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  • Announcing a New Build with Purpose White Paper: Too Good to Be True: Lessons Learned on Solar Powering the Nonprofit Sector

    Posted on June 14th, 2012 lauren 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.

    1. 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?
    2. Do you have a reasonable amount of sun on the roof?
    3. Is your roof older? Pitched or flat?
    4. Does your facility use a substantial amount of electricity?
    5. Do you own your facility?
    6. What is your risk profile? Is your organization willing to enter into a long-term electricity contract?
    7. 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:

    http://bwpurpose.org/services/healthy-and-green-communities/solar-for-nonprofits/

     

     

  • CD WiRe (New Years 2012 Edition)

    Posted on January 4th, 2012 lauren No comments

    HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!!

    1.   Newark development organization awarded federal status
    Brick City Development Corp. — Newark’s economic development arm — has been certified as a Community Development Financial Institution by the U.S. Treasury Department, BCDC will announce today.  The designation will serve as a credential and allow BCDC to apply for federal grant money that can be used for small business and community development lending.
    Read more…

    2. Senate Committee Unanimously Approves Safe Streets Amendment
    In a major step forward for Complete Streets, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed a federal transportation authorization bill that includes a measure for the safe accommodation of all users in federally-funded street projects.  Alaska Senator Mark Begich offered the amendment that established this measure and accepted an amendment from Senator John Thune of South Dakota. The Committee voted unanimously in favor of the measure.
    Read more…

    3.  Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.
    At Dugsi Academy, a public school in St. Paul, Minnesota, girls wearing traditional Muslim headscarves and flowing ankle-length skirts study Arabic and Somali. The charter school educates “East African children in the Twin Cities,” its website says. Every student is black.  At Twin Cities German Immersion School, another St. Paul charter, children gather under a map of “Deutschland,” study with interns from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and learn to dance the waltz. Ninety percent of its students are white.  Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.
    Read more…

    4.  Congress is Going the Wrong Way on the Road to Investing in America’s Future
    The Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill that Congress recently passed will make it more difficult for the lowest-income students to access postsecondary education and gain the skills and credentials they need to support their families and contribute to the economy.  The bill reduces funding for Pell Grants and workforce investments, in spite of increasing need. And it fails to protect students’ eligibility for student aid, creating educational dead ends for the most vulnerable students.  Students who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent are one of the most vulnerable groups.
    Read more…

    5.  How to Pay for America’s Infrastructure
    America’s transportation infrastructure is in desperate need of an update, and most politicians would agree that more funding should be dedicated the nation’s highways and mass transit systems. Yet there is little consensus about where to find those new funds and Democrats and Republicans disagree stridently over whether Washington should increase its role.  One potentially fertile place for compromise may be in the form of state infrastructure banks, which have gained support from both the left and right in recent months. These public agencies, provided some government funds, would be designed to encourage significant private investment. And they would do so with little interference from the national government.
    Read more…

    6.  Five Things the Census Revealed About America in 2011
    A cascade of statistics from the 2010 Census and other Census Bureau sources released during 2011 show a nation in flux—growing and moving more slowly as it ages, infused by racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants in its younger ranks, and struggling economically across a decade bookended by two recessions. The nation’s largest metropolitan areas, and especially their suburbs, stood on the front lines of America’s evolving demographic transformation.
    Read more…

    7.   N.J. sets up website to provide nonprofits with information
    Nonprofit organizations in New Jersey can now turn to a single website to find any resource they may need from the state.  State officials say the Nonprofit Information Center portal — nonprofit.nj.gov — provides nonprofits with one-stop shopping on funding sources and other assistance available to them through state government.  Legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie required the New Jersey State Department to maintain such a directory.
    Read more…

    8.  The bold urban future starts now
    America doesn’t do big projects anymore — we’re too broke, no one can agree on our priorities, that era of bold thinking is over.  That canard has been repeated so many times that it’s now accepted as gospel. Except it’s not true. In cities in every region of the country, pie-in-the-sky ideas are moving from brainstorm to blueprint to groundbreaking — and 2012 will prove it. From a massive re-imagining of a postindustrial Chicago landscape to the rebirth of the Los Angeles River, these seven ventures point the way to a brave urban future.
    Read more…

    9.   Atlantic City to expand gambling, drinking options in casinos
    There’s more gambling and drinking on tap for Atlantic City in the new year.  New Jersey regulators are letting casinos put slot machines and table games into places they’ve never been before. They’re also letting casinos sell or give away alcohol in places like a clothing store, a wireless Internet lounge, and gift shops.
    Read more…

