Building it

Choices and Consequences

Elizabeth's Struggle
Newspaper Coverage, 1949-1951

For months, the dilemma in Elizabeth played out in the daily papers: would the Turnpike be routed through the city? Read through these transcriptions to see what unfolded. After Elizabeth lost several court cases to divert the Turnpike, construction began in the winter of 1950. But city officials responded with their own tactics, and it all reached a boiling point when two children accidentally drowned in a water-filled pit left by construction workers.


Newark Evening News, January 29, 1950

Staff Correspondent
     ELIZABETH. With city officials refusing to admit defeat in their battle with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, residents of Fourth street still are clinging to a hope that the turnpike unit's new toll highway never will be built on the land where their homes stand today.
     The Board of Works is seeking a legal blockade to the route announced by the turnpike authority Monday, a route the city has opposed because it will displace more than 200 families in Baltic and Fourth streets. The authority, however, insists its decision has been made and will stand.
     Despite the announcement, residents in the affected area have refused to become too worried about their future. Many comments paralleled that of Mrs. Edward Mahon of 55 Fourth street, who said calmly: "We're waiting for the bulldozers. Then we'll believe it."

Explain Skepticism
     Tenants and landlords explained their skepticism by recounting dozens of conflicting rumors, newspaper stories and bits of unofficial information that have come to them during the last two years. It is hard for them to believe that according to the authority, the elevated highway will be a reality by 1952.
     The turnpike would displace all residents on at least two blocks of Baltic street, and about 10 blocks of the east side of Fourth street from First avenue to near Magnolia avenue, where it will curve northward to Newark. It also will hit parts of cross streets running to the Central Railroad tracks.
     Both turnpike authority and city officials who discussed re-housing have said some buildings will be razed and others moved to new locations. No definite re-housing plan has been announced, and landlords have not received purchase offers from the state.
     Fourth street buildings on the route include several small stores, the Strand Theater and former Public School No. 5, now used as Board of Education warehouse.
     Mrs. Margaret Rehberger, a widow with eight children, who owns a seven-room frame house at 141 Fourth street, is philosophical like others in the road's path. She remembers hearing as a child the story of a family friend who lost her home when the Brooklyn Bridge was built.
     "Now we're the ones swept away with the tide," she said.
     And the tide in Fourth street seems inevitable. The city's plan to divert it along the Arthur Kill was turned down by the authority as longer and too expensive.

Courtesy of the Newark Public Library.

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