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  • St. Peter the Apostle Senior Residence Soon to Open

    Posted on November 27th, 2012 lauren No comments

    RIVER EDGE, NJ (November 2012) –Build with Purpose, a NJ-based nonprofit, is moving forward with the redevelopment of the former convent for St. Peter the Apostle Parish in River Edge, NJ. The former convent is located at 445 5th Avenue and will become home for 25 local seniors beginning in April 2013.

    The concept for the senior residence came from Build with Purpose’s desire to provide seniors with a warm, safe and comfortable place to live at more affordable rates than traditional assisted living communities. “We’ve come to learn that many seniors can’t afford or simply don’t want to live alone, and many can’t afford the high cost of traditional for-profit assisted living facilities. We think this approach will help to fill the gap between living alone and assisted living,” says Brian Keenan, Director & President of Build with Purpose.

    Work began on this effort in early 2012 as Build with Purpose saw an opportunity to create a  new home for Bergen County seniors on the campus of the St. Peter the Apostle Church. The project is imagined as a community of seniors with a supportive environment, close to family and loved ones, but also offering residents a degree of independence.

    Located adjacent to St. Peter the Apostle Church and Van Saun Park in River Edge, NJ, thisfacility and location are attractive and safe. Monthly costs at St. Peter’s Residence will start at $1,900, a fraction of the state average of $4,286 for assisted living facilities. This small and intimate facility of 25 residents will provide independent seniors with much of the same care and services provided in traditional for-profit assisted living at more affordable rates. Amenities will include: three meals a day, housekeeping, transportation, recreation, private rooms and 24-hour on-site staff.

    Build with Purpose is sponsoring open houses throughout December to introduce the project to local seniors. The open house dates are scheduled for: Sunday, December 9th from 9AM until 2PM; Wednesday, December 12th from 12 until 7PM; Sunday, December 16th from 9AM until 2PM; Wednesday, December 19th from 12 until 7PM; Sunday, December 23rd from 9AM until 2PM; and Sunday, December 30thfrom 9AM until 2PM.  If you would like more information about St. Peter the Apostle Senior Residence, please call  Tiffany Pryce at 732-635-1000 x111 or visit our website at www.stpetersresidence.org.

  • 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/

     

     

  • New Jersey farmers’ markets enjoy strong growth

    Posted on June 14th, 2012 lauren 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.”

    Click here to check out the full article…

     

  • CD WiRe (January 19-25)

    Posted on January 25th, 2012 lauren No comments

    1.  Take a Walk:  For today’s new-home market, the road to profitability may be a foot path
    According to “The 2011 Community Preference Survey,” a poll of 2,071 American adults conducted on behalf of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 77% of those polled considered having sidewalks and places to take a walk one of their top priorities when deciding where they’d like to live. Six in 10 adults said they would rather live in a neighborhood that featured a mix of houses, stores, and businesses within an easy walk, than a community of only houses that required driving to get to businesses.
    Read more…

    2. Demand for top N.J. charter schools exceeds available seats
    The dreaded night came on Thursday this year. The grim weather — a chilly drizzle as night fell — seemed fitting for what was sure to be a grim evening.  This was lottery night at Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City. The K-8 school had 30 openings to fill.  The problem: Roughly 1,000 families applied to fill them. Hundreds of them streamed into the auditorium to watch the process live, even though results soon would be posted online.
    Read more…

    3.  Is Route 1 a Street … or a Road?
    What’s the difference between a street and a road?  Many of us use these terms interchangeably to denote any linear stretch of pavement designed for use by cars.  But recognizing the distinction can mean the difference between good and efficient planning and a dysfunctional waste of public resources.  Charles Marohn at Strong Towns offers an interesting analysis of the difference between a street and a road:  “Roads move people between places while streets provide a framework for capturing value within a place.”
    Read more…

    4.   Privatizing parts of N.J. park system stirs debate
    A chain restaurant in Wharton State Forest. A Ferris wheel at Liberty State Park. Weddings, flea markets, and corporate events taking over New Jersey’s historic sites and scenic lands.  That could be the future if the state goes forward with plans to privatize parts of its park system, some warn.  “Next thing you know, you have to pay more for everything and the public’s access is limited,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey. “You’ll be getting fee’d to death.”
    Read more…