    10.  The Unfathomable Cuts in Housing Aid
    For an up-close view of the affordable housing crisis—which predated the mortgage-driven financial crisis of 2008 but has deepened since then into a full-blown national emergency—one place to be was the Jesse Owens Memorial Complex in the Red Bird neighborhood of Dallas. There, in the early morning hours of a typically scorching day this past July, thousands of impoverished Texans lined up for a chance to get on a waiting list for federal housing assistance, the first time in five years that the county government had accepted applications. Back in May another 21,000 people had applied for a shot at 5,000 spots on the Dallas Housing Authority’s waiting list—still better odds than in nearby Plano, where 8,000 people applied for only 100 available housing vouchers.
    Read more…

  • CD WiRe (August 18-24)

    Posted on August 24th, 2011 lauren 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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.”
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.”
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

  • 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.
    Click here to read more…

    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.
    Click here to read more…

    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.
    Click here to read more…

    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.
    Click here to read more…

    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.
    Click here to read more…

    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.”
    Click here to read more…

    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.”
    Click here to read more…

    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.
    Click here to read more…

    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.
    Click here to read more…

    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.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (May 5-11)

    Posted on May 11th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.   CDBG Cuts Whack Cities and Nonprofits
    But one of the bigger cuts in the FY2011 budget deal was the 16 percent lopped off the Community Development Block Grant program, certainly less than the 62 percent extraction that House Republicans had proposed, but big nonetheless. Now that cities have to deal with their CDBG budgets, the cascading impacts of the Washington budget deal are hitting home. Communities along the North Shore of Boston admit to “scrambling” to deal with the cuts.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  The $100 million school that could remake Harlem
    It’s a $100 million holistic Harlem complex meant to combine the latest research on how to provide the best education to kids in poor communities, which means going beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.  The state-of-the-art school — with 60% of construction costs shouldered by city taxpayers — will include a community center, recreation rooms and even a health clinic.  The Promise Academy Charter School, on the grounds of the St. Nicholas Houses, could change the lives not just of the 1,300 kids enrolled in K-12, but of a neighborhood where 42% of families live below the poverty line.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Realtors and Private Developers Oppose Affordable Housing Finance Strategy
    It is a debate between former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros – currently with an affordable housing builder called CityView – and the National Association of Realtors, the American Land Title Association, and other members of the Coalition to Stop Wall Street Home Resale Fees.  The idea in question is private transfer frees on the sales of new homes, dubbed “capital recovery fees” on Freehold’s website. The notion is reasonably simple. A homebuilder – for-profit or nonprofit – would create a covenant that goes along with the homes that are constructed. Each time a home is sold with one of these covenants, the buyer would pay a 1 percent fee back to the builder. A portion of that fee might be used to pay for infrastructure costs associated with the development and a portion would go to the developer, in the case of a nonprofit developer, for its general operations.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Advocates praise N.J. plan to provide housing for hundreds of developmentally disabled people
    A state plan to use affordable-housing dollars to move 600 developmentally disabled people into renovated homes over the next two years earned praise Tuesday from advocates, who called it a step toward alleviating a severe housing shortage.  The action follows a Star-Ledger report last month that found 8,000 people are on a state waiting list for homes and services. Of those, 4,800 are considered priorities, and some have been waiting for more than a decade.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  Energy Efficiency Programs Benefit New Jersey Hospitals
    State’s biggest utility is pushing customers that use large amounts of energy to cut costs by conserving gas and electricity.  As a top hospital executive at Raritan Bay Medical Center, Vince Costantino had a long list of items backing up on his capital budget to-do list: a new roof for one of its buildings, replacement windows, new cooling towers, and on and on.  With the backing of the state’s biggest electric and gas utility, Raritan Bay was able to launch a $3.4 million project, which has helped cut electric bills at its Perth Amboy facility by $300,000 to $400,000 a year.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  When others are grabbing their land:  Evidence is piling up against acquisitions of farmland in poor countries
    The farmers of Makeni, in central Sierra Leone, signed the contract with their thumbs. In exchange for promises of 2,000 jobs, and reassurances that the bolis (swamps where rice is grown) would not be drained, they approved a deal granting a Swiss company a 50-year lease on 40,000 hectares of land to grow biofuels for Europe. Three years later 50 new jobs exist, irrigation has damaged the bolis and such development as there has been has come “at the social, environmental and economic expense of local communities”, says Elisa Da Vià of Cornell University.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  Toys ‘R’ Us to install North America’s largest rooftop solar power system
    Toys “R” Us is installing the largest rooftop solar power installation in North America at its distribution center in Flanders, N.J. Staging for the system is currently underway and construction will conclude this summer. Upon completion, the 5.38 megawatt on-site solar array will occupy 869,294 sq. ft. It is estimated to generate 72% of the electrical needs for the Toys “R” Us facility, which is the largest of the chain’s 10 DCs and covers over 1.5 million sq. ft., in addition to the roof, which spans 32 acres.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  Borough Council, community members discuss Dinky
    The Borough Council, community residents and University representatives met at the Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the University’s requested zoning for the proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood, the future of the Dinky train and the memorandum of understanding released last week as a result of negotiations between the Borough and the University.  Several members of the community group Save the Dinky made presentations in favor of preserving the Dinky in its current location.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  First DOE Job Postings Hint at Restructuring to Come
    They are just advertisements at this point, but the first job postings for senior New Jersey education department positions are giving some of the first looks at acting Commissioner Chris Cerf’s expected reorganization of the department.  Advertisements went online this week for three positions, all new titles, with some new roles as well: Assistant Commissioner – Chief Academic Office, Assistant Commissioner – Chief Innovation Office, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnership.  Neither Cerf nor his spokesman would comment on the jobs this week. State Board of Education (BOE) President Arcelio Aponte said he received notice of the postings yesterday and was glad to see Cerf moving on filling critical posts in his leadership.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  NJ Expands School Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program
    As part of an effort to improve the health of children by providing access to nutritious meals in schools, New Jersey has received funding to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for the 2011-2012 school year.  New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher announced that 143 schools in 16 counties have been chosen to participate in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded program for the next school year, which provides students with fresh produce during the school day. Presently, 101 schools are participating in the program for the current school year.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (April 14-20)

