clear, the purpose of this post is not to knock Camden or Rutgers for being there, but rather to say, "If Camden, why not Trenton?"

No one is suggesting moving Rider or TCNJ BACK to the city of Trenton. Such a move would make little sense in terms of space and cost. However, either moving a school or program to Trenton, or creating an entirely new school or program in the city could make perfect sense. Having recently been a college student not all that long ago, I can speak with some authority on why a college would do well to locate a branch or "satellite" within the city. First and foremost, college students who desire an urban setting to begin with care very little about WHERE they live as long as some very basic needs are met. This is evidenced by schools such as Temple University, Fordham University, and of course, Rutgers Camden. College students are not worried about the condition of the local schools or the crime, they're worried about getting to class on time, passing the test, and being able to order a pizza at 4 A.M. Next, college students are consumers with disposable income. If 1,000 undergrads were to descend on Trenton, they would need things. Food, drink, services, entertainment, etc...many needs which students would have the income to demand would need to be satisfied. Everything from coffee shops, to convenience stores, to dry cleaners, to bars and restaurants would be stimulated by not only students living on campus, but any additional on-campus individuals including but not limited to: commuter students, faculty, and support/administrative staff as well. Finally, students, faculty, and those who tend to congregate in such circles could serve to supplement the growing yet struggling arts scene in Trenton. Everyone knows that the atmosphere of a great "College Town" is one of diversity and variety. The arts scene in Trenton, funky Trenton bars and restaurants, and other growing entities in the city could experience a true synergy with the addition of an institution of higher learning. College students, as anyone who has spent time in a "College Town" can attest to, are "all hours" people. In fact, they are most active at the times that our fair city is usually quite dead. This in and of itself would be quite a boon to Trenton.

Need more reasons why a college would do well to come to Trenton? Two words: THE STATE. The fact that Trenton is the capital of New Jersey, as I've said before, is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. Perhaps the fact that the capital is located in Trenton is a blessing in that if not for it, it is difficult to say how many outsiders would come to the city if at all. However, with its monopolization of parking areas, and other wrongheaded decisions, the state has not always been entirely gracious toward its host. Despite these mixed blessings, the state would have much to offer a college campus located within the city. Five days per week, people from nearly all parts of New Jersey converge on Trenton. Many of these people are top experts in their respective fields and are professionals with much to offer. They work in the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection, the Legislature, the Governor's Office, and more. Of course the state does not have a monopoly on talent in the city. Lobbying firms, law offices, media entities, county courts, and other private firms are also located in the city. The opportunities for cooperative learning in a plethora of fields is nearly endless. All of this could be centrally located in a place where a student could have easy access to transportation, be able to walk to an internship, or meet at a coffee shop to work, meet with friends, or simply relax.

Put simply, with regards to higher education in Trenton, the sky is the limit. Not only could students benefit from the concentration of activity and expertise in the city, the city's residents could benefit from the students as well. Of course a college would provide jobs and stimulate the economy, but institutions of higher learning seem to have a common thread-they help people. Colleges and universities perform research, help to jump start projects and initiatives, and generally strive to make the world a better place through spreading knowledge and information. Imagine if college students were paired with Trenton youth for mentoring, tutoring, and skill building, there is no telling where something of that nature could lead. Much of Trenton's rebirth seems to be rooted in the past. Old buildings like the Exton Cracker Factory on Centre Street and the Broad Street Bank are finding new uses. All over the country, certain groups of people are slowly returning to the urban centers they once fled. Perhaps Trenton could do a bit to remind great institutions like Rider University and The College of New Jersey (TRENTON STATE!!!) where they came from, and that Jon Bon Jovi wasn't kidding when he said: "Who says you can't go home?"

Yes, that was corny, no, I'm not apologizing. If you read this blog and you're not an ardent fan of the Holy (Jersey) Trinity of Frank, Bruce, and Jon, that's your loss, not mine.

Slan go foill

In Praise of James H. Coston

Jim Coston has been mentioned in this blog before, but never in depth, but I feel at this point that it is very necessary to recognize just what an exceptional person he is. Elsewhere in the world of Trenton revitalization there has been an idea put forth that any private person, politician, business, etc...that has endorsed Mayor Palmer should be "blacklisted." The reasoning behind said blacklisting, I'm assuming, is to send a message to Palmer, and to chip away at his power base, which I don't disagree with in spirit at least. However, I think this situation can be likened to a man going into his doctor's office and finding out he has cancer. Of course, now there must be a treatment plan. Blacklisting EVERY person and business that endorsed Palmer is akin to shooting the cancer patient in the head in order to cure the cancer. I believe this analogy is helpful for seeing the error in the "blacklisting" approach. However, relevant to this post is the fact that eschewing this type of tactic is just one facet of Jim Coston's expert leadership style.