    5.   Urban Hope Act worth a try to fix failing N.J. schools
    Imagine approaching a line of starving people with a bullhorn, telling them they must wait for food while you wrangle over whether it’s delivered by the government or a private nonprofit.  Chances are, you’d be throttled.  So when considering the Urban Hope Act, a pilot program that allows nonprofits to build and operate schools in three of the state’s poorest districts, try to think like a parent in Camden. Their children are in schools that are dangerous and failing. Whether that is fixed by the government or a nonprofit group is not the point.
    Read more…

    6.   When it Comes to Wetlands, It’s Hard to Improve on the Original
    Before the Revolutionary War, George Washington had a professional interest in wetlands: He invested in a company that planned to drain the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and turn it into farmland. For centuries, Washington’s attitude was considered the only reasonable one regarding swamps, marshes, peatlands, floodplains, mangroves, fens, potholes, bogs, and other places of muck and slime: They should be avoided or drained for better uses. Only in the past few decades have citizens decided that these areas—what we now call wetlands—did more than sog up perfectly good farmland.  Even though they cover only 1.5 percent of the earth’s surface, some experts estimate that wetlands provide 40 percent of renewable “ecosystem services”—jobs like water filtration and carbon sequestration.
    Read more…

    7.  No Obesity Link to Junk Food in Schools
    In the fight against childhood obesity, communities all over the country are banning the sale of sweets and salty snacks in public schools. But a new study suggests that the strategy may be ineffective.  Researchers at Pennsylvania State University tracked the body mass indexes of 19,450 students from fifth through eighth grade. In fifth grade, 59 percent of the children attended a school where candy, snacks or sugar-sweetened beverages were sold. By eighth grade, 86 percent did so.  The researchers compared children’s weight in schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned.
    Read more…

    8. 10 Green Building Trends for 2012
    The Earth Advantage Institute has certified more than 12,000 green homes, so it’s safe to say they know what’s going on with green building. Towards the end of 2011, the non-profit spoke with various policymakers, builders, developers, architects, brokers, appraisers, lenders, and homeowners to understand green building trends. Here are the 10 green building trends EAI says to watch for in 2012, which we’ve paraphrased below.
    Read more…

    9. State Senators Lesniak and Cunnigham Seek To Reform Criminal Justice System
    In an effort to address the state’s growing incarceration rate, State Senators Raymond Lesniak of Union City and Sandra Cunnigham of Jersey City have introduced a package of bills that they say will save tax dollars and reduce repeat offenses.  “As a nation that imprisons more of its residents per capita than any country in the world, we should continually evaluate our penal justice system to determine if our current policies provide protection for the safety of our residents and are cost-effective, or if changes are needed,” said Senator Lesniak in a statement. “The four bills we are announcing today are designed to reduce waste and inefficiency in our criminal justice system and redirect resources to better protect the public by reducing repeat offenses. We have asked that these bills be moved in both houses prior to the budget break, so we can get on with changing our criminal justice system to make it more cost effective and to provide better safety to our residents.”
    Read more…

    10.   President Obama and the forgotten urban agenda
    It’s safe to say that Barack Obama came to the White House with more street cred than any president in recent memory. As an African American, Obama was certainly privy to the forces of institutional racism that still shackle much of urban America. Before he got into politics, he worked as a civil rights lawyer, and before that, he worked as a community organizer in the mean streets of Chicago. (You will recall that Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin took turns mocking him for that last one at the 2008 Republican national convention.) When Obama became president, hopes were high that American cities would finally get a little love from Washington, which had spent fifty-plus years pouring money into the suburbs.
    Read more…

  • 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 (July 28- August 3)

    Posted on August 3rd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1. The suburbs – an unlikely hub of creativity?
    The outer suburbs are often misjudged as masses of sprawling kit-homes with little community focus or character. However, simple economic factors that have always affected those at the bottom of the pay-scale (and this often includes our impoverished artistic friends) has meant that people are moving outwards, and they’re taking their talents with them.  They are the in-between places – without the culture of the inner-city, nor the charm of the country- placing them in the unfortunate position of being perceived as ‘Kath & Kim’ style cultural backwaters. But with the right community support and a good local council, these places are becoming melting pots not just for professional artists, but also for members of the community to participate in the arts.
    Read more…

