Our Community

Our Community

A multi-ethnic, largely working-class neighborhood of 50,000 in Newark, New Jersey.

The Ironbound, also referred to as “Down Neck”, is a multi-ethnic, largely working-class neighborhood of 50,000 in Newark, New Jersey. Historically it has been a mosaic of peoples from countries around the world who arrive in the community with aspirations for a better life for themselves and their children.

In the 19th century, Germans, Lithuanians, Italians and Poles made the area their home. In the 20th century, African Americans arrived along with large numbers of Portuguese and Spanish immigrants, followed by people from Central and South America – all contributing to the richness of Ironbound’s cultural diversity. This wave of migration and immigration continues, and today two out of three Ironbound residents have come to the U.S. as immigrants. Three languages – Spanish, Portuguese, and English – can be heard throughout the community.

The Ironbound makes up most of Newark’s East Ward and covers four square miles, including its residential community that is interspersed with commerce and a surrounding industrial area that includes trucking, chemical and waste businesses. The Ironbound is an economic engine within Newark driving 40% of its economy and contributing to 33% of its tax base.

The residential and commercial district, with Ferry Street as its spine, is approximately 1 1/2 square miles. Ironbound derived its name from the many forges and foundries and railroads that once encircled it. It is bound by Penn Station and the Amtrak line on the west, the Superfund Passaic River on the north, US Routes 1 and 9, the NJ Turnpike, and Port Newark on the east, and US Highway 78 and Newark Airport on the south.

Today local factories, warehouses and industrial properties continue to operate alongside one-, two- and three-family homes and public housing complexes. And, of course, the Ironbound is well known for great restaurants, and Ironbound’s soccer clubs and cultural festivals are great sources of community pride. Ironbound continues to be a desirable community to live, visit, and invest in.

Nonetheless, this hard working and aspiring community is not without its challenges:

25% of residents live in poverty.
26% of households have an income of less than $25,000, 58% less than $50,000.
20% of families are Single Head of Households.
55% of adults have less than a high school diploma – less than the City average of 45%.
For more than 80% of residents, English is not a first language at home.
Ironbound’s elementary schools – five built in the 19th century – are severely overcrowded.
Each year, large numbers of five-year old-children cannot attend Kindergarten due to lack of space.
As in most of Newark, Ironbound’s children suffer from high rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments leading to lost school time and a lower quality of life.
Thousands of residents are “undocumented”, live in fear, and are often the victims of crime and labor exploitation.

In addition, while Ironbound’s industry has been a force in the local and regional economy, it has also caused significant environmental degradation. The inordinate amount of air pollution and land contamination impacts public health and quality of life, leading to Ironbound’s designation by the USEPA as an Environmental Justice community. The environmental impacts that the community must contend with include the following:

The State’s largest garbage incinerator burns 1 million tons of garbage annually – just blocks from a low-income housing complex.
Toxic Release Inventory data identifies Ironbound’s main zip code as one of the most polluted in the northeast.
The NJDEP has identified well over 100 known contaminated sites in the community.
Ironbound Stadium has been closed for nearly 30 years due to contamination, denying East Side High School a home field for athletic events.
Thousands of diesel trucks, primarily from surrounding industries and Port Newark, travel community streets daily emitting dangerous particulate pollutants.
Residential development on brownfield sites have caused problems, such as the intrusion of carcinogenic vapors into people’s homes from poorly executed clean-ups, if any at all.

In recent years, the issue of gentrification and displacement of residents has caused considerable anxiety in the community and already affecting some residents. New development projects with significant increases in height and density above and beyond the Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance have been routinely approved by Planning and Zoning Boards. And new zoning changes that increase height by 50% as well as increasing density in a nine-block area around Penn Station has caused a community outcry and heightened gentrification and displacement fears. The most vulnerable – recent immigrants, non-English speaking, and the poor – have been prime targets of unscrupulous landlords attempting to illegally raise rent.

The Ironbound, like the rest of Newark and our sister neighborhoods, remains a great community despite its many challenges. Ironbound Community Corporation, along with other organizations and neighborhood civic, cultural, athletic, and religious groups, continues to work to build a healthier, stronger, and more opportunistic community for all, first and foremost for the people of Newark.