    Posted on April 20th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  New Study Finds Solar Panels Are “Contagious”
    Are you more likely to install solar panels if your neighbor has them? A new study (PDF) out of Stanford says that you are. More specifically, it finds that for every 1 percent increase in the number of installations in a particular zip code, the time until the next adoption of solar decreases by 1 percent. Or, as Vote Solar’s Adam Browning put it: Solar is contagious! So just how quickly can solar power spread as this snowball effect gets rolling?
    Click here to read more…

    2.  The Human Footprint:  Measuring our impact on Earth
    Humanity’s impact has spread unevenly but everywhere as we have transformed land and sea to meet the demands of a population that has doubled to 7 billion in 40 years.  This map of the human footprint on land shows the combined impact of population density, land transformation, accessibility, and electric-power infrastructure, using nine data sets that researchers scored in terms of estimated contribution to human influence. The corresponding map of the oceans shows the effects of 17 different human activities, such as commercial fishing and pollution from cargo shipping.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Panasonic will move North American headquarters from Secaucus to Newark
    Global electronics giant Panasonic will be moving to Newark, Mayor Cory Booker said today, marking one of the biggest development coups of his administration.  “It’s historic. We’ve been seeing so much progress in the last four years,” Booker said this morning. “This is heralding to the globe that Newark is one of the most significant players on the Eastern seaboard.”
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Allies Inc. set to purchase Mercer Mobile Homes park
    The nonprofit Allies Inc., which provides housing, employment and recreational opportunities for persons with special needs, has signed a contract to purchase the 140-unit Mercer Mobile Homes park in the township, Mayor Dave Fried announced yesterday.  The transaction in Robbinsville is expected to close within 90 days and will pave the way for the units to be included in the township’s affordable housing inventory.  The move will also ensure long-term rent stability for park residents, including many seniors, and allow Allies to bring much-needed infrastructure improvements to the community, according to the township.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  N.J. solar energy boom’s frantic pace could slow
    The state is unquestionably a leader in solar energy — two more projects are planned that would beat the record set in Edison — but the industry’s period of exponential growth is bound to slow, industry insiders say.  New Jersey has seen a swift solar expansion in large part because of state rules that force power companies to either produce solar power or buy it on a market where companies like Avidan sell “SRECs,” credits representing energy.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  Cleaner, Healthier Air in Times Square after Creation of Pedestrian Plaza
    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and the Mayor’s Sustainability Director David Bragdon today released the results of the most recent Health Department air quality study which shows the impact of traffic on neighborhood air pollution across New York City.  The report documents an immediate and substantial air quality improvement in Times Square after the creation of a pedestrian plaza.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  Disadvantaged Children Win as D.C. Voucher Program Reauthorized
    After an aggressive, multi-year battle to save school choice in the nation’s capital, children in low-income D.C. families won a landmark victory as national lawmakers officially reauthorized and expanded the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.  The passage of a historic budget deal restores and extends the school voucher program and provides – over five years – $300 million for education in the District of Columbia. The agreement preserves the federal three-sector approach to education reform in the nation’s capital that has seen significant improvements in student attainment.  The revival of the program—which grants low-income children scholarships to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice—was a key legislative priority of Speaker John Boehner and comes two years after Congress and the Obama Administration revoked 216 scholarships and prevented new students from joining the program.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  Newark school woes transcend money
    Six months after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah to give $100 million to improve Newark’s strapped and struggling schools, $99 million is still sitting in the bank.  Newark Mayor Cory Booker quickly raised $43 million in matching donations. But what’s followed has been less rosy:
    Click here to read more…