    2. Treating the Cause, Not the Illness
    We now have a variety of federally-supported nutrition programs, but the health care system remains senselessly disconnected from the “social determinants of health.” In this regard, the United States has fallen behind the rest of the world. If a politician in India announced a public health plan that neglected malnutrition, he would be ridiculed. Here, leaders make this kind of omission all the time. Almost all of the debate about the 2010 Affordable Care Act was consumed with questions about health care access and quality. But if we really want to improve the health of millions of people, we have to address the conditions that make them sick.
    Read more…

    3. Bulldoze: The New Way To Foreclose
    Banks have a new remedy to America’s ailing housing market: Bulldozers.  There are nearly 1.7 million homes in the U.S. in some state of foreclosure. Banks already own some of these homes and will soon have repossessed many more. Many housing economists worry that near constant stream of home sales from banks could keep housing prices down for years to come. But what if some of those homes never hit the market.  Increasingly, it appears banks are turning to demolition teams instead of realtors to rid them of their least valuable repossessed homes. Last month, Bank of America announced plans to demolish 100 foreclosed homes in the Cleveland area.
    Read more…

    4.  DCA & HMFA Break Ground on 90-Unit Affordable Apartment Community in Newark
    New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) Executive Director Anthony Marchetta today joined City of Newark Mayor Cory Booker and local officials to break ground on Baxter Park, an affordable apartment community to be located at 39-47 Sussex Avenue near Newark’s Broad Street Station District. The HMFA, an affiliate of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), provided construction and permanent mortgage financing in the amount of $16,350,000 for the project. Baxter Park also is expected to be awarded federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which will generate approximately $10.2 million in private equity.
    Read more…

    5. New law designed to help spur urban development in New Jersey
    Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that paves the way for the state to provide economic incentives to the long-stalled Meadowlands development project and large projects that mix commercial and residential development near urban train stations.  The bill doesn’t expand the $1.5 billion the state can spend on such transit-hub tax credits, though it does possibly accelerate their award by making more projects eligible. More than $394 million of the allowable $1.5 billion in tax credits has been approved for 10 projects.  “Our goal is to revitalize New Jersey’s cities and to do it through private economic development that is incentivized and encouraged through common sense incentives from government and reductions of tax rates and regulation from government as well, in order to attract current business to expand and new business to come to our urban centers, where we already have infrastructure,” Christie said.
    Read more…

    6. New Jersey Loses Out on $15 Million Federal Charter School Grant
    New Jersey has again lost out on federal funding for charter school startups, with reviewers citing continued weaknesses in the state’s oversight. They also cited the state’s 15-year old charter law, which is now under debate in the Statehouse.  This is the third straight year the state has fallen short in the competition, losing a bid for $15 million. New York and Florida were the only winners out of 18 applicants.  But at a time when Gov. Chris Christie has made charter school expansion a centerpiece of his education reform agenda, losing for the second time under his administration was a jolt.
    Read more…

    7.  Bill Gates says high school degree no longer enough
    A high school diploma is not enough to secure the best paying and most interesting jobs, said Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard University to build his computer company.  “Every student needs a meaningful credential beyond high school,” said Gates, who spoke at an education and employment conference sponsored by the civil rights group the National Urban League.  “Higher education is crucial for jobs,” he said, adding that education is an equalizer in society and is the key to getting urban America back to work and fighting poverty.  Gates said he believes college should be “for almost everyone,” but that parents, teachers and entire communities need to help make those opportunities available.
    Read more…

    8.  Environmental group sues EPA, claiming it hasn’t acted on stormwater runoff problems in NJ
    The Environmental Protection Agency has been sued by a New Jersey-based environmental group that claims the federal agency has failed to take action against New Jersey over stormwater runoff issues.  The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed its lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Trenton.  The nonprofit group claims neither the EPA nor state environmental regulators have fulfilled their duty to address violations of stormwater runoff rules in municipalities across New Jersey. The group says the inaction has occurred even though it provided “clear evidence” of the problems to the EPA.
    Read more…

