Announcing a New Build with Purpose White Paper: Too Good to Be True: Lessons Learned on Solar Powering the Nonprofit SectorPosted on June 14th, 2012 No comments
We are pleased to share our findings from a new white paper of ours on solar powering the nonprofit sector. As usual, we believe in being very practical when it comes to a facility or real estate project. So along the way we learned that nonprofits can use these seven simple questions before pursuing a solar initiative and save themselves a great deal of time and effort.
- Do you have enough space for a large rooftop solar array? (If you want someone else to pay for it as an investor, make sure you have at least 20,000 SF). Or do you have 20,000 square feet of space on the ground?
- Do you have a reasonable amount of sun on the roof?
- Is your roof older? Pitched or flat?
- Does your facility use a substantial amount of electricity?
- Do you own your facility?
- What is your risk profile? Is your organization willing to enter into a long-term electricity contract?
- Does your organization own multiple buildings with the same legal owner?
For more information on whether solar is right for your nonprofit and how we can all make solar power more viable for the nonprofit sector, please visit:Architects, Charter Schools, Commercial Real Estate, Community Development, Community Real Estate, Education, Educational Facilities, Energy-efficient Facilities, Faith-based Schools, Featured, Green Energy, green tech, Head Start, healthy foods, Non-Profits, Nonprofit facilities, Professional Development, Public financing, Public Partnerships, School Nutrition, Supportive Housing
Posted on June 14th, 2012 No comments
A fourth-generation farmer, Christina Krowicki has an old photo of her grandfather selling watermelons for 5 cents at a farmers’ market in Trenton.
As she stood behind a counter selling lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus and rhubarb at another farmers’ market here Wednesday, she could take pride in the longevity of the family business.
“He had a high demand back then, and we still do,” said Krowicki, whose family owns Krowicki’s Farm Market in Plumsted.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture on Wednesday unofficially kicked off the farmers’ market season, with Secretary Douglas H. Fisher ringing a cowbell and bringing attention to local farmers who grow and sell produce.
Farmers should find themselves in a strong position this summer, given a growing consumer emphasis on healthy eating. But they also note that towns are adding farmers’ markets at a fast pace, raising the question of how many can survive.
The Toms River farmers’ market – each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the corner of Water and Irons streets – attracted vendors from throughout central New Jersey, including Farmer Al’s Market in Monroe and High Mountain Foods in Roxbury.
They catered to customers such as Donna Natalini, 64, of Berkeley, who strolled the makeshift market before the rain started. She bought radishes and stopped a reporter to see if he had come across a particular bread maker from Nutley.
“We love it because everything is fresh,” she said. “I bought radishes here, and it’s got nice leaves on it. I can make a salad out of that.”
The number of farmers’ markets has grown to 148 from about 40 a decade ago, Fisher said. It has contributed to an agriculture industry that in 2007 generated $986.9 million statewide, according to a Rutgers University study.
The state maintains a list of farmers’ markets at http://www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh/searches/urban.htm.
Some farmers said they visit two markets a day, helping them add to revenue they generate selling to customers at roadside stands or to grocers and restaurants wholesale. And some customers said they take heart knowing that they are buying locally grown, healthy food that helps preserve open space.
Not that the business is without worries. Farmers’ markets are popping up so frequently that Karley Corris of E.R. & Son Organic Farm in Colts Neck joked that soon they would outnumber farmers.
The risk, she said, is that she might lose customers to other farmers’ markets.
“It’s the same people spending the same money but spread over more locations,” she said.
Fisher said the state was nowhere near the saturation point, although he advised towns to work closely with farmers to ensure their markets will be viable.
Krowicki said she has been careful about which markets to attend. But she wasn’t quite as worried. Growing up, she considered first becoming a hygienist and then a nurse, before deciding to join the family farm. She said she has little reason to reconsider her career.
“Everybody’s got to eat,” she said. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
Posted on October 12th, 2011 No comments
1. New York’s Public Architecture Gets a Face-Lift
Designed by 1100 Architect with an interior by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture & Design Partnership, the Children’s Library Discovery Center, as it’s called, is part of a quiet revolution reshaping the city’s public architecture. Piecemeal across the five boroughs, New York is gradually being remade. These changes come largely thanks to David J. Burney, a polite Englishman who has lived here for 30-odd years and, since 2004, has been Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s commissioner for the Department of Design and Construction. Under him, and mostly under the radar, dozens of new and refurbished libraries, firehouses, emergency medical stations, police precincts, homeless processing centers and museums have been designed by gifted and occasionally famous architects.
2. Affordable housing gets a new home in N.J.
In the past several weeks, a number of events have had an impact on the Garden State’s court-mandated affordable housing program, often called “Mount Laurel housing.”Long administered by the state Council on Affordable Housing, the program has required every town to provide homes that low- and moderate-income residents can afford. This housing was funded in part by fees paid by developers. In recent weeks, though, the governor has signed another 2½-year moratorium on the fees, and COAH has been abolished. The state’s Department of Community Affairs now will administer the program.