    9.  A better charter school debate: We need to figure out how to expand the best models
    Charter schools are a hot topic in many states this spring. But as New York City knows well, the debate quickly falls into a predictable rut, with partisans wrangling over the virtues and vices of charters themselves.  Here’s a much more promising focus: How can we dramatically expand students’ access to the nation’s best charter schools? While many charters do no better than district-run public schools, a subset of charters – perhaps 10% – produces extremely high levels of learning and college-going by disadvantaged children who enter school years behind.  Many of these charter schools, including Harlem Village Academies, KIPP, Success Academies and Williamsburg Collegiate (part of Uncommon Schools), among others, operate in the five boroughs.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  ‘Priority’ waiting list to provide housing for thousands with developmental disabilities
    In 2005, amid much pride and anticipation, the state created the Special Needs Housing Trust Fund, signed into law by Sen. Richard Codey when he was acting governor. It was expected to provide 10,000 new affordable housing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness by dedicating $200 million to create new homes.  But six years later, $168 million has been spent to provide housing to 1,500 people with special needs, according to state officials. That’s 84 percent of the money to achieve 15 percent of the goal. The state Department of Community Affairs expects only another 500 units to be created with the remaining money.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (March 31-April 6)

    Posted on April 6th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Here’s a lesson: Gardening helps children grow
    Youth gardening is more popular than ever. The reasons are fairly clear and simple. When kids garden, they do better in school, and they also learn social skills, gain confidence and self-esteem, and have improved attitudes toward healthy food and the environment. However, getting kids to work in the garden may be a challenge. Sometimes you have to be creative in how you engage children in the garden.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  Many Low-Wage Jobs Seen as Failing to Meet Basic Needs
    Hard as it can be to land a job these days, getting one may not be nearly enough for basic economic security.  The Labor Department will release its monthly snapshot of the job market on Friday, and economists expect it to show that the nation’s employers added about 190,000 jobs in March. With an unemployment rate that has been stubbornly stuck near 9 percent, those workers could be considered lucky.  But many of the jobs being added in retail, hospitality and home health care, to name a few categories, are unlikely to pay enough for workers to cover the cost of fundamentals like housing, utilities, food, health care, transportation and, in the case of working parents, child care.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  General Motors pays $70K to clean up Superfund sites in Edison, Sayreville, Newark
    Three New Jersey Superfund sites will share a small portion of an approximately $11.5 million federal settlement announced today with the General Motors Company, which is now liquidating assets as part of bankruptcy proceedings begun in 2009, officials said.  Two sites contaminated with hazardous waste in New York and Indiana will receive the bulk of the payments as part of this settlement, said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The Massena site in New York will receive $9.5 million and a site in Indiana will receive $2 million, Bharara said.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Sharing space should not be fraught with fear
    Of the many issues facing public education in Newark, I am perplexed as to why the use of excess classroom space for public charter schools should cause so much fear and anger in its opponents. I suspect that fear centers on the unknown, as opposed to the actual merits of using unneeded public school space to educate public school children.  At its apex, Newark Public Schools enrolled nearly 80,000 students. Today, the ranks are about half. Quitman Street School, for example, is at 53 percent utilization, while Camden Street Middle, Fifteenth Avenue and Clinton Avenue schools are below half. Meanwhile, the charter sector in Newark continues to grow, currently serving about 14 percent of Newark students and expecting to increase to nearly 20 percent this fall. This growth is happening without state aid for facilities, forcing charter schools to use instructional dollars to pay the rent.  For me, the term “co-location” is nothing new.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  Integrating Schools Is a Matter of Housing Policy
    Inclusionary zoning and economic integration in suburban neighborhoods not only reduces concentration of poverty, it directly improves low-income children’s academic achievement.?The suburbs still lead cities in population growth, but in the latest sign of ongoing racial and economic diversification of suburbs, whites now make up only a fifth of that growth. According to a recent New York Times report, the shift in jobs to suburban centers has influenced a shift in immigrants’ moves from urban to suburban centers.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  Paterson to borrow $2.25M to rebuild historic stadium, renovate athletic field
    City officials are borrowing $2.25 million to begin the renovation process on historic Hinchliffe Stadium and to make repairs on Bauerle Field.  Sitting on the crest of a hill overlooking the city, Hinchliffe – one of two old Negro League ballparks still standing – has been closed for more than decade. Overgrown with weeds, the crumbling building stands as a haunting reminder of the Silk City’s heyday and municipal official see its eventual reopening as part of Paterson’s rebirth.  A bond ordinance approved on March 30, will provide about $1 million for architectural work and engineering studies on Hinchliffe. It also will pay for preliminary work, including improved security to prevent people who are homeless from continuing to use it as a place to stay, officials said.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  DCA & HMFA Announce New Home Rehabilitation Program for Camden City Homeowners
    New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lori Grifa today announced that the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) is partnering with the City of Camden and a host of government, nonprofit and private organizations to launch a new home rehabilitation program for eligible Camden homeowners. The Camden Program Offering Widespread Energy Recovery (POWER) Residential initiative will provide up to $16,000 in financial assistance per household for essential home repairs and energy efficiency improvements. The announcement took place at Cramer Hill Community Center in Camden.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  NAR Study Finds Americans Prefer Smart Growth Communities
    Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56 percent of respondents preferring smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. That’s according to a recent study, the Community Preference Survey, by the National Association of Realtors®.  Walkable communities are defined as those where shops, restaurants, and local businesses are within walking distance from homes. According to the survey, when considering a home purchase, 77 percent of respondents said they would look for neighborhoods with abundant sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly features, and 50 percent would like to see improvements to existing public transportation rather than initiatives to build new roads and developments.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  The State Story: Growth Without Growth
    Yes, the Sunbelt is growing, and the Frostbelt declining. That decades-old meme was confirmed by the earliest releases of the new 2010 Census. “The quest for mild winters remains the great constant of American demographics,” wrote Walter Shapiro in a piece headlined “The Census Ratifies the Sunbelt’s Supremacy and Buoys the GOP.” “For the first time in history, more than half of the nation’s population (308,745,538) resides either in the South or in the warm-weather states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico.”  But are those states that are adding people also growing economically? Not so much, actually.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Team New Jersey eNJoy House / NJIT + Rutgers University
    In 2002, the United States Department of Energy initiated the
    Solar Decathlon – an intense competition challenging collegiate teams to create residences that fuse the most sustainable technologies with functionality, comfort, and of course, aesthetics.  Over the course of the past decade, interest in the Decathlon has grown dramatically [be sure to read our previous Solar Decathlon coverage] as the competition has piqued the interest of students from top universities, as well as millions of public followers learning the advantages of energy-efficient, cost-effective housing.  Team , a collaborative effort between the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, has designed a handicap accessible net-zero energy prototype featuring low-maintenance concrete construction and the latest green technologies, complete with a striking beach-inspired aesthetic.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (March 10-16)

