NJIT Associate Professor Tony Schuman, of Montclair, will receive the notable Charles Cummings Award from the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee (NPLC) for his tireless efforts to help Newark recover its status as a first class city. The ceremony will take place May 19, 2011, at Greater Newark Conservancy, 32 Prince St., Newark, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The late Charles Cummings was the long-time librarian who ran for many years the New Jersey Room at the Newark Public Library and who served as Newark’s official historian.
The honor recognizes Schuman’s accomplishments in preserving and recording the history of the city, not only its significant structures and landscapes but its social and cultural legacy. Schuman is in good company: Previous recipients of the honor include novelist Philip Roth, New Jersey historian John Cunningham, Rutgers University Professor Clement Price, and the late Stanley Winters, NJIT Professor Emeritus.
Schuman has taught architecture at NJIT for more than 30 years. During that time, he has become increasingly involved in the long, slow but essential and fulfilling project of helping Newark recover its status. Beginning with research for Tri-City Citizens Union for Progress in 1979 and continuing to serve on the boards of NPLC and Lincoln Park/Coast Cultural District Inc., Schuman has maintained an ongoing involvement with Newark’s civic and neighborhood organizations. He has engaged his students at the New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design in community-based projects on a regular basis.
Schuman teaches "Envisioning Newark,” the only course at NJIT where the topic is Newark. Students meet weekly with leaders in Newark’s neighborhoods, cultural institutions, and civic organizations. As an architect Schuman participated in the Newark Planning Department’s “Breaking the Box” housing design exercise that led to zoning changes to regulate the siting and appearance of the three-family “boxes” that proliferated in the first years of this century.
For NPLC, Schuman planned last year’s ceremony honoring Winters and the former Grad Partnership, whose 100-year architecture practice produced many of Newark’s finest structures including Symphony Hall. The firm closed its doors in January, 2010.
Schuman organized the three-day celebration in 2007 of the Newark Eagles, Newark’s championship Negro Leagues baseball team. His committee brought to Newark four of the six surviving members of the Eagles for events that included a dinner at the Newark Museum, a forum at the New Jersey Historical Society, and a celebration at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium that featured proclamations from the city, county, and US Congress. Schuman also oversaw the design and placement of three plaques placed at historic sites associated with the Eagles.
His current effort, the Newark Jazz Heritage Project, continues his commitment to Newark’s social and cultural history by making visible Newark’s role as a mecca for jazz performance. This project will include banners at the sites of over 150 former clubs, theaters and other jazz venues; a blog site; an interactive map that locates the clubs and gives information about who performed there; and public art projects marking significant sites in the city’s jazz history. This project hit a milestone at the end of April with a reception to introduce the project to Newark’s jazz veterans, including Tiny Prince, Billy Phipps, and Leo Johnson.