3. Camden, two other New Jersey towns, among nine U.S. cities going broke
While President Obama and the assorted GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination push their ideas for getting the country back in the black, there are some U.S. cities and counties on the brink. An analysis by 24/7 Wall St. examines the nine municipal bodies with the worst credit ratings assigned by Moody’s, not including school systems, rated Ba2 and lower. (For perspective, Moody’s rates junk bonds as Ba1.) Coming in at No. 9 on the list is Camden. The city has been beset with money issues for quite a while, highlighted by a mass layoff of its police officers and firefighters earlier this year. The city collected $181,257,000 in revenue in 2009, but was in debt to the tune of $103,284,000 during that same year.
4. Study: growing up in bad neighborhoods has a devastating impact
Growing up in a poor neighborhood significantly reduces the chances that a child will graduate from high school, according to a study published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review. And, the longer a child lives in that kind of neighborhood, the more harmful the impact. “Compared to growing up in affluent neighborhoods, growing up in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and unemployment reduces the chances of high school graduation from 96 percent to 76 percent for black children,” says Wodtke, a Ph.D. student who works with Harding at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). “The impact on white children is also harmful, but not as large, reducing their chances of graduating from 95 percent to 87 percent.”
5. Clinton Road, New Jersey: The most terrifying road in the U.S.
About seven years ago, my cousin Julie and her husband Mark moved back to New Jersey from South Carolina. After months of searching, they found a great house in West Milford, New Jersey. Julie, who I grew up with, called me and asked me to meet them at the house and let them know my opinion. After checking out a map online, I saw the home was on a street just off Clinton Road north of Route 23. I drove up Green Pond Road, got onto Route 23, and then turned right onto Clinton Road. Almost immediately, I noticed that Clinton Road was different from almost all the roads in New Jersey. There were no homes along the road and no connecting roads. Clinton Road was very curvy and kept winding around between different bodies of water.
6. Despite price tag, a charter school finds perks in private space
By the time Hyde Leadership Charter School expanded into high school grades three years ago, overcrowding at their co-located Department of Education building had become severe. Limited to two floors for over 700 students, classes were held in hallways and high school students complained of filthy conditions in the bathroom they had to share with elementary students. “It was terrible,” said Dominic Batista, a junior. “It was like a jail.” Rather than jockey for more space in an increasingly crowded public school system, the growing school took a road less traveled for a charter school in New York City. Keeping its elementary and middle school at P.S. 92, Hyde developed a private facility for its high school just down the road on Hunts Point Avenue in the south Bronx.
7. NJ sets right course on charter schools with high standards, close review
The Christie administration last week rejected 56 of the 60 applications for new charter schools, a welcome sign that its standards are tough despite its ideological support for the choice movement. The best of these schools, like the TEAM Academy in Newark, are miracles in our midst. With the same demographic mix of students as district schools, their kids are doing much better in basic skills. And they are doing it for less money, in a setting that is safe and orderly. Expanding on that success should be a top priority.
8. The ‘Shadow Northeast Corridor’ Draws Warehouses … and People
An article on GlobeSt.com describes a recent meeting sponsored by NAIOP NJ where one of the speakers, Alex Klatskin, partner of Teterboro-based Forsgate Industrial Partners, made an astute observation: “The real beltway [around New York City] is not Interstate 287,” he said. “It’s 81 to 84.” What he’s talking about is something that might be called the “Shadow” Northeast Corridor — a phenomenon that has been emerging recently in data on commuting and on county-to-county migration. It seems that the actual Northeast Corridor has gotten so densely populated, pushing land values so correspondingly high, that it no longer makes economic sense for the warehousing and distribution industry to build large-floorplan facilities there.
9. New Urbanists: No Economic Recovery Without Smart Growth
What happened to the United States over the past several years is most commonly described as a recession. By the technical definition of the word we’re two years into a recovery. But it sure doesn’t seem that way. Meanwhile, a growing chorus of intellectual leaders says the country is experiencing something different than a normal cyclical fluctuation: the end of an epoch. Leading urban thinkers, from Richard Florida to James Howard Kunstler, believe we have reached the limits of our fossil-fueled, double-mortgaged, McMansion-based economy. Relief won’t come, they say, until America begins confronting the systemic problems that produced the meltdown, including inefficient and unsustainable public infrastructure investments and housing development.
10. Study: Worst hospitals treat larger share of poor
The nation’s worst hospitals treat twice the proportion of elderly black patients and poor patients than the best hospitals, and their patients are more likely to die of heart attacks and pneumonia, new research shows. Now, these hospitals, mostly in the South, may be at higher risk of financial failure, too. That’s because the nation’s new health care law punishes bad care by withholding some money, says the lead author of the study published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs.
Posted on August 24th, 2011 No comments
1. Stymied Charter Files Suit Against Three School Districts
As New Jersey’s battles over charter schools have increasingly gone suburban, one charter school is fighting back in a legal counteroffensive that could have statewide implications. The Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS) has filed suit against three districts that have openly fought its existence, contending that they have unlawfully used public funds in their two-year campaign against the school. Although approved by the state, the charter has yet to open. It has needed two extensions while it battles for potential sites in Princeton and now South Brunswick, two of the districts named as defendants. The third is West Windsor-Plainsboro.