    Posted on March 16th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Solar Power Breakthrough Claimed By Stanford Researchers
    It’s the Holy Grail at clean energy research labs all over the world and something which could address long term energy issues domestically and beyond: more efficient photovoltaic solar. We’ve told you about scientists studying full-spectrum cells, using textured substrates, trying self-regenerating nanomaterials – we’ve even reported on an anti-reflective film inspired by a coating found in moth eyes. Now a Stanford team is claiming a breakthrough in making cheaper, more efficient panels by adding a single layer of organic molecules to solar cells.
    Click here to read more…

    2.   School’s out:  Cash-strapped cities threaten to close schools and fire teachers
    Tanish Able loves her daughter’s teacher, but is not happy with her school. According to a leaked proposal, Dr Martin Luther King Junior Elementary in Newark’s grim West Ward may soon be closed and replaced with an independent charter school. Ms Able is delighted at the prospect: “They should be in here already,” she says. The plan, though still in draft form, is said to call for some of Newark’s failing schools to be phased out and others to be consolidated. Existing and new charter schools might even share buildings. As cities wrestle with falling budgets and poor results, similar things are happening across America.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Trenton Community Charter School fights to remain open under N.J. deadlines for improvement
    Principal Christi Pemberton thinks Trenton Community Charter School has plenty to be proud of, like having students meet Gov. Chris Christie last month, running separate mentoring programs for boys and girls, and seeing successful alumni come back to the school this week to inspire current students.“In order for our children to become successful, they have to see where that success will lead them,” Pemberton said Monday. “The best people to express that to them are people who look and sound like themselves.”  But the 13-year-old charter faces serious challenges in improving student achievement, and possibly even in continuing to operate beyond this June.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Dogs Keep You Moving, Make For Healthier Adults
    A new study has found that dog owners are generally healthier than those who do not have dogs, due to them being more physically active. Having a dog can be a wonderful experience in a person’s life and a new study has supported the idea that dog owners are also healthier people.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  Planning for a Range of Housing Options
    The prolonged economic downturn has had many impacts, including widespread layoffs, high unemployment, and mass foreclosures. The most jarring impact for many Americans is the realization that they are not as affluent as they had previously thought. The large homes that were once symbols of prosperity became a financial millstone once mortgage rates reset and the larger economy slowed down. House flipping as a form of instant wealth generation became obsolete in much of the country. Harsh economic climates often shape citizens attitudes towards consumption and personal finance, while policymakers must reconsider past practices. The planning profession can play an important part in helping Americans adjust to an age of austerity.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  PepsiCo says it has 100% plant-based bottle
    PepsiCo on Tuesday unveiled a bottle made entirely of plant material, which it says bests the technology of competitor Coca-Cola and reduces its potential carbon footprint.  The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business.  The new bottle looks, feels and protects the drink inside exactly the same as its current bottles, said Rocco Papalia, senior vice president of advanced research at PepsiCo. “It’s indistinguishable.”
    Click here to read more…