For those of you who do not know much about Jim, I suggest you browse his website, which contains an extensive amount of information about him. The simple fact that the man has bothered to maintain a website (and very impressive site, I might add) speaks volumes of his determination and drive. No other Trenton Councilperson maintains a website. Not one. A resident of the South Ward can log on to and learn about Jim, his positions, the city, and read about new developments at Council, among other things. They also are given more than one way to contact the Councilman should they need to. I wonder if residents of other parts of the city would know how to contact their representatives in Council? I wonder, if they had a problem, would they receive any assistance with it, provided they could even get in touch with their Councilperson? I seriously doubt it since most Councilmembers don't even seem to want residents to show up to meetings, let alone contact them.

Regarding Jim's style of leadership, he is one of the few breaths of fresh air this city has seen in a long time. At first glance, Coston seems like a firebrand, an upstart, and quite a troublemaker. A cursory look at the local paper headlines would give a casual observer that idea. However, when one looks at the big picture, one sees that the reason Coston looks so revolutionary and confrontational is because our frame of reference is simply a bit skewed. In my experience with the city (which spans just shy of 30 years) I have never seen a member of Council who fought harder for accountability and truth, filed OPRA requests with such tenacity, or hounded slumlords with such zeal. Likewise, I have never seen a Councilperson who ever really listened to constituents praise and criticism with equal consideration. Trenton is just not used to people who believe in good government. Though good government is the way it's "supposed to be," it just hasn't been in Trenton for many many years, and Jim is simply doing the people's work. Of course the compassion and dedication to service that Jim brings to the office of Councilman comes from his vocation as a pastor, but I believe that we can find more people like him no matter what their occupation. Perhaps if we had more like people like Jim Coston on City Council, the man himself wouldn't seem so revolutionary. With enough people like him and a Mayor who shares their commitment, perhaps good government would just be "business as usual."

Slan go foill

Thursday, June 28, 2007


This post is not Trenton related so I'll keep it short as I never intended this blog to be about personal issues. Tonight I had something stolen from me-not in or anywhere even near Trenton mind you. I have a part time job which I usually go to on the weekends, but occasionally I'll work a weeknight here and there after my regular nine to five. This is in a very affluent area of Mercer County, not comparable in any way, shape, or form to Trenton. The item in question was a pair of sunglasses, a relatively expensive pair. However, that wasn't the most important thing to me. These were a present from someone very special in my life, and she had bought them for me before our first vacation together. I also have had them for a very long time and had grown about as attached as one can get to a plastic frame with polarized lenses. There is no question who took the sunglasses, as I had left them in a very specific place during my shift that I and only one other person had access to. When I discovered the glasses were gone I confronted the person who denied everything. I also brought up the fact that since this person had starting working at our place of employment things like money and tools seemed to walk out the door with no explanation, which had never happened before. Finally, I was rudely told that I was going to be reported for harassment if I didn't stop insinuating that this person took what was mine.

The person who took my sunglasses was white and employed like me. He didn't need to steal the glasses, he easily could have bought his own. Don't tell me that the people who live in Trenton cause the problems because of their race, their color, or their creed. This is a perfect example of how the dark side of human nature is present in all of us. The difference is that some of us take the high road and some of us don't. I guess this post was about Trenton.

Slan go foill

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pork Roll, Quoits, and Tomato Pie

So what is uniquely “Trenton” anyway? The abovementioned three things, without a doubt, are uniquely Trenton through and through. Interestingly enough, when I was a growing up, I had no idea that not everyone ate pork roll egg and cheese for breakfast, nor pitched quoits at barbeques, nor ate extremely thin pizza that was light on cheese and heavy on tomatoes. Who knew that Trenton had developed these icons over the years? In the interest of keeping things light and balanced here on the blog, here’s a look back at my experience of “growing up Trenton.”