2. New Jersey Tent City Houses 70 Homeless People Who Draw Community Scorn
Marilyn Berenzweig was a successful New York textile designer who loved her work and comfortable lifestyle. For the past year, however, she and her husband have been living in a tent city in the New Jersey woods. “It’s life on a much more primitive level. … Cooking on a wood stove … having no running water, no electricity.” Berenzweig, 60, and husband Michael live at Tent City Lakewood, a growing community of 70 homeless people living in a series of tents, shacks, trailers and tepees in a wooded area along the Jersey Shore about 25 miles north of Atlantic City.
3. NJ withdraws proposed charity fund-raising rule
New Jersey consumer affairs officials have withdrawn a plan restricting the language charities can use in soliciting donors. Under the proposal announced last month, nonprofit groups would have had to tell donors they could designate which programs their money should fund. The groups also would have had to note in fund-raising appeals that non-directed donations could be used for whatever purposes the charities chose, including general operating expenses. But many groups balked, claiming the language implied that management and other overhead expenses are inherently bad.
4. Northeast rail corridor gets $745M for upgrades
The federal Department of Transportation announced Monday that $745 million would be going toward rail projects that will allow trains to travel up to 160 mph in some sections of the Northeast Corridor and to construction that will allow Amtrak trains to avoid a congested rail junction in part of New York City. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the projects would create 12,000 jobs over the span of construction. “We are creating new construction jobs, ordering American-made supplies and improving transportation opportunities across a region where 50 million Americans live and work.”
5. Christie must move on ‘foreclosure rescue’ bill
In the last few days of its session, the Legislature — with both rare bipartisan amity and the support of consumer and banking organizations — passed a bill to crack down on so-called “foreclosure rescue” companies and guarantee that people who have lost their homes to them receive fair compensation. The bill — the Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act — landed on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk June 29. He hasn’t signed it yet. “But this gets to be very timely right now,” says Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), the bill’s prime sponsor who has issued a public plea to Christie to sign the legislation.
6. NJ toy gun swap contrasts with nearby violence
Several dozen children clutching water pistols and cap guns Monday lined up in Newark to exchange their fake weapons for non-violent toys as word spread that a shooting with a real gun had taken place just blocks away. Newark Mayor Cory Booker said the nearby gunfire was from a man accidentally shooting and injuring himself, and that the fact it took place near a children’s toy gun exchange illustrated just how important such initiatives had become to curbing the cycle of violence. “We have a serious, serious problem in Newark, in Jersey City, Camden, Detroit, Cleveland; there’s a serious problem in America with gun violence,” Booker said. “We’ve got to start to break this culture, and we in Newark are determined to do that.”
7. N.J. grants more than $14M for statewide infrastructure improvements
The state will dole out 95 grants to municipalities, counties and airports to perform $14.65 million in road projects. The bulk of the funds will be distributed to municipalities for local road projects, including $3.5 million for a bridge replacement in South Plainfield, $250,000 for a streetscape project in Roxbury and funds for resurfacing streets in Denville, Morris Plains, Victory Garden and Morris County’s Washington Township. In total, 29 municipalities will split up $10 million. An additional 55 grants totaling $2 million will be given for “safe corridor” projects, including $31,752.12 in Essex County, $108,617.75 in Mercer County, $319,240.78 in Union County and $403,661.06 in Middlesex County. The program identifies 14 10-mile stretches of highway that have been designated for improvements to reduce traffic crashes.
8. An Economic Development Case for Building Sports Stadiums—Or Not
Just last month, we posted a blog entry asking readers whether building convention centers in inner city neighborhoods are worth the public subsidies required to do so. Since then, an almost identical conversation has been happening about whether sports stadiums are worth the public investment. In an article posted in The Nation, Neil DeMause asks, “Why Do Mayors Love Sports Stadiums?” He argues that tax breaks, free land, government-subsidized tax-free loans and discounts to offset operating costs are not recouped by cities after stadiums are built. Indeed, many stadium plans include benefits to the surrounding community but these plans never bear fruit.
9. Sustainable States Act Brings Thriving NJ Greening Program to the Nation
Soon-to-be proposed legislation will fund nationwide programs modeled after one of Jersey’s own. Green initiatives at the local township levels have concrete payback periods, meaning it’s federal money very well spent. The past few years in this country have featured a down-and-dirty crash course of the role of government, and the use of taxpayer funds. And while ideologies sometimes clash, many of us are evolving in our understanding of the relationship between citizen and state.
10. The Importance of Small Arts Organizations
Over the past 20 years, many arts organizations have been forced to raise increasing sums of money as growth in ticket revenue has not matched growth in budgets. This necessity has been the mother of invention; arts organizations in this country are far more sophisticated and creative about fundraising now than ever before. And while this increase in development acumen is in evidence at many arts organizations, larger organizations have had a distinct advantage. Corporate donors are looking for visibility for their products and services; gifts to arts organizations can only be justified if they support the marketing activities of the firm.