    7.  New law promotes urban gardens
    Legislation to help transform vacant urban sites into economic development engines is now law.  Former law authorized municipalities and counties to lease or sell public property not needed for a public use to nonprofit entities.  This law — whose sponsors include 3rd District Democratic Assemblymen  John Burzichelli of Paulsboro and Celeste Riley of Bridgeton —  adds the cultivation and sale of fresh fruits and vegetables to the list of purposes for which local units may lease or sell public land for nominal consideration.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  NYC Unveils Plan to Create ‘Sixth Borough’ on the Waterfront
    Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a new $3.3 billion plan to transform Manhattan’s waterfront Monday that will expand parks, add new esplanades and open piers throughout the city.  As part of his 190-page “Vision 2020,” the city imagines New Yorkers using Metrocards to transfer onto ferries crossing the East River, residents canoeing and kayaking along the Hudson River, and even swimming off Manhattan piers.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  For many N.J. students, graduating from college means accumulating thousands of dollars in debt
    Princeton University sophomore Ben Levenson still has two years before he gets his degree. But he knows what is waiting after graduation: $50,000 of debt.  Levenson, who wants to be a teacher, said his parents told him he will be responsible for the $50,000 in loans he estimates he will need to cover tuition and expenses at the Ivy League school.  “It’s kind of imprisoning when I think about it,” said Levenson, 20, of Morristown. “I don’t have any money, and I owe money to someone.”
    Click here to read more…

    10.   The Rise of Latino New Urbanism
    The rising tide of Hispanic immigrants and population growth will greatly affect (and have already) the urban areas of the United States, as recently released Census Data suggests.  As the U.S. population and the country’s infrastructure evolve, urban planners are facing new challenges. Urban planners are ahead of the trend in understanding the key role Hispanics are playing: using them in pilot programs to test new urban models. “Latino New Urbanism” is an approach to urban planning that might include small lots, houses located close to main roads, front porches, compact neighborhoods, and public spaces. Pioneered by James Rojas, the notion of “Latino New Urbanism” is a way of understanding community, public spaces, and neighborhoods, taking into consideration the preferences and culture of Latino immigrants.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (February 17-23)

    Posted on February 23rd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  MIT grad’s invention turns brewery waste into fuel
    The MIT-trained mechanical engineer has invented a patented device that turns brewery waste into natural gas that is used to fuel the brewing process.  The anaerobic methane digester, installed last year at Magic Hat Brewing Co. in Vermont, extracts energy from spent hops, barley and yeast left over from the brewing process — and it processes the plant’s wastewater. That saves the brewer on waste disposal and natural gas purchasing.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  Veterans Journal: VA and HUD issue first-ever report on homeless veterans
    For the first time, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have published the most authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among veterans.  According to their assessment, nearly 76,000 American veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009, the latest year for which reliable statistics are available, while roughly 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Guam’s first charter school opening in August
    The Mayors Council of Guam received an update from the National Institute for Direct Instruction, which is set to open the island’s first charter school next school year. Come August, the island will see its first charter school.  Project director Donna Dwiggins says the charter school will be opened to students from kindergarten through 7th grade and will include a literacy academy for students coming out of 8th grade who are not academically ready for high school. Dwiggins spoke with island mayors this morning with hopes to go out into the villages to spread the word about the new charter school.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Newark school plan would clear space for charters, shift scores of students
    Newark school officials are considering a plan to move out, or consolidate, several of the city’s public schools to make space for 11 charter schools in a massive reshuffling that could affect thousands of students, according to a document obtained by The Star-Ledger.  The complex proposal drawn up by an outside consulting firm was handed out to a group of Newark school principals at a hastily called meeting at the district’s headquarters Friday, according to sources who attended the gathering. The group was told some of the changes could be in place by September.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  New York City To Put QR Codes On All Building Permits By 2013
    New York City’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the use of Quick Response or QR codes (which are something like a smartphone-readable barcode) on building permits, to provide New Yorkers with easy access to information related to buildings and construction sites throughout the city.  Smartphone users who scan a QR code on a construction permit in New York, according to a press release from the mayor’s office, will get “details about the ongoing project – including the approved scope of work, identities of the property owner and job applicant, other approved projects associated with the permit, [and] complaints and violations related to the location.”
    Click here to read more…

