The City of Newark, PSE&G and the Urban League of Essex County Unveil Art Wall at Fairmount Heights Switching Station
April 11, 2018
NEWARK, N.J. — The City of Newark, the Urban League of Essex County and PSE&G today unveiled the region's first-ever “Art Wall” project designed to beautify the protective façade of an electrical switching station.
The work of 14 ethnically and racially diverse male and female artists is featured on the station’s 48,000 square foot, 30-foot-high decorative wall. Six of the artists are local to Newark, while the rest hail from as far away as Jamaica and Venezuela. The creative pieces explore themes of youth, education, history and community culture.
The project has drawn praise on all sides as an innovative example of a public/private partnership. A new switching station was required by PJM, the regional transmission organization, to relieve projected transmission overloads and provide emergency backup to Newark Switching Station. Community leaders wanted a facility that considered the aesthetic point of view as well as the functional, so that it would better complement the surrounding neighborhood.
"The Fairmont Heights Switching Station shows what can be accomplished when all involved parties, including those in conflict, come to the table to collaborate on solving a difficult problem," said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. "West Ward residents get amazing artwork, beautification of the wall and surrounding area and remediation of contaminated soil left by previous occupants. All residents benefit from more jobs for Newarkers and contracts for minority and women-owned businesses. The City of Newark gets additional tax revenue and a modernized electrical infrastructure, and PSE&G gets better redundancy and reliability of their system and backup to their existing Newark Switching Station. A win- win-win-win outcome."
“Together with the people of Newark, we created more than a wall to protect people and equipment. We created a canvas,” said David Daly, PSE&G president and COO. “It is my hope that this facility will help strengthen the community and the city. It will help make this neighborhood a safer, healthier place to live and to play. Our company’s investment will provide the power that drives new investment in the city’s economy and its people.”
Newark residents were hired to do more than 30 percent of work on the project, resulting in career opportunities such as securing union books and completing valuable training in construction site management and safety. Contractor Joseph Jingoli & Son partnered with local community organizations and elected officials to identify potential employees, ultimately hiring eight West Ward residents to work on the project. In addition, more than $12 million has been put into the local community through local contracts, material purchases and other spending. Local, minority-owned architectural and construction project-management firm WSM Associates and CHC Construction are the architect of record and project management firms respectively.
"We are pleased that we have been able to forge a productive partnership with PSEG. The corporation needed to hear the concerns of the Fairmount residents,” said Vivian Cox Fraser, president and CEO of the Urban League of Essex County. "The substantive changes to the station design, inclusion of local artists and contractors, and additional community investments demonstrate that they listened. The final result is a reflection of the Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association's leadership and PSEG's corporate citizenship.”
“This project, which was important for improving Newark’s electrical infrastructure, sparked enormous community opposition that we turned into a very positive partnership,” said Rick Thigpen, PSEG vice president of State Governmental Affairs. “We are leaving this community better than we found it. Finding win-win scenarios is an especially important goal for Public Service if we are to continue enjoying the success this company has known for over a century.”
Internationally renowned architectural firm Adjaye Associates, celebrated for their design of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History, was the lead design firm on the project.
“By providing a platform for 14 incredible artists, the Art Wall transforms a piece of necessary infrastructure into a civic anchor for Fairmount Heights and its community,” said Sir David Adjaye, founder and principal of Adjaye Associates. “This project speaks powerfully to public architecture’s ability, regardless of scale, to enhance the specificity of a place and to enrich the lives of its users. My hope is that it might serve as a model for integrating meaningful public programs into even the most utilitarian urban developments.”
The project represents a $277 million investment by PSE&G in Newark’s critical electric infrastructure to ensure redundancy and reliability. The station, which became fully operational in March 2018, is expected to be completed this summer when the final landscaping is installed.
Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is New Jersey’s oldest and largest regulated gas and electric delivery utility, serving nearly three-quarters of the state’s population. PSE&G is the winner of the ReliabilityOne Award for superior electric system reliability. PSE&G is a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG) (NYSE:PEG), a diversified energy company.