“What’s pork roll?” I think my eyes just about crossed the first time I heard that question. It was during the spring semester of 2003 that I discovered that pork roll was not the omnipresent breakfast meat I had been led to believe it was in my youth. I had transferred out of Mercer County Community College to a four year school in Northern New Jersey, and the topic came up in conversation among myself, my roommates, and some friends. After I had gotten over the initial shock I began the extremely difficult process of trying to explain what pork roll actually is. “Well it’s this stuff that looks like salami, well sort of, but it doesn’t taste like salami, and it comes wrapped in cloth, and you slice it and fry it, and it’s made of ummmm…” It was at that point that I realized that I didn’t know what the hell pork roll was made of, but what did that matter-it was good! Then I got thrown somewhat of a curveball: “Oh you mean Taylor ham!” “No, I mean pork roll,” I stated, somewhat bewildered. After a bit of arguing we came to the conclusion that we were talking about the same thing, but I was adamant about one thing-it’s called PORK ROLL! You can imagine my surprise when I eventually realized that no matter what you called it, the mystery meat lovingly produced right here in Trenton by Loeffler, Taylor (the one true pork roll in this author’s opinion), and Case, was totally unknown outside of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Of course this begs the question-who cares? I care. There are few foods I can think of that are more perfect than pork roll. Since it’s smoked and pre-cooked, you can simply lop off a slice and put it on sandwich like lunchmeat, you can fry it and eat it with ketchup, you can melt cheese over it, you can combine it with a fried egg and some cheese to make delicious sandwich on a bagel or a hard roll, you can chop it up and add it to an omlet, or you can simply fry it up and eat it all by itself in all it’s cholesterol laden glory. Pork roll was usually a weekend treat when mom or dad would make it for breakfast or lunch, and it was always a staple at the hockey rink snack bar where I played in my youth. Of course, the Jersey shore was pork roll heaven during the summer. The true test of any boardwalk grill from Point Pleasant to Seaside was whether or not they could make a good pork roll sandwich. Finally, nothing was better than a backyard barbeque with pork roll on the grill. You could substitute pork roll for a hamburger entirely or you could make what I came to know as a “topper” which consisted of a burger, a slice of cheese, a slice or pork roll, and another slice of cheese, cooked to perfection over an open flame. Dr. Oz certainly wouldn’t approve, but healthy or not, pork roll is and always will be the official “meat” of Trenton.

Of course while you were at that backyard barbeque in Trenton or the surrounding area you needed something to do besides stuff your face with pork roll, as great as that would be. To me, a barbeque will never be complete without the resounding “CLANG” of one steel quoit colliding with another. From the time I was old enough to get in the way of a quoit game (not a wise decision for a little tyke) I was fascinated. My grandfather, my father, and their friends would pitch the concave steel rings at pins set in clay pits twenty-one feet apart for hours on end, with some games becoming quite heated. Again, once I was old enough and began to pitch quoits myself, I just assumed that it was a game played by all. In high school, every backyard party eventually ended up with a bunch of guys getting together and digging out the old man’s quoit set (which every dad seemed to have at least one of) and pitching a few. My moment of enlightenment came when I was old enough to go to concerts on my own. In the early days of what is now the Tweeter Center in Camden, about half of the parking lots were paved. Naturally, whenever we Trenton folk would tailgate we would bring our quoits, pound the pins into the hard ground, and pitch game after game until it was time to go to the show. It never failed to amaze us that people would continually stop and stare at us and motion to their friends to come over and watch us play a “weird version of horseshoes.” I would never knock horseshoes, but I’ve played it once or twice and it just isn’t the same. Nothing feels better in your hand than a well worn forged steel quoit, and nothing sounds better than knocking someone’s ringer or leaner off of the pin with your own quoit. Any cursory search of the word “quoit” on Google will reveal a plethora of links about the game along with one major revelation: The game of quoits played in Trenton is unlike any quoit game anywhere else! While quoits are relatively obscure outside of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, “Trenton” quoits are a different game with different hardware. Trenton quoits are lighter than conventional quoits with a different shape. The rules (of course this varies from backyard to backyard) also differ from “regular” quoits. The reasons behind Trenton creating its own offshoot of the game seem lost to history and time, but one thing is certain. Quoits seemed to be a great unifier in Trenton. As someone of Irish/Italian background, I know that both sides of my family played quoits. Italians played quoits at the Neapolitan Club, the Irish played quoits at the Hibernian Hall, the Poles Played it at the Polish-American Club, and so on and so forth. My grandfather, who worked at Roebling Wire Mill played quoits with all of his co-workers who hailed from various ethnic neighborhoods all over the city.