    6.  World’s Most Liveable Cities: 2011 Economist Intelligence Unit Report
    Based on a combination of environment, health care, culture and infrastructure, Vancouver topped the list of the world’s most liveable cities for the fifth straight year, according to a new report.  As Reuters is reporting, the 2010 Winter Olympics host scored a whopping 98 percent in the 2011 Liveability Ranking and Overview by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which has ranked the Canadian west coast city at the top since 2007. Canada dominated the top 10 spots along with Australia, with Melbourne surpassing Vienna, Austria as the world’s second most liveable city.
    Click here to read more…

    7.  ‘Reskinning’ Gives World’s Old Urban Buildings Energy-Saving Facelifts
    The term “reskinning” may sound like a word straight out of a science fiction novel, but in actuality it means retrofitting the exteriors of aging buildings with energy-saving facelifts, and the practice is taking off — especially in Canada and Europe.  Ron Dembo, a former computer science professor at Yale University who founded the Toronto-based carbon software company Zerofootprint, coined the term in 2009. His inspiration came in part from being steeped in data on carbon pollution management.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  Head of HUD Gives One Condition to Future Grants: Sustainability
    Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), knows a lot about big-city housing rehabilitation and construction issues. After all, he was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s housing commissioner for four years before joining the Obama administration.   But to tap into his core passions when it comes to real estate, talk to him about the decades-long disconnects between American housing locational decisions and jobs, transportation, and smart energy policies.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  Christie budget to cut $540M from Medicaid funds, transfer participants into managed care
    Calling Medicaid spending “out of control,” Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday proposed cutting $540 million from the massive health insurance program for the poor, though he did not say from where more than half the cuts would come.  In his budget address to the Legislature on Tuesday, Christie said that in the short term, the state would save $240 million by transferring 121,000 low-income senior citizens and disabled people who now receive Medicaid into a managed care program, cutting state reimbursement to nursing homes, and rooting out fraud.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Americans Want Transportation Projects, But Not Their Costs
    Rockefeller Foundation survey: Americans rank transportation needs high but don’t want to pay the costs.  Upkeep of roads, bridges and transit systems is a high priority to an overwhelming margin of Americans, but by an even greater margin they don’t want to pay more for it, according to a survey that will be released this week.  With the Obama administration’s budget, House Republicans embarked on an effort to reduce spending by$100 billion and a long-term transportation bill stalled in Congress, 78 percent of those surveyed say private investors should be tapped to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure.
    Click here to read more…

  • CD WiRe (Jan.27- Feb.2)

    Posted on February 2nd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Report finds lower insurance premiums, more choices in 2014 for families, businesses under Affordable Care Act
    New HHS report shows some families can save up to $14,900 annually, tax credits will save small businesses $6 billion over two years.  Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a new report showing how much families and businesses can save on health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs under the Affordable Care Act in 2014 – each year, a low-income family of four could save up to $14,900 and businesses will benefit from the savings and tax credits in the new law.
    Click here to read more…

    2.  Education and the State of the Union: a perennial favorite
    It’s a safe bet President Obama will dwell on education Tuesday night in his second State of the Union address. (His speech to Congress in February 2009 was not, technically, a SOTU.) And his goal is plain: Administration officials have made clear in recent weeks that the president will push this year for a bipartisan rewrite of the 2002 federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.  But if Obama is looking for something new to say–a new theme, a new rhetorical flourish, even a new proposal–it may be somewhat difficult. Presidents talk up education every year. Usually It offers them a respite from passages that deal with war, terrorism or polarizing domestic subjects such as taxes and health care. Here is a review of what’s been said on the subject in annual presidential speeches since 2000.
    Click here to read more…

    3.  Gangs have presence in 254 towns, in every county in N.J., survey shows
    Street gangs in New Jersey have a foothold in almost half of the state’s municipalities and reach across all 21 counties, according to a State Police report released yesterday.  But the reality of gang activity, however grim, does not mirror widely held misconceptions about gang life, according to the report and interviews with law enforcement experts.
    Click here to read more…