    9. Sheltered in motels, “hidden homeless” wait, hope
    Sometimes the problems are so overwhelming that Robert Cordero steps away from his children for a few minutes to pull himself together.  Cordero’s family has lived at the Hillside Inn for more than five months, along with a couple dozen other homeless people surviving on public assistance.   The Hillside guests are among untold thousands nationwide who have been laid off during the economic downturn, then forced from houses and apartments to motels, officials said.  Unseen by motorists speeding by on Route 38, the men, women and children live in single rooms at the motel, where beds double as dinner tables, and folded clothes, food and toys are stacked high along the walls.  Their needs strain the fiscally strapped state government, which is trying to hold the line on spending. In the fiscal 2012 budget, the Christie administration set aside $307 million for welfare clients, about $47.5 million more than in fiscal 2010.
    Read more…

    10.  Scientists Invent Heat-Regulating Building Material
    Energy efficient heating and cooling options have acquired vast interest in the recent years, but scientists in China may have found the ultimate solution.  Researchers based at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) discovered a new material that can retain and release heat according to specific temperature requirements.  They believe their invention could offer considerable energy savings and change the way we heat and cool our buildings.  The energy storage phase change material (PCM) has possesses a larger energy storage capacity with faster thermal response than existing materials and could be cheaply manufactured.
    Read more…

  • CD WiRe (July 21-27)

    Posted on July 27th, 2011 lauren 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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

    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.
    Read more…

  • CD WiRe (June 23-29)

    Posted on June 29th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1. The Food-Stamp Crime Wave
    Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income. Thirty-five states have abolished asset tests for most food-stamp recipients. These and similar “paperwork reduction” reforms advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are turning the food-stamp program into a magnet for abuses and absurdities.  The Obama administration is far more enthusiastic about boosting food-stamp enrollment than about preventing fraud. Thanks in part to vigorous federally funded campaigns by nonprofit groups, the government’s AmericaCorps service program, and other organizations urging people to accept government handouts, the number of food-stamp recipients has soared to 44 million from 26 million in 2007, and costs have more than doubled to $77 billion from $33 billion.
    Click here to read more…