Posted on August 10th, 2011 No comments
1. Stranded in ‘food deserts,’ hundreds of thousands of N.J. residents lack access to healthy, fresh food
Cooke’s neighborhood on the Hamilton-Trenton border is one of 134 “food deserts” in New Jersey, according to the federal government. They are mostly low-income pockets of big cities, sprawling suburbs and small towns that lack easy access to a supermarket but are usually brimming with expensive convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Experts say food deserts are the equivalent of nutritional wastelands, where families who can’t afford to hunt down fresh food are often left to subside on Slurpees, Big Macs and calorie-laden packaged foods. Studies show food desert residents are more likely to be obese and spend a greater percentage of their time and income shopping for meals.
2. Stevens project aims to change home development practices
To outsiders, Stevens Institute of Technology’s entrance into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a competition between colleges to prove knowledge and execution of green energy concepts. To those working on the project, the so-called Empowerhouse is a catalyst for a Washington, D.C., neighborhood, and changes the way one of the largest homebuilders in the nation does business. When the decathlon is over at the beginning of October, the Empowerhouse will move from the Potomac Mall to a plot in the Deanwood community, donated by Washington, D.C., where a mirror version of the structure will be constructed by Habitat for Humanity to turn the exhibition building into a home for two families. This is the first home built for the decathlon to be implemented as a permanent home.
3. High marks for Pier Village
Crack houses, a rat-infested water slide and boarded up arcades. This was the setting where the Pier Village retail and residential complex was built in a city that had endured decades of decline. And while the complex — the first to be built in the most recent spate of oceanfront redevelopment projects — is readied for its third and final stage, the community last week observed the fifth anniversary of the first phase with nary a hiccup. Nonetheless, the impact on the city has been substantial, and officials foresee Phase 3 providing additional, significant benefits.
4. New Brunswick school group partners with national nonprofit to support public school reform
The New Brunswick-based school reform group Better Education for Kids announced today it partnered with StudentsFirst, a national nonprofit started by former Washington D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, which supports expanding charter schools and merit-based pay for teachers. Begun in March by two New Jersey financiers, Better Education for Kids has promoted teacher evaluations based on student test scores and restrictions on tenure. It has praised Gov. Chris Christie’s school reform efforts, and has raised the ire of the New Jersey Education Association, which mounted an expensive campaign last year attacking the governor’s state aid cuts.
5. New Jersey’s Commitment to Transit Has Shrunk Over Past 8 Years
With commuters still reeling from an NJ Transit derailment that has snarled travel across the region, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign — a regional transportation policy watchdog group — warned today that New Jersey’s commitment to public transit had waned. The state has dedicated smaller and smaller shares of its annual transportation capital program to transit over the past eight years, and next year’s capital plan will devote an even smaller percentage.
6. Community FoodBank’s mobile food pantry goes where it’s needed most
With demand for food assistance growing in South Jersey, the FoodBank’s EHT-based Southern Branch is expanding its services through the use of mobile pantries. And while the need has grown steadily, officials say donations have declined. Although demand is increasing across the county — last year, the nonprofit distributed a record 7.1 million pounds of groceries — Barham said the food bank has focused its limited resources on places where existing food pantries are overtaxed.
7. Immigration and Poverty in America’s Suburbs
As the foreign-born have grown more numerous, they have dispersed geographically. Some metropolitan areas have become immigrant gateways for the first time. And within many metropolitan areas, increasing numbers of immigrants have settled in suburban communities, where they were once only a sparse presence. Meanwhile, another change has been taking place on the metropolitan landscape: poverty is on the rise in the suburbs. Recent Brookings research shows that at the end of the Great Recession a majority of the nation’s poor in the 100 largest metropolitan areas lived in the suburbs.
8. NJ Environmental Intrastructure Trust Fund to get $650 million as Chris Christie signs bill
With a fine summer day on Barnegat Bay as his backdrop, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that will recharge the state’s Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund with nearly $650 million, including $32 million for projects to staunch the flow of polluted storm water to the bay. “It took generations for the bay to get to the point where it’s at now, and it won’t be reversed overnight,” Christie said Thursday, after signing a trio of bills to fund water and sewer projects throughout the state with low- or no-interest state loans. “There can’t be any compromise at all when it comes to our state’s water infrastructure,” Christie said, describing Barnegat Bay as “a huge economic driver” for both the Shore region and the whole state.
9. West Milford is on the way to becoming a NJ Sustainable Jersey Certified community
Requirements for the township to become a Sustainable Jersey Certified Community have been completed, opening the door for grants and other benefits for the municipality. The township needed 150 points for bronze certification and submitted 195. “The last piece to the puzzle was the township energy audit, which we finally completed,” said Sustainability Subcommittee Chair Renee Allessio. “I am thrilled to report that according to Township Administrator Kevin Boyle, we are implementing all the recommendations. All municipal-owned buildings were included in the energy audit. We should realize tangible energy and financial savings when this is completed. We are now waiting to hear back from Sustainable Jersey.