Finally, what could be more “Trenton” than tomato pie? Trenton tomato pie is a microcosm within the realm of what I deem “good pizza.” Good pizza is the kind of pizza one generally finds in the places that Italians historically settled in during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is opposed to what I deem “bad pizza,” which is generally found in places that Italians did not historically settle. Basically, good pizza is found predominately in the Northeastern United States, the hotspots being the major cities and their environs. Outside of this area all bets are off and if you’re not eating the mass produced junk that Dominos, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut is churning out, good luck with whatever it is you find. Although he was referring to another type of Italian food, Henry Hill said it best in “Goodfellas” after he was banished to the Midwest in the witness protection program: “I asked for spaghetti and marinara-I got egg noodles and ketchup.” In Trenton however, there is no question that the pizza you find will be of high quality, but will it be tomato pie? Though Trentonian’s loyalties are strongly divided between De Lorenzo’s Hudson Street, De Lorenzo’s Hamilton Avenue, and Papa’s, I will speak of my experience with De Lorenzo’s Hamilton Avenue, which, from the time my mother was a child, was my family’s place of choice. As a kid, once again my world represented my world view. Didn’t everyone get tomato pies drizzled with olive oil with huge chunks of tomato served by waiters dressed smartly in brilliant white outfits and neat black bowties? De Lorenzo’s on a Saturday night with the family was about as good as it got. Delicious pies, good conversation, and all the Coke in the little brown plastic cups you could drink. Afterwards on a comfortable summer night everyone would linger for a while (I come from a family of very long winded people, can’t you tell?) out front under the famous De Lorenzo’s sign with cars whizzing by on Hamilton Avenue. Needless to say, a semester in Washington, D.C. made me realize just how lucky I was. What Midwestern kids raved about I could barely digest. One of the only things I craved when home on break was simply a good tomato pie.

Perhaps these ramblings mean little to those outside of Trenton. However, for those of us who originated in the city, no matter where we may be now, and for those of us who may be newcomers, these are things that we can all share and that we can all claim as being uniquely “Trenton” and uniquely our own.

Slan go foill

Washington Town Center: An Argument For Urban Re-Use in Trenton

First off, let me offer my apologies for being somewhat neglectful of the blog lately. Unfortunately other things have precluded me from posting anything with sufficient depth. I’d rather post not at all than post something crappy. Surely many of those who read this blog are familiar with the development known as the Washington Town Center. Why should the Washington Town Center be seen as somewhat encouraging to those who would redevelop Trenton? Simply put, it’s a practice run for coaxing people back to our cities. Examine the area in question here:,+nj&ie=UTF8&ll=40.222485,-74.627573&spn=0.011764,0.019956&t=h&z=16&om=1

The area bounded by Route 33, Washington Boulevard, and Robbinsville-Edinburg Road is what is now known as the Washington Town Center. The development has actually grown quite a bit in size since the preceding photo was taken. Development has now extended to the east of Robbinsville-Edinburg Road, practically all the way to the defunct rail line (once part of the Camden and Amboy railroad which the locomotive “John Bull” was built for) to the west of Route 33. While the loss of nearly 400 acres of open space is lamentable, the idea behind Washington Town Center gives hope to those of us who wish to halt the outward push towards rural areas. There are many theories and philosophies that attempt to explain the drive toward suburbia, but I think that the developers of Washington Town Center have actually hit on something significant which is somewhat of a backlash against suburbia itself.

Taken from the Sharbell Development Corporation Website:

"It's a feeling of pure charm and innocence. A return to neighborhood-style living with welcoming, time-honored traditions. All perfectly at home in Washington Town Center. As inviting as it is nostalgic, a distinguishing feature of this new community is the big city ambiance that comes into view with its own village square. Just steps from your door, it's where neighbors meet and friends are made while taking in the joys and conveniences of quaint shops and stores. Nearby, beautiful public parks, lakes and open spaces offer fun and relaxation for everyone to enjoy. It's a welcoming, neighborhood picture drawing on the qualities and culture that endure in the hearts of everyone who remembers the carefree, friendly atmosphere of a real hometown."