    2. U.S. DOT awards $175 million in ‘livability’ transit grants
    The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday announced the availability of $175 million in what it calls “livability grants” intended to help urban, suburban and rural communities develop transit options to better connect their residents.  Local transit agencies are eligible for the funds; the program will begin accepting applications this week.  The underlying reason for the grants is to ensure that transportation and housing decisions are made jointly by communities. The federal agency is offering these financial incentives because it believes coordination makes the best use of limited resources.
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    3. Bystanders getting involved as COAH’s latest review approaches
    As the New Jersey Supreme Court gets closer to reviewing the constitutionality of affordable housing municipal obligation rules set forth by the Council on Affordable Housing, more interested parties are filing “friend of the court” briefs.  The American Planning Association’s New Jersey chapter, along with the national organization; the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey; and New Jersey Future were the latest groups to file such briefs, on June 15.  The Supreme Court announced in March it will review the appeal of COAH’s third round regulations, which were invalidated in October. The court could consider the constitutionality of just the third-round regulations — which were supposed to be in effect after the second round ended in 1999, but have been thrown out two separate times — or could decide whether the doctrine itself, based off the Mount Laurel decision of 1975 that established affordable-housing obligations, is constitutional.
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    4. War at the Jersey shore over who rules the beaches
    New Jerseyans have to put up with taxes, tolls, toxic waste and, occasionally, Snooki. So an occasional trip to the beach is all that keeps some folks here sane.  Now officials in the nation’s most densely populated state are rewriting public beach access rules that could make it easier for well-to-do towns to keep out-of-towners off their beaches — and a sandstorm is brewing.  The state says it had to act and give more local control over access after a court decision struck down more stringent rules that spelled out uniform standards for each shore town.
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    5. Foundation supporting school choice donates $3.6M to Newark schools
    A national philanthropic group announced today it invested more than $150 million into low-income public schools in 2010, including $3.6 million in grants for Newark schools.  The Walton Family Foundation focuses on providing low-income families with the ability to choose better performing public schools for their children. They are the largest donor to support school choice initiatives, having given more than $1 billion to the cause, according to the release.
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    6. Most Aging Baby Boomers Will Face Poor Mobility Options
    By 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent, a new study shows. That number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation “ages in place” in suburbs and exurbs with few mobility options for those who do not drive.  The report, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options, ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, now and in the coming years, and presents other data on aging and transportation.  Atlanta, GA tops the rankings for large metro areas with poor access to transit for seniors.
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    7. Bipartisan Charter Bill Clears House Education Committee
    States would be encouraged to create more, high-quality charter schools under a measure that got a bipartisan stamp of approval from the House Education and the Workforce Committee today.  The bill, which was approved 31 to 5, is the second in a series of measures that would be included in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka the No Child Left Behind Act). The panel is breaking its renewal effort into what it sees as small, targeted pieces, to avoid a repeat of what Congress faced with the health care overhaul law, which was criticized for being too long.
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    8. N.J. nonprofit restaurant in Orange shows social entrepreneurship trend
    The interior of Hat City Kitchen stands out to patrons because of the tin siding and local mosaic artwork donning the walls. The menu provides customers with comfort and soul food, stemming from executive chef’s Patrick Pierre-Jerome’s expertise — a level of cuisine hard to find in the Valley neighborhood of Orange.  But it’s the business model of Hat City Kitchen that makes it truly distinctive. The restaurant exemplifies the new “fad” of social entrepreneurship for not-for-profits, using its revenue to improve the community around it, aiding the Valley’s hopeful resurgence into an arts district.  Every dollar Hat City Kitchen makes will help fund art shows, music festivals or beautification of the Valley.
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    9. Constructive criticism: New York’s architecture comes down to earth
    Once upon a time, New York threw up towering skyscrapers; now it seems happier working on projects closer to the ground.  With the Chinese website Motian City reporting that, over the next three years, the country will be home to a newly completed skyscraper every five days, you might wonder whether New York is looking anxiously towards its high-rise laurels. After all, this is the city that, along with Chicago, nurtured the skyscraper from the late 19th century onwards. It still boasts one of the world’s most memorable high-rise skylines.  Yet during the few days I spent in New York last week, many of the most talked-about architectural and urban planning projects were low-rise and even low-key.
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    10.  Housing vouchers a golden ticket to pricey suburbs
    But as housing prices keep slipping and the economy remains shaky, there’s been another shift as more landlords view the approximately 2 million American families with a Section 8 voucher — which essentially subsidizes fair-market rent for people who can’t afford it — as among the best ways to fill an empty house.  “It’s guaranteed money,” said David Benham, who owns several rental properties and is a founder of the Benham REO Group, which sells bank foreclosures to investors in 35 states. “It has a great accountability program with the renters. I love Section 8. I wish every one of my properties was Section 8.”
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  • CD WiRe (June 16-22)