10. Poll finds ‘quality of life’ responses vary widely in N.J. depending on where you live
New Jersey may be the most densely populated state, but its residents in various counties are living worlds apart. A poll released this month by Monmouth University found the “quality of life” responses varied widely based on where people live. Morris County residents like New Jersey most, while Cumberland County residents give it the lowest score. Essex County comes in three above dead last. Economics is one factor, with residents in Morris, Hunterdon and Somerset, the three wealthiest counties, giving the state high marks.
Posted on July 27th, 2011 No comments
1. Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables
What will it take to get Americans to change our eating habits? The need is indisputable, since heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all in large part caused by the Standard American Diet. (Yes, it’s SAD.) Though experts increasingly recommend a diet high in plants and low in animal products and processed foods, ours is quite the opposite, and there’s little disagreement that changing it could improve our health and save tens of millions of lives. And — not inconsequential during the current struggle over deficits and spending — a sane diet could save tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs.
2. Government Can’t Help? Tell That to the South Bronx
The Bronx (and many neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan) stands as arguably the greatest public rebuilding achievement since World War II, a resurrection begun by Mayor Edward I. Koch and continued with great vigor by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today. The Bloomberg administration will, in the end, have poured more than $8 billion into building and preserved 165,000 apartments — more than enough to house the population of Miami.
3. Do One Thing and Do It Well
This country has undergone dramatic shifts in culture, attitudes, technology, politics, and business since community development burgeoned in the late 1960s. Devastated urban centers have witnessed mass revitalization and others the proliferation of lending, leading to a new period of abandonment. Demographic shifts have dramatically changed cities with influxes of young professionals seeking lattés and trendy bars and immigrants often forced into overcrowded apartments. Throughout this period, community development in many ways became synonymous with economic development.
4. Beyond Safety in Numbers: Why Bike Friendly Cities are Safer
Davis, California, is widely celebrated as the bicycling capital of the United States with over 16% of the population commuting to work on bikes. What is less well known is the fact that the traffic fatality rate in Davis is also unusually low, at about 1/10th of the California statewide rate. Although this fact is not widely disseminated, there is growing data showing that cities with very high use of bikes for routine transportation almost always have much lower than average traffic fatality rates. The finding that most bike friendly cities are safer than average has been reinforced by the recent experience of cities such as Cambridge, MA, Portland, OR, and New York. These cities have garnered much press for their success in dramatically increasing bike use over the last several years. This increase in bike ridership has corresponded with an equally dramatic decrease in traffic fatality rates in all three cities.
5. The Legacy of Hope VI in New Brunswick
Some residents say the revitalization of low-income housing has made their neighborhoods safer, but advocates are split on the long term effects of the program. On a recent warm summer afternoon, 58-year-old Marvin Gregory pedaled his bike through the Hope Manor public housing complex near Remsen Avenue and George Street. Things were different from years ago. Back then, Gregory said he roamed New Brunswick’s notorious Memorial Homes selling cocaine, heroin and PCP. He admits being arrested at the high-rise projects several times. But hustling drugs and ducking police grew tiresome and Gregory said he gave up his criminal ways just before city housing officials knocked down the projects in a blast of dynamite.
6. Most New Charter Schools Not Ready to Open in September
Of 23 charters approved by the administration, only seven will open their doors this fall. When the Christie administration announced in January that it had approved 23 new charter schools, that number was celebrated as being the largest class of charters yet. Equally impressive, according to the administration, there would be close to 100 of the alternative schools operating this fall. Six months later, it turns out only seven of those 23 will be ready to open their doors come September. Factor in two more schools, which had been approved in other application cycles, and that brings the total to nine new charters — for a grand total of 80 operating in the Garden State.
7. NJ gov, education reformer announce partnership
Gov. Chris Christie announced Wednesday that Paterson will be the first New Jersey city to try a community-based approach to education inspired by New York education reformer Geoffrey Canada. Canada considers a child’s home life, neighborhood and nutritional needs part of the learning environment. His nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone engages community partners to develop a holistic, or comprehensive, approach to K-12 education that emphasizes college graduation as the students’ long-term goal.
8. Tenant Suit to Oppose New School in Harlem
A group of tenants at a public housing development in Harlem said on Wednesday that they planned to sue the city and federal governments over the construction of a charter school on the grounds of the housing project. The school would rise at the heart of the St. Nicholas Houses, on top of a 1.7-acre park that, for nearly 60 years, has served as a play space for children and as a communal living room for the development’s 3,000 residents and those who live nearby. In preliminary work at the site, trees and benches have been removed, and a community garden and playground have disappeared. Ninety-two residents have joined the lawsuit, which the group said it would file on Thursday. Several said in interviews that they were not opposed to charter schools, but objected to one being built on the Houses’ largest green space.
