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Environment, Justice, & Industry in Newark


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Newark was a bustling city, as shown in artists’ drawings and in two articles from the New York Times from 1872 and 1916, which depict Newark as a rising industrial hub in the region. Even then, there was some awareness of environmental issues. Pollution, as shown in an article from 1881 on "The Polluted Passaic," had already become a problem for residents.


Since World War II, Newark has contended with two primary trends: deindustrialization, and the question of how to deal with the environmental impact left by industry, and a dramatic demographic shift where higher-income people relocated to the suburbs and people of color and lower income groups suffered from being disproportionately exposed to the city’s environmental hazards.



Newark Port

From the short film New Work, 2009

Courtesy of and © Bongiorno Productions, Inc.

The documents here mainly focus on the Ironbound section of Newark’s struggle against the health hazards around them as a representative case study. The discovery of environmental crimes and the struggle to advocate for the rights of the community show another face of the environmental movement: power of the local. The NJCH forum Environment, Equity, & American History: Newark's Industrial Legacy and these documents, including newspaper articles from the 1970s and 1980s, aim to highlight how local initiatives started a chain of changes in the state legislature and in public awareness and involvement. Photos showing protests against the incinerator in the Ironbound or children suffering from the environmental hazards showcase the extent of this exposure. The power of media and the local organizations came together for a long-haul battle that eventually led to legislative changes and the involvement of state and federal agencies.

Newark's Industrial Legacy: Video Segments

Forum: Part 1

Forum: Part 2

Industrial Renaissance

Historical Images

1. Passaic Agricultural Chemical Works, 1876, Source: Library of Congress Digital


2. A number of breweries were located in industrial Newark. Ballantine’s

    Breweries, Newark.  Circa 1880, Source: Library of Congress Digital Collection

3. Newark Smelting and Refining Works, Circa 1870, Source: Newark Public Library

4. "Industrial Waterfront in Newark. NJ", Boylan Fitz-Gerald, Source:

5. Panorama of downtown Newark with smokestacks showing the city’s ties to the

    industries, 1912 Source:


Historical Documents

1. “Newark: A Glance at New Jersey’s Manufacturing City,” NY Times, 30 December


2. “How Newark’s Great Civic Celebration Reveals Progressive Industrial Career,” NY

    Times , 7 May 1916

Newark's Environments After Industry

Historical Photos

1. The Ironbound community in Newark had to protest against many environmental

    hazards in their neighborhood for the last 30 years. Source: Ana I. Baptista

2. Pollution, toxic chemicals and siting of dumps were some of these hazards.  Source:

    Ana I. Baptista

3. The environmental quality of the city of Newark posed serious threats to the health of

    its residents especially after white flight. Source: Ana I. Baptista

4. Ironbound was one of the first communities to organize around environmental

    justice issues in New Jersey. Source: Ana I. Baptista

5. Ironbound residents rallied against incinerators siting. Source: Ana I.


6. Derelict industrial plants were often not cleaned up. Source: Ana I. Baptista

7. Buried chemicals near residential areas caused serious illnesses. Source: Ana I. Baptista

8. Significant levels of dioxin were found in a herbicide plant in Newark in the 90s.

    Source: Agent Orange: Legacy of Disability from  Retrieved on,



Historical Documents

1. “The Polluted Passaic,” NY Times, 4 June 1881

2. “Jersey City’s Vile Water Full of Sludge Acid, Factory Washings, and Sewage,” NY

    Times, 5 August 1894

3. Ronald Smothers, Martin Waldron and Matthew Wald, “From a Kind of Primordial

    Ooze, The Wastes of Modern Industry,” NY Times, 17 December 1978

4. Edward Gargan, “Volatile Wastes Illegally Stored At Newark Site,” NY Times, 28

    November 1980

5. “Overflow and Spark Ignited Storage Tanks,” Gannett Westchester Newspapers, 11

    January 1983

6. “Testing Finds Highly Toxic Pesticide Near Newark Greenhouse,” Finger Lakes

    Times, 14 December 1987

7. Paul Burkhardt, “Decision Delayed in Greenhouse Case,” Finger Lakes Times, 29

    April 1988

8. Ronald Smothers, “Ironbound Draws Its Line at the Dump,” NY Times, 29 March