A noble cause indeed. Suburbs have often been criticized for the way they foster isolation and the destruction of the “hometown” feeling that Washington Town Center is trying to achieve, and rightly so. Washington Town Center is clearly a direct response to the isolation of the suburbs, and it is refreshing to see that people have eschewed the “need” for a larger house on a larger piece of land for closer ties with neighbors and a more interactive daily life that consists of more than just pulling the car into the garage at night and turning on the TV. There is a (dare I say growing) class of people who honestly prefer a smaller “hometown” feel to their communities as is evidenced by the fact that people are buying homes in Washington Town Center. However, let me be clear in saying that while the idea and the “spirit” of Washington Town Center is to be applauded, I feel that it misses the mark in a few ways:

  • Although the development is a clear rejection of suburbia in aiming for a more intimate relationship between neighbors, businesses, etc…it still comes at the price of less open space to the tune of nearly 400 acres, which is one of the big problems associated with the growth of suburbs.
  • The cost of development is as high or higher than a suburb due to the fact that infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, gas, electric, etc…) had to be built entirely from scratch.
  • While promoting a lifestyle somewhat less dependent on the automobile (some goods and services are located within walking distance of homes), Washington Town Center is still going to contribute to the growing traffic problem in Central NJ. More and more cars will be choking nearby Route 130, Route 33, I-195, I-295, and the NJ Turnpike. Not to mention the fact that many will undoubtedly be making the morning sprint from Washington Town Center to either the Hamilton or Princeton Junction train stations, or the Route 130 park and ride, making gridlock in those areas even more unbearable.

I’m sure that by now all of you are saying, “I thought this was a blog about Trenton?” The fact is, while Washington Town Center isn't a poster child for smart growth, it teaches us important lessons about how people in the region feel about suburbia, and how we can attract those people to Trenton. Anyone who has ever talked to an “old-timer” about Trenton knows that it was (and in some places still is) a city of neighborhoods with hometown pride where everyone knew everyone and you could walk to the store or the train or work. Sound familiar? The problem with Trenton is not the rowhomes, the corner bars, or the tightly packed commercial streets where residences and businesses once mingled. As one very astute Councilman recently stated “It’s the crime, stupid!” Clearly, if crime were brought under control (really brought under control, not downplayed in the media as is the M.O. of the administration) there would be a market for small city living. Why does that make sense? Let’s look at some of the ways Washington Town Center falls a bit short and see where Trenton would excel:

  • Re-use of building stock in Trenton will not only reduce the destruction of open space, it also can be done without displacing people. At its height, Trenton was a city of about 130,000 people. Currently only about 85,000 live in the city and many non- residential buildings have the potential to be re-used, or are being re-used as housing such as the Cracker Factory, the Cigar Factory, the Broad Street Bank, the Ice House, etc… Please note that links to all of these are located at the bottom of the page.
  • Suitable infrastructure already exists that can easily be upgraded. With water, sewer, gas, electricity, cable, and telephone infrastructure already in place, the cost of development is significantly reduced. Obviously certain things need to be updated/upgraded (fiber optics), but the costs pale in comparison with building from scratch.
  • TRENTON IS HISTORIC! Though I’m sure many people would be quite satisfied with a “loft” condominium in Washington Town Center, there are also many people who are looking for something more. One needs only to look to places like Manayunk, Brooklyn, Hoboken, and Lambertville to find innovative and chic examples of stylish urban re-use that recycles old spaces while preserving history. A great example of this in Trenton is the Cracker Factory project in the South Ward. New construction simply cannot offer the high ceilings, expansive floor space, artisan quality brick/iron work, and 19th century attention to detail that is offered in the 1850s factory turned loft condominium building. When was the last time you saw a real estate ad that touted “Beautiful 1980s vintage architecture” as a feature?
  • Trenton is a transportation hub which, properly utilized, could lessen the congestion that currently plagues our roadways. By locating residences within walking distance of mass transit, the workplace, and shopping/entertainment, the automobile becomes necessary only for out of town trips.

So where does this leave us? I like to think that developments such as the Washington Town Center, though they may be flawed in some ways, represent a clear shift in the way people think about what constitutes a “desirable” place to live. Trenton can be that desirable place.