9. Miniature Tree Pit Farms Grow in Inwood
Much has been written about a lack of access to fresh food in Upper Manhattan amidst the fried food joints and sugary-snack selling bodegas that dot the area. But for people living on an Inwood block, all they need to do is walk onto their sidewalk to see a crop of fresh snap peas, fava beans and cherry tomatoes and get a whiff of farm life in the big city. “It means a lot to be able to come here and see the plants growing and teach our kids what it’s like to be in nature, not just the concrete jungle,” Maria Rosa, an Inwood resident native of the Dominican Republic, said.
10. Exclusionary Zoning, Sprawl on the Rise
A new study by Rowan University’s Geospatial Research Laboratory finds that municipal zoning in New Jersey has resulted in a land-use pattern that has grown substantially more exclusionary and more sprawling over the last two decades. Prior to 1986, residential development on lots of half an acre or larger accounted for 43 percent of total acres in residential use statewide. For the 1986-2007 study period, however, the share of newly developed residential land consumed by housing on large lots jumped to 67 percent. Absent further enforcement of the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel rulings, together with stricter adherence to land-use practices consistent with the State Plan, the study predicts that sprawl and housing segregation will worsen.
Posted on July 21st, 2011 No comments
The USDA just released its first report on the farm to school initiative and found that, even though the program is expanding nationwide, there are still many challenges in establishing a market between local farms and schools. The report found that local districts were excited to connect their schools to local farms but problems arose in terms of supply and storage. For one, school food service providers didn’t expect farms to replace their existing chains. Schools also can’t store raw or fresh foods for a prolonged period of time, they’re more used to handling precooked meals. The seasonality of foods also presents a challenge as many foods, such as tomatoes and squash, grow in the summer when school’s out but farmers are working on ways to make these items available during the school year.
The report also focused on education and teaching kids about where foods come from and how to eat healthy. Schools in Rhode Island, for example, have trading cards that showcase farmers and what they grow. At a school in Oklahoma, a phys ed teacher is using music and dance to teach kids about healthy foods. The USDA sees this educational aspect as an important tandem to bringing local food to schools by teaching kids where their food comes from.
“I think it’s really important for kids to get reconnected to agriculture,” Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, says. “Too many Americans are far removed from how their food is produced, and by whom, and they have a lot of questions.”
The farm to school movement will get a nice boost next year when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will provide additional funding for farm to school grants. For the full article on Food Safety News, click here.
Posted on July 20th, 2011 No comments
1. Calif. company hopes N.J.’s solar successes drive demand for stronger U.S. policies
The Garden State has long been a leader in solar energy policies and installations. Now, a new campaign is aiming to use the experiences of states like New Jersey to turn up the heat on states where incentives have been lacking. This week, San Francisco-based One Block Off the Grid launched a nationwide campaign aimed at raising awareness about the value of solar incentive programs. The campaign, called “One Nation Off the Grid,” coincides with the company’s launch of group deals in 34 states, and the release of data from a new report assessing each state’s solar policies and its potential for solar job creation.
2. Christie Administration Continues to Increase Options for Students with Nine New Charter Schools Opening in September
The Christie Administration announced today that nine new charter schools will open across the state in September 2011. The Department of Education also announced that 21 previously approved schools will be granted a planning year with the anticipation of opening in September 2012. The expansion of high-quality charter schools has been a top priority of Governor Christie’s education reform agenda. The Department of Education has two rounds each year during which groups may apply to open a charter school. The Department of Education approved charters in September 2010 and January 2011. However, schools must pass an additional “preparedness review” in June in order to show that they have in place a high-quality academic program, and that they have met all regulatory requirements to open in September.
3. Atlantic City boardwalk named best in the nation
Atlantic City has the top boardwalk in the nation. This according to National Geographic, which has just released its list of the top 10. A.C.’s four-mile walk topped the list for its glitz and neon, but other area boards made the cut, too. Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk came in at No. 6 for its ability to keep the nostalgia through its recent facelift. At the bottom of the list, you’ll find Wildwood. Its water parks, roller coasters and boardwalk food earned the two-mile stretch the No. 10 spot. No mention of the persistent “watch the Tramcar, please,” warning.
4. Charter School Battle Shifts to Affluent Suburbs
Millburn Parents Against Charter Schools, argues that the schools would siphon money from its children’s education for unnecessarily specialized programs. The schools, to be based in nearby Maplewood and Livingston, would draw students and resources from Millburn and other area districts. “I’m in favor of a quality education for everyone,” Mr. Stewart said. “In suburban areas like Millburn, there’s no evidence whatsoever that the local school district is not doing its job. So what’s the rationale for a charter school?” Suburbs like Millburn, renowned for educational excellence, have become hotbeds in the nation’s charter school battles, raising fundamental questions about the goals of a movement that began 20 years ago in Minnesota.
5. Anxious Jersey City homeowners told their properties are being taken off eminent domain list
At a meeting at City Hall, some 53 property owners in the McGinley Square area of Jersey City were told that their properties are coming off an eminent domain list. The properties were placed on the list as part of the McGinley Square Redevelopment Plan, an city initiative that encompasses about four blocks, bordered roughly by Bergen Avenue on the west, Jordan Avenue on the East, Mercer Street to the north, and Storms Avenue to the south. The plan is to create ground-floor commercial, retail, and restaurants in the area, and permit uses such as theaters and bowling alleys.