    Posted on June 22nd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1. Rail Stations Drive Demand
    As New Jersey slowly emerges from the economic downturn, its office market is beginning to transform into one concentrated around train stations.  Businesses have been leasing space in areas served by train stations at a higher rate than those only accessible by car, according to real-estate firms. The trend reflects demographic shifts and higher gasoline prices as well as changes in worker priorities.  For example, businesses are beginning to recognize that many employees care less about living in sprawling estates and more about living in diverse areas with restaurants and entertainment within walking distance.
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    2. When Eating Well Is a Matter of Where You Live
    America’s battle to lose weight and eat healthy has many fronts. There is the battle to get Americans to make better choices at restaurants. There is the battle to get them to shop smarter.  But for some people and some communities, the battle is about having access to healthy food. Some places may be swimming in Whole Foods Markets, but in others, places labeled food deserts, affordable nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables can be hard to come by. And these food deserts are spread across Patchwork Nation, but very unevenly.
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    3. ‘Parent Trigger’ Laws: Shutting Schools, Raising Controversy
    In a bare-bones basement office in Buffalo, N.Y., Katie Campos, an education activist, is plotting a revolution. She and her minuscule staff of the advocacy group Buffalo ReformED are against incredible odds. In less than a week, they are trying to get a controversial law known as the “parent trigger” through the New York legislature. It’s a powerful nickname for game-changing legislation that would enable parents who could gather a majority at any persistently failing school to either fire the principal, fire 50% of the teachers, close the school or turn it into a charter school.
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    4. Solving the Real Estate Crisis with Parks
    Mike Messner, the investment fund manager, is the primary force behind the budding “Redfields to Greenfields” movement, which has been picked up by more than 10 major cities in the U.S. The basic idea is to turn toxic real estate into parks, elevating nearby property values, and turning a downward spiral of economic stagnation and disinvestment into a positive, self-reinforcing trend of new growth. As Messner noted in a conference he organized with City Parks Alliance on Capitol Hill, “parks and trees are great. I do like them. However, these are secondary to good investments.” And investing in transforming redfields into parks makes smart economic sense these days.  “The U.S. caused this real estate crisis with its housing policy. There were no down payment requirements, easy credit, and lots of capital moving into non-performing assets.” As a result, the federal government had to move in with $10 trillion investments and recovery programs (“real estate backstopping”) to hold off further economic decline. To counter this trend, surplus land must be redeveloped as green space. Cities large or small can use green spaces as an “economic multiplier” that not only creates green infrastructure but also helps developers get developing again.
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    5.  Love thy neighbour. Gen Y embraces closeness of urban living
    Domesticity, and its accompanying architectural fantasy, have driven urban development since the mid-19th century and most intensely since the 1950s.  It’s the dream that allows us to imagine our most intimate familial relationships, those between ourselves, our partner and our children inside a particular architectural form. It’s almost always a single family dwelling, on a fenced block, separated from its neighbours with little collective amenity beyond sewage, roads and electricity. There’s a back yard, sometimes a dog — we see it on Backyard Blitz and other renovation shows.  It comes to us from Grand Designs as much from New Idea. The American version has a picket fence and pitched roof like a child’s drawing.
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    6. Mets to help fund new Sept. 11 charity program
    In a news conference Tuesday at Citi Field, the Mets and Tuesday’s Children announced that the team will help pay for The First Responder Alliance Mentoring Program, which will provide trained mentors for children whose parents died due to illness attributed to their time working at ground zero or Fresh Kills Landfill.  The Mets say it’s the third program they have helped fund for Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit organization committed to helping people affected by the 9/11 attacks and terrorism worldwide.”
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    7. Despite a report citing Camden’s school failings, N.J. has declined to act
    Despite Gov. Christie’s frequent calls for no delay in repairing New Jersey’s failing schools, the state for over a year has had the information and means to step in and provide increased help and oversight to improve Camden’s schools, but has not.  A report made through the state’s Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) process last June found Camden failing in three of five performance areas – personnel, instruction and program, and governance. In the other two areas, operations and fiscal management, the scores were low enough to warrant correction. Under QSAC, the state could have sought to appoint “highly skilled professionals” to oversee the district’s problem areas as part of a “partial intervention.”
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    8.  Foreclosures stalled in NJ, statistics show
    Home foreclosure filings in New Jersey have dropped dramatically, according to the latest figures released by both the New Jersey Judiciary and Realty Trac, a nationwide firm that tracks foreclosure statistics.  That’s the good news. The bad news is that the good news may be short-lived.  The judiciary has been working since late last year to ensure that the foreclosure processes used by six major lenders in the state are proceeding fairly. This has created a backlog in the filing of new cases.
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    9.  NewBridge GED program helps N.J. high school dropouts chase their goals
    A year ago Brian Wells was a junior at Dover High School. He did not do his homework, talked back to his teachers and was constantly in detention. By the end of the year, the 18-year-old from Mine Hill had dropped out.  But earlier this month Wells walked proudly onto the stage of the Elks Lodge in Boonton to receive his high school diploma — and a surprise award. He was one of 42 former high school dropouts who succeeded in earning their GED as part of NewBridge Services’ 70001 Jobs Plus program, an alternative education initiative run by a nonprofit providing behavioral health and education services in Morris and Passaic counties. Now in its 27th year, the program helps struggling young men and women ages 16 to 21 turn their lives around.
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    10.  With Latest Energy Plan, New Jersey’s Solar Future Now Becomes Hazy
    A change in policy direction has cast doubts on the future success of the New Jersey solar market, which is currently the second largest in the U.S.  The state’s 2011 Energy Master Plan (EMP), which was recently released by the office of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., reiterates the state government’s support for the development of renewable energy and maintains an existing renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 22.5% renewables by 2021.  The plan also criticizes several facets of the state’s solar policy and makes recommendations for revisions that could jeopardize New Jersey’s leadership position in solar project development, according to some organizations.
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  • CD WiRe (June 9-15)

    Posted on June 15th, 2011 lauren 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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