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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:




  • 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


    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 (Dec. 8-14)

    Posted on December 15th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Can Urban Transit Hubs Help Revitalize New Jersey’s Cities?
    New Jersey’s Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program has become popular with corporations and residential developers recently, with more than half of the program’s $1.5 billion committed to 13 projects over the past two years.   But the nine cities currently eligible for the program, which provides a tax credit of up to the full value of capital investments in very large projects within a half mile of urban rail stations, may have to share the wealth with suburban areas that can attract large construction investments that retain or create jobs. Bills moving through both houses of the legislature seek to divert $200 million initially from the cities for new Grow New Jersey credits.
    Read more…

    2. As Newark’s population grows for first time in 60 years, hope emerges for a city renaissance
    No national headlines will come of this. Not yet.  For 10 years, something unusual has been happening in Newark, according to data from the U.S. Census.  While the inner ring of suburbs around the city have been losing population at a dramatic rate, Newark itself has gained population for the first time in more than 60 years.  The growth wasn’t extravagant — the city added around 4,000 people since the turn of the century — but some experts say the data suggests that maybe, just maybe, Newark is beginning to turn a corner after decades of decline.
    Read more…

    3. N.J. Turnpike Authority budget stays the same as Parkway, Turnpike tolls are set to sharply rise again
    The New Jersey Turnpike Authority board has adopted a $475.5 million operating budget that calls for the elimination of 141 full-time jobs through attrition.  There is no increase over the 2011 budget.  The budget also reflects the first of the two toll increases that took effect three years ago. Motorists will see the second increase on Jan. 1, when tolls go up 53 percent on the turnpike and 50 percent on the Garden State Parkway.
    Read more…

    4.  Secret To A Long, Healthy Life: Bike To The Store
    What would you say to a cheap, easy way to stay slim, one that would help avoid serious illness and early death? How about if it made your neighbors healthier, too? It could be as simple as biking to the store.  Researchers at the University of Wisconsin were wondering if getting people out of their cars just a wee bit would create measurable improvements in health. So they gathered up data sets on obesity, health effects of pollution, and air pollution caused by automobiles in 11 Midwestern cities, and did a mashup.
    Read more…

    5.   More Jobs From Renovation than New Construction
    The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently reviewed studies that show that repairing existing buildings is a sustainable economic strategy. Building renovation produces about 50 percent more jobs than constructing new buildings, according to the roundup of case studies.
    Read more…

    6. Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?
    No one seriously disputes the fact that students from disadvantaged households perform less well in school, on average, than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds. But rather than confront this fact of life head-on, our policy makers mistakenly continue to reason that, since they cannot change the backgrounds of students, they should focus on things they can control. No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education law, did this by setting unrealistically high — and ultimately self-defeating — expectations for all schools.
    Read more…

    7.  Number of charter school students soars to 2 million as states pass laws encouraging expansion
    The number of students attending charter schools has soared to more than 2 million as states pass laws lifting caps and encouraging their expansion, according to figures released Wednesday.  The growth represents the largest increase in enrollment over a single year since charter schools were founded nearly two decades ago. In all, more than 500 new charter schools were opened in the 2011-12 school year. And about 200,000 more students are enrolled now than a year before, an increase of 13 percent nationwide.
    Read more…

    8. Camden Named 2nd Most Dangerous City in America
    Sometimes, just for a moment, I find myself forgetting that Camden actually exists. It’s not that I actively choose to block it out of my mind, like my 15th birthday party, but it’s probably because Philadelphians only go to Camden for one of two things: the Aquarium or a Phish show.  But Camden, like a “troubled teen” who’s appeared on multiple episodes of Maury, just can’t get its act together. And much in the same way said troubled team needs discipline from an overbearing, ex-military/security guard, Camden needs help.
    Read more…