    4.  Specialization or Segregation? NJ’s First Charter School for Autistic Children Already Faces Challenges
    Approved last week, the Forest Hill Charter School in Newark has received much attention as New Jersey’s first charter devoted entirely to students with autism. It was singled out by Gov. Chris Christie as part of a new generation of autonomous schools.  A look at its winning 150-page application shows how it will change the way charters have operated here for the past 15 years, including a $55,000 tuition per child that puts it tops among all charter schools.  Still, for all its lofty goals, the school faces a host of challenges and questions before it will open in 2012, as planned. Its chief founder conceded there remain questions in how it will be paid for, and even where it will be located. Some have asked how it was even approved under current law.
    Click here to read more…

    5.  At most N.J. colleges, freshmen have less than 50 percent chance of graduating in 4 years
    Nearly every freshman starts college with the intention of walking out four years later with a degree.  But at most New Jersey colleges and universities, freshmen have a less than 50-percent chance of earning a bachelor’s degree within four years, according to a Star-Ledger analysis of graduation data from more than two dozen campuses around the state.  Four-year graduation rates ranged from 90 percent at Princeton University to a mere 6 percent at New Jersey City University in 2008, the latest available numbers gathered by the federal Department of Education. Several of the state’s largest public universities — including Kean, Montclair State and William Paterson — reported less than a third of their full-time freshmen completed a bachelor’s degree within four years.
    Click here to read more…

    6.  State announces $3.2 million in Clean Water Grants
    The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Christie’s administration announced the awarding of $3.2 million in grants on Thursday that will fund six nonpoint source pollution control projects throughout the state of New Jersey.  These grants include a $1 million award for the nonprofit American Littoral Society and will be earmarked for the group’s continuing efforts to target and curb pollution runoff into Barnegat Bay.  These project grants are funded by the Department of Environmental Protection’s federal Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Grant Program and will help fund programs designed to reduce the amount of nonpoint source pollution entering the state’s waters, which would help protect and restore water quality in watersheds that are in desperate need of revitalization.
    Click here to read more…

    7. Hundreds of volunteers count N.J. homeless in fifth annual survey
    The streets were dark as Sgt. Jeffrey Plum of the Plainfield Police Department led a dozen volunteers in their pre-dawn search for homeless people.  They checked train stations, behind Supremo Food Market and inside U-Haul vans and trucks where the homeless in Plainfield are known to sleep under blankets.  Around 4:45 a.m. the group found 19 people inside a foreclosed old Victorian home on East Sixth Street. They asked survey questions and offered social services, but all 19 adults refused help, Plum said.
    Click here to read more…

    8.  New bill would give urban communities easier access to fresh produce
    Why go to find fresh, affordable produce when it can come to you?  Under a new bill sponsored by Legislation Assemblyman Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture would establish a statewide mobile farmer’s market and fresh produce voucher program called “The New Jersey Fresh Mobiles Initiative” to help low-income families gain access to healthier foods.  “We’re known as ‘The Garden State,’ yet in many urban communities, it is next to impossible for low-income families to purchase fresh produce,” said Wilson in a statement.
    Click here to read more…

    9.  A Diaspora of Artists
    In ordinary times, in the ordinary places of North America, emerging artists come and go like the passing seasons. If you’re a talented young video artist, say, living in Dubuque and gaining regional attention, or if you’re an edgy photographer who has won a big grant award in Baltimore, what you do, nine times out of ten, is move away. You take your potentially fleeting cultural capital and attempt to parlay it into a big-time career by going to the Big City. For most, this means escaping to New York, but it can also mean (if your art is more media-driven) going to L.A. or, if you’re more intrepid and enterprising, Berlin or London. For years, the story of most smaller-market art communities—such as Minneapolis, Vancouver, Seattle (on and off), Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, Portland, etc.—has often been more about who has left the scene than who remains behind.
    Click here to read more…

    10.  Once Popular, Car Pools Go the Way of Hitchhiking
    Remember the 1970s? Watergate, disco, oil embargoes and, of course, car-pooling. Many big companies organized group rides for their employees, and roughly one in four Americans who drove to work shared a ride with others.  But now far more people are driving alone, as companies have spread out, Americans are wealthier and cars have become cheaper to own. The percentage of workers who car-pool has dropped by almost half since 1980, the first time the Census Bureau started systematically tracking the numbers, according to new data from the bureau.  The sharp decline has confounded efforts by urban planners, who over the years have tried to encourage the practice by setting aside highway lanes for car-poolers, as well as offering incentives like discounted parking.
    Click here to read more…