6. The Next Bubble–Burgers
The Washington Post reported that Michelle Obama consumed 1700 calories at lunch at the new DC Shake Shack. According to the story, the First Lady had a Shackburger, fries, a chocolate shake, and in a self-deluding ploy most of us know all too well, a Diet Coke. Some people were amused at the supposed hypocrisy of the obesity-fighting First Lady gorging on 1700 calories of fat and carbs. I see a more ominous significance to the episode: after the tech bubble, the real estate bubble, the private equity bubble, could we soon be facing a Burger Bubble? I’m not talking about an imminent collapse of McDonalds, which is humming along now that it is serving our beloved national food to Australians, South Americans and Chinese. No I’m talking about what we might call the nouveau burger at places like Shake Shack.
7. New York City Bans Downtown Vehicles in August
For three Saturdays in August, New York City will ban vehicles on seven miles of roads in Manhattan, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to take over the streets of downtown. The “Summer Streets” program, now in its fourth year, began as part of the city’s overall greening initiatives in an effort to encourage New Yorkers to leave their cars at home and consider more sustainable modes of transportation.
8. Aging baby boomers strain cities built for the young
America’s cities are beginning to grapple with a fact of life: People are getting old, fast, and they’re doing it in communities designed for the sprightly. To envision how this silver tsunami will challenge a youth-oriented society, just consider that seniors soon will outnumber schoolchildren in hip, fast-paced New York City. It will take some creative steps to make New York and other cities age-friendly enough to help the coming crush of older adults stay active and independent in their own homes.
9. Christie takes steps to restore transitional aid to ailing cities
Reversing course, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday took steps to restore $139 million in transitional aid funds to some of the state’s most distressed cities, including Trenton. The about-face came three weeks after the governor cut all but $10 million of transitional aid from his initial budget in a string of line-item vetoes that touched off a political tug-of-war between Christie and Democrats in the Legislature. Under the cut, ailing cities such as Trenton, Camden and Newark and nearly 20 others would have been left to split a $10 million pot of aid, a drastic departure from the much higher totals that cities were expecting. Trenton had budgeted $24 million for itself.
10. Easton, Sea Isle City use Smart Growth Formula
Sea Isle City on the Jersey Shore is a lot of things, but it is most certainly the Park Bench Capital of America. Its slogan should be “Sit your butt down here.” On the town’s promenade – which is essentially a boardwalk without all the rides and games – there’s a bench just about every 10 feet. Each has an inscription dedicating it to someone, often accompanied by a quote about the person’s love for Sea Isle City. The benches are an amenity for tired pedestrians, a place to stop and talk, and a classy way of reminding people that the town is a great place to be. It’s just one of the facets that draw people in droves to the downtown for walking, bicycling, shopping and restaurant and bar hopping.
Posted on June 15th, 2011 No comments
1. Newark to open 4 high schools and 7 charter schools in less than 3 months, report says
A controversial plan released Monday calls for creating four new high schools in Newark and opening or expanding seven charter schools inside existing city schools. Newark Schools superintendent Cami Anderson said there are no plans to close any schools this fall, but five will be consolidated. Anderson will present the plan to the school advisory board Tuesday. Anderson said the plan targets two priorities: giving Newark students and parents more options and making the district more fiscally efficient.
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2. Google Scaling Solar, Commits $280 Million To Finance SolarCity Installations
Google today announced a new partnership with SolarCity, committing $280 million from its coffers to finance SolarCity installations, namely solar rooftops for homes in North America. The partnership brings Google employees a discount on residential solar installations and services from SolarCity. On a worldwide basis, according to the company’s last quarterly earnings report, Google employs about 26,300 full-time. Earlier this month, SolarCity locked a commitment from U.S. Bancorp that put them past the $1 billion mark in terms of financing capacity. Google becomes the company’s seventh major financing partner.
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3. How Car Dependency Turns Suburban Dreams into Foreclosure Nightmares
According to an analysis by the Center for Neighborhood Technology of 2002 mortgage data, 250 people applied for mortgages every day in Chicago, and only 150 were approved. The top reason for rejecting the other 100? Applicants had too much credit tied up in car ownership. And mortgage lenders have only gotten more skittish since then about overextended borrowers. Transportation and housing are inextricably tied, but many people are slow to realize the full implications of this link. CNT President Scott Bernstein says that although lenders understand the link when it comes to rejecting applicants who are overextended on car payments, they don’t include transportation costs in their mortgage underwriting.
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4. Federal Push May Restrict Welfare Checks
South Dakota is one of a handful of states that sends a check each month directly to welfare recipients, meaning the state has no control over how recipients spend those dollars. That’s a departure from how many states administer their programs, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Most states issue TANF benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, a system that allows the government to directly transfer benefits onto a card that can be used for food stamps, TANF, child support and other benefits.The electronic cards work like debit cards, allowing recipients to use them at ATMs. They also enable state governments to restrict where the cards may be used. Many states choose not to enact restrictions, but others do.
