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  • CD WiRe (June 16-22)

    Posted on June 22nd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1. Rail Stations Drive Demand
    As New Jersey slowly emerges from the economic downturn, its office market is beginning to transform into one concentrated around train stations.  Businesses have been leasing space in areas served by train stations at a higher rate than those only accessible by car, according to real-estate firms. The trend reflects demographic shifts and higher gasoline prices as well as changes in worker priorities.  For example, businesses are beginning to recognize that many employees care less about living in sprawling estates and more about living in diverse areas with restaurants and entertainment within walking distance.
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    2. When Eating Well Is a Matter of Where You Live
    America’s battle to lose weight and eat healthy has many fronts. There is the battle to get Americans to make better choices at restaurants. There is the battle to get them to shop smarter.  But for some people and some communities, the battle is about having access to healthy food. Some places may be swimming in Whole Foods Markets, but in others, places labeled food deserts, affordable nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables can be hard to come by. And these food deserts are spread across Patchwork Nation, but very unevenly.
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    3. ‘Parent Trigger’ Laws: Shutting Schools, Raising Controversy
    In a bare-bones basement office in Buffalo, N.Y., Katie Campos, an education activist, is plotting a revolution. She and her minuscule staff of the advocacy group Buffalo ReformED are against incredible odds. In less than a week, they are trying to get a controversial law known as the “parent trigger” through the New York legislature. It’s a powerful nickname for game-changing legislation that would enable parents who could gather a majority at any persistently failing school to either fire the principal, fire 50% of the teachers, close the school or turn it into a charter school.
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    4. Solving the Real Estate Crisis with Parks
    Mike Messner, the investment fund manager, is the primary force behind the budding “Redfields to Greenfields” movement, which has been picked up by more than 10 major cities in the U.S. The basic idea is to turn toxic real estate into parks, elevating nearby property values, and turning a downward spiral of economic stagnation and disinvestment into a positive, self-reinforcing trend of new growth. As Messner noted in a conference he organized with City Parks Alliance on Capitol Hill, “parks and trees are great. I do like them. However, these are secondary to good investments.” And investing in transforming redfields into parks makes smart economic sense these days.  “The U.S. caused this real estate crisis with its housing policy. There were no down payment requirements, easy credit, and lots of capital moving into non-performing assets.” As a result, the federal government had to move in with $10 trillion investments and recovery programs (“real estate backstopping”) to hold off further economic decline. To counter this trend, surplus land must be redeveloped as green space. Cities large or small can use green spaces as an “economic multiplier” that not only creates green infrastructure but also helps developers get developing again.
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    5.  Love thy neighbour. Gen Y embraces closeness of urban living
    Domesticity, and its accompanying architectural fantasy, have driven urban development since the mid-19th century and most intensely since the 1950s.  It’s the dream that allows us to imagine our most intimate familial relationships, those between ourselves, our partner and our children inside a particular architectural form. It’s almost always a single family dwelling, on a fenced block, separated from its neighbours with little collective amenity beyond sewage, roads and electricity. There’s a back yard, sometimes a dog — we see it on Backyard Blitz and other renovation shows.  It comes to us from Grand Designs as much from New Idea. The American version has a picket fence and pitched roof like a child’s drawing.
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    6. Mets to help fund new Sept. 11 charity program
    In a news conference Tuesday at Citi Field, the Mets and Tuesday’s Children announced that the team will help pay for The First Responder Alliance Mentoring Program, which will provide trained mentors for children whose parents died due to illness attributed to their time working at ground zero or Fresh Kills Landfill.  The Mets say it’s the third program they have helped fund for Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit organization committed to helping people affected by the 9/11 attacks and terrorism worldwide.”
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    7. Despite a report citing Camden’s school failings, N.J. has declined to act
    Despite Gov. Christie’s frequent calls for no delay in repairing New Jersey’s failing schools, the state for over a year has had the information and means to step in and provide increased help and oversight to improve Camden’s schools, but has not.  A report made through the state’s Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) process last June found Camden failing in three of five performance areas – personnel, instruction and program, and governance. In the other two areas, operations and fiscal management, the scores were low enough to warrant correction. Under QSAC, the state could have sought to appoint “highly skilled professionals” to oversee the district’s problem areas as part of a “partial intervention.”
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    8.  Foreclosures stalled in NJ, statistics show
    Home foreclosure filings in New Jersey have dropped dramatically, according to the latest figures released by both the New Jersey Judiciary and Realty Trac, a nationwide firm that tracks foreclosure statistics.  That’s the good news. The bad news is that the good news may be short-lived.  The judiciary has been working since late last year to ensure that the foreclosure processes used by six major lenders in the state are proceeding fairly. This has created a backlog in the filing of new cases.
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    9.  NewBridge GED program helps N.J. high school dropouts chase their goals
    A year ago Brian Wells was a junior at Dover High School. He did not do his homework, talked back to his teachers and was constantly in detention. By the end of the year, the 18-year-old from Mine Hill had dropped out.  But earlier this month Wells walked proudly onto the stage of the Elks Lodge in Boonton to receive his high school diploma — and a surprise award. He was one of 42 former high school dropouts who succeeded in earning their GED as part of NewBridge Services’ 70001 Jobs Plus program, an alternative education initiative run by a nonprofit providing behavioral health and education services in Morris and Passaic counties. Now in its 27th year, the program helps struggling young men and women ages 16 to 21 turn their lives around.
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    10.  With Latest Energy Plan, New Jersey’s Solar Future Now Becomes Hazy
    A change in policy direction has cast doubts on the future success of the New Jersey solar market, which is currently the second largest in the U.S.  The state’s 2011 Energy Master Plan (EMP), which was recently released by the office of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., reiterates the state government’s support for the development of renewable energy and maintains an existing renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 22.5% renewables by 2021.  The plan also criticizes several facets of the state’s solar policy and makes recommendations for revisions that could jeopardize New Jersey’s leadership position in solar project development, according to some organizations.
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