    9.  Would you really like to live there? America’ssaddest cities revealed… and three of them are in the Sunshine State
    It might be bathed in glorious sunshine throughout the year – but new research has revealed the Floridian city of St Petersburg is the saddest place to live in the U.S.  Having a Guinness World Record for 768 straight days of sunshine did nothing for the state’s fourth largest city – deemed to be a hotbed for suicides and anti-depressant pill poppers.  The unemployment hotspot of Detroit, Michigan, unsurprisingly followed close behind, with third place in the ‘Frown Town’ stakes going to Memphis, Tennessee.
    Read more…

    10. NYC launches push to enter green zone
    New zoning proposals designed to make it easier for owners to make their buildings more energy-efficient and sustainable began the formal city public approval process on Monday.  Existing zoning laws can actually impede owners trying to build green or retrofit their buildings. The new proposals are expected to lift some of those impediments. The changes include allowing owners to build thicker walls to accommodate external insulation, which could reduce energy consumption by as much as half, and allowing the installation of solar panels even if they would add more height to a building than zoning rules allow.
    Read more…

  • CD WiRe (Oct. 27- Nov. 2)

    Posted on November 2nd, 2011 lauren No comments

    1. Latest Round of Charter Applications Filed with Education Department
    Here we go again.  With the previous round just finished, another 42 applications for new charter schools were filed by this week’s deadline. Some are sure to spark off the by-now recognizable debate about charters in some familiar — and not so familiar — places.  Three of the most contentious applications from the last round — all rejected — have filed again. They are a Hebrew language school in Middlesex County, a Mandarin language school in Essex County, and a charter high school for Montclair that is now making its fifth try.  In all, 12 of the 42 applications are making at least their second bids for the state’s approval, according to the education department.
    Read more…

    2. Some 15% of U.S. Uses Food Stamps

    Nearly 15% of the U.S. population relied on food stamps in August, as the number of recipients hit 45.8 million.  Food stamp rolls have risen 8.1% in the past year, the Department of Agriculture reported, though the pace of growth has slowed from the depths of the recession.

    The number of recipients in the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), may continue to rise in coming months as families continue to struggle with high unemployment and September’s data will likely include disaster assistance tied to the destruction and flooding caused by Hurricane Irene.
    Read more…

    3. Putting Zuckerberg’s Millions to Work for Schools
    The people in charge of giving away $100 million of Mark Zuckerberg’s money to improve the lives of children in this city operate from a drab warren of offices downtown, where the walls are empty except for a few whiteboards left behind by another nonprofit organization.  There are five unwelcoming black plastic chairs in the foyer for visitors, part of a package of used desks, filing cabinets and shelves picked up for $9,000. The microwave in the kitchenette is also a hand-me-down.  Until a couple of weeks ago — more than a year after Mr. Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook, announced his gift to much fanfare on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — the sign on the door was a sheet of 8.5-by-11 paper taped to the glass, and the people behind it lacked business cards.
    Read more…

    4. On Top of the Urban Highway Trend
    As they stroll between two buildings that echo the grandeur of Daniel Burnham’s demolished Union Station here, pedestrians can easily forget that they are walking over a bridge that spans a sunken interstate highway.  But that’s what happens at the retail complex called the Cap at Union Station, where the classically styled buildings flank what looks like — but isn’t — a typical city street.   The innovative project, which opened in 2004, put Columbus at the forefront of a national trend: Covering sunken freeways with caps, decks, land bridges or lids, as they are called, and using the found space to reconnect neighborhoods that were torn apart by the national highway building binge of the 1950s and 1960s.
    Read more…

    5.  Where the 1 Percent Fit in the Hierarchy of Income
    The Occupy Wall Street protests have set off an enduring conversation in the city concerning what has come to be known as the 99 percent. There has also been a collateral conversation about the richer and remaining 1 percent. Here is the hierarchy of income that underlies the conversation. The volume of each section represents the number of American families in each category, based on a study of 2006 tax returns by Emmanuel Saez of Berkeley. Selected individual salaries are from publicly available sources.
    Read more/see chart…