Slan go foill

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Trenton Paradox

I don't pretend to know everything about Trenton. As a student of its history I know quite a bit, of its politics I know a fair amount, of many of my fellow Trentonians, I'm beginning to believe that I know nothing. Through various channels I've learned much of what some of the most vocal Trentonians think about Trenton. There seem to be a few common threads:
  • None support Mayor Palmer, his administration, or his policies.
  • None support Joe Santiago, or the upper echelons of the Trenton Police Department. (once again, just to clarify, I am NOT talking about the rank and file police officers)
  • None support any of the Councilpersons save for Jim Coston.
  • All (myself included) support Jim Coston.
  • All long for the days when Trenton was a wonderful place to live.
Given these four common threads, it would seem that the answer is cut and dry:

Mayor Palmer, his administration, his police director, and his rubber stamp council (save for Coston) have built a power base out of literally letting the city fall apart and manipulating the indigent residents. Therefore, the only way to wrest control of the city is to bring in new blood like Jim Coston. For those of you who don't know Jim, you should check out his webpage which is linked at the bottom of this page. Mr. Coston is a native of Tennessee and a pastor of the First Baptist Church who eventually ran for and was elected to council in 2006. He and his wife live in a beautifully restored Victorian home on Centre Street, an area now in transition. At present, Mr. Coston is the only voice of dissent on the council, which for years simply served as a rubber stamp, eager to pass whatever Mayor Palmer wished. Mr. Coston has received well deserved accolades for the dedication, zeal, and professionalism he brings to the office, and he represents his constituency exceedingly well. As I stated before, the vocal Trentonians I've spoken with all agree that he is a truly a gift to this city, and that we need more people like him.

It would seem to follow that these vocal Trentonians would encourage many to follow Mr. Coston's lead, moving into the city, restoring homes, running for office or becoming otherwise engaged in civic matters, and working to make Trenton a better place for all. Sadly, this is not the case. Any attempt to draw people into the city to support the businesses is met with an incredulous cry of "are you crazy?" Any attempt to reverse the stereotype that Trenton is simply a den of bloodthirsty killers waiting to descend upon the hapless suburbanite venturing into the depths in order to find an alternative to Olive Garden is derided as unrealistic, far fetched, and overly optimistic. Finally, anyone who simply states "Trenton isn't that bad and it can get better," is attacked as a "puppet" of Palmer's administration, simply trying to lure people to their doom.

This does not make logical sense to me in any way, shape, or form. How is it that a group of people can be so opposed to such a corrupt individual (as they should be), yet they deride any and all attempts to chip away at his power base by bringing new blood to the city? How can they be so dedicated to literally scaring people away from and out of the city when they surely realize that this will only tighten Palmer's iron grip on Trenton by ensuring that any dissenting voices will not become residents and therefore voters?

I will close with this question:

What if Mr. Coston had believed the hype, and passed on Trenton? What then?

Slan go foill

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Going Out on a Tuesday Night in Trenton

What to do on an otherwise boring Tuesday night? How about going out in Trenton? A cursory review of the 449 Room website ( ) reveals live music, drink specials, and a poker tourney every Tuesday night. The 449 Room is a funky little place run by a guy who has poured his heart and soul into making Trenton a place for art, music, and entertainment in general. For those of you who remember Conduit, the 449 Room is nextdoor and is under the same ownership. Do you want to meet great people who are also interested in the city of Trenton? Do you want to hang out in a cool place with a "locals only" feel? Do you want to play poker and hear great music? If so, come to the 449 Room. I'm too young to have experienced the halcyon days of City Gardens, the legendary Trenton punk/hardcore club where the Ramones played an astonishing twenty five times, but from what I've read and heard about it, the 449 Room is in the same vein.

Now before anyone accuses me of just running an advertising service, let me reiterate the purpose of this blog. Part of it is to promote the city of Trenton, and part of it is to expose what is wrong. The 449 Room is a perfect example of what is RIGHT with the city. The building itself is a really cool old brick structure on South Broad Street just across from Sovereign Bank Arena with a funky little bar, a great stage area, a pool table, and a lounge area that doubles as a great place to play cards in the back. Not to mention the fact that they have their own parking lot. As a matter of fact, 449 also reminds me of a bar that I used to frequent in the West Village called the MacDougal Ale House, which has since closed. The exposed brick, graffiti on the wall, and surrounding area reminds me of everything I always loved about the West Village, right here in Trenton. There is no reason why South Broad Street couldn't be lined with bars just like the 449 Room from Route 129 to Route 1.

The bottom line is this, the word needs to get out that Trenton, on the whole, is a great (and safe) place to go out. Forget what you've heard and to hell with the rumors, as I've stated before, some parts of Trenton are safe and some are not. As a direct result of businesses like the 449 Room and the arena, the neighborhood is kept up, there are people around after dark (the Jane Jacobs "eyes on the street" principle), and more investment in the area is coming. If we want these areas to improve even more we need to support these businesses, nurture them, and make them grow. Check out and find out what's going on. See you out there.

Slan go foill