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5. Christie’s plan would allow for-profit companies to run 5 failing N.J. public schools
With the enthusiastic backing of powerful South Jersey Democrats, Gov. Chris Christie Thursday announced a five-year pilot program that would allow persistently failing schools to hand oversight to private education companies. If legislation creating the project becomes law, the state will permit five troubled schools to be run by so-called school management organizations (SMOs), generally for-profit companies that have been brought in by cities across the country to oversee underperforming schools. School boards must apply to the Department of Education to participate, Christie said.
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6. IRS Announces Loss of Charitable Status for 275,000 Non-Profits
The Internal Revenue Service has taken away the tax-exempt status of 275,000 non-profit groups and organizations, after they failed to file the appropriate forms to maintain that status. The move was made to help accuracy of non-profit meta records, as researchers use that data to determine the size of the non-profit sector in the United States. The IRS believes that the majority of the groups that lost their tax-exempt status this week are no longer operational anyway, or many were simply impossible to contact. Before 2006, non-profit groups with an annual gross income of less than $25,000 were not required to file every year to maintain their tax-exempt status, In 2006, a federal law called the Pension Protection Act changed the rules to require all non-profits regardless of size and revenue to file the relevant paperwork every year in order to stay exempt from taxes. Awareness of the new law was not widespread, however, and as of 2010 nearly 25% of all non-profit organizations in the US were facing a loss of their status due to non-compliance. In response, the IRS extended the deadline to this year, and made stronger efforts to contact the groups in question to inform them of the change in the law.
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7. In N.J., Tax Credit Sparks Development
New Jersey’s controversial program to encourage development near rail hubs marks the latest in a series of initiatives by Trenton to control growth in a state well known for its troubled inner cities and suburban sprawl. Some of these programs have been effective, resulting in development in more densely populated areas. On the other hand, New Jersey is still seeing development of open space that’s out of proportion with the increase in its population. The urban transit hub tax credit—first passed by the state in 2007 and broadened in 2009—provides tax credits to developers or tenants located within a half-mile of a rail station in nine cities.
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8. Will Urban-Loving Millennials Become Suburban Parents?
Still, for all the buzzy talk of knowledge industry synergy and urban appeal, census figures show that UBS’s return would be bucking the demographic trends rather than reflecting them and that the suburbs, however unloved by tastemakers and academics, remain where the growth is. Joel Kotkin , a writer who specializes in demographic issues, says that the 2010 census figures show that during the past decade just 8.6 percent of the population growth in metropolitan areas with more than a million people took place in city cores. The rest took place in the suburbs, which are home to more than 6 in 10 Americans.
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9. Bayonne mayor plans to consolidate municipal operations
Bayonne Mayor Mark A. Smith recently announced plans to scrap two of the city’s independent authorities and farm out many functions of the third. Officials said the City Council at its Wednesday meeting will be asked to vote on resolutions asking the state Local Finance Board for authority to dissolve the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority and the Bayonne Parking Authority. The city also wants to “out-source” operations of the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority. Without providing details of how the change would save the city money, Smith said the restructuring will make government more efficient and accountable to the public and elected officials.
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10. Are Charity Walks and Races Worth the Effort?
Fun runs and walkathons have been a fund-raising hit for non-profits. But critics say too little of the money makes it to the finish line. very year tens of millions of Americans ask friends to sponsor them in events ranging from 3-mile “fun runs” to 100-mile bike treks. And while it’s such a feel-good phenomenon that few pause to examine it, the once bush-league strategy has exploded into a high-profile funding source for some of the nation’s biggest nonprofits. The largest such event — the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life — raised more than $400 million last year. Meanwhile, the ever-growing movement includes tens of thousands of tiny “thons,” collecting for schools, hospitals and homeless shelters.
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Posted on May 26th, 2011 No comments
Two pioneers in making sure kids are provided with meals in school, Gene White and Namanga Ngongi, are working together to do the same for kids all across Africa. On May 6, White and Ngongi spurred health and agriculture officials from 22 different African nations to push for legislation to expand “home grown” feeding programs that will connect local farmers to schools, help prevent malnutrition and keep children, especially young girls, in school.
Currently, at least 50% of Africa’s farmers don’t grow enough food to feed even themselves, and 40% of their children are malnourished. With the potential to connect these farmers to schools in their communities, they can grow more and thus ensure that kids are receiving local, fresh food and that their own families aren’t going hungry. Moreover, having meals and lunches in schools helps to keep kids in schools, especially young girls who are at risk of being married off early. A regular, balanced and nutritious diet can make sure early development continues and that kids can go on to have healthy and active lives.
White, founder of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, and Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, know a thing or two about the importance of school meals. With the new accord agreed upon by the African nations, the work and tireless efforts they put into their own organizations can be realized across the continent, so that no child goes hungry and has the chance for a healthy and productive life. For more information, click here.