    6. As Population, Consumption Rise, Builder Goes Small
    The planet may not feel any different today, but there are now 7 billion people on it, according to the United Nations.  That number will continue to rise, of course, and global incomes are likely to rise as well. That means more cars and computers, and bigger homes: the kinds of things Americans take for granted. It’s that rise in consumption that has population experts worried.  Klaus Lackner, a physicist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, says as economies improve in places like India and Africa — where populations are growing fastest — they’re going to want to live more like we do.
    Read more…

    7. Casting the Robert Moses Role in HBO’s Upcoming Film
    New York’s master builder is going Hollywood. A biopic is reportedly in the works on the life of Robert Moses, the controversial and prolific builder who dramatically altered the landscape of New York City in the early and mid-20th century.  The Hollywood Reporter revealed recently that HBO and director Oliver Stone are teaming up to produce the film, based on Robert A. Caro’s 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, The Power Broker. (HBO had previously optioned another book on Moses, Anthony Flint’s 2009 Wrestling with Moses.)  Turning Caro’s wide-ranging 1,200-pager on Moses’ entire life into a film seems a daunting task. We can probably expect to see some flashbacks, but chances are the film will have to focus on the prime  years of Moses’ career, beginning around the late 1930s up to his ultimate downfall in the early ‘60s.
    Read more…

    8. Last-minute partnership saves New Jersey After 3 program from shutdown
    A popular after-school program for children of poor, working families known as New Jersey After 3, on the verge of ending because of budget cuts, has been spared through a partnership between private donors and the state Department of Education, Gov. Chris Christie said today.  The partnership, forged in the program’s eleventh hour, includes David Tepper, a wealthy hedge fund manager and Christie ally, who formed a nonprofit organization, Better Education for New Jersey Kids.  Christie said Tepper would contribute an undisclosed sum until the federal government provides more money to the state.
    Read more…

    9. In this economy, consolidation could be right move for NJ towns
    Funny thing is, when you ask a resident of Princeton Township or Princeton Borough where they live, the answer usually is simply “Princeton.” Well, now they have a chance to make that a reality. On Nov. 8, the two municipalities can write history (and rewrite maps) if they vote to consolidate.  The town’s new name? Princeton, of course.  Should they merge? Yes. Will they? Who knows?  The towns have been trying to marry for 60 years, but each time, residents have objected rather than hold their peace. Three efforts toward a proposed unification have failed, but times have changed dramatically, even since the last attempt in 1996.
    Read more…

    10. Camden’s housing incentives aim at middle class
    The lists this city has made over the years aren’t good: Most crime-ridden, highest poverty rates, highest drop-out rates. But local officials and some of the biggest employers are boosting it as a good place to live, in an effort to recruit a middle-class to a city where generations of people have moved out as soon as they could afford it.   Mayor Dana Redd announced a program last week in which three city hospitals and Rowan University will offer incentives for their employees to buy homes in the neighborhoods near where they work. The strategy echoes incentives over the last two decades that have helped been tried as parts of larger efforts to transform neighborhoods from Birmingham, Ala., to Detroit.
    Read more…

  • CD WiRe (October 6-12)

    Posted on October 12th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  New York’s Public Architecture Gets a Face-Lift
    Designed by 1100 Architect with an interior by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture & Design Partnership, the Children’s Library Discovery Center, as it’s called, is part of a quiet revolution reshaping the city’s public architecture. Piecemeal across the five boroughs, New York is gradually being remade.  These changes come largely thanks to David J. Burney, a polite Englishman who has lived here for 30-odd years and, since 2004, has been Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s commissioner for the Department of Design and Construction. Under him, and mostly under the radar, dozens of new and refurbished libraries, firehouses, emergency medical stations, police precincts, homeless processing centers and museums have been designed by gifted and occasionally famous architects.
    Read more…

    2.  Affordable housing gets a new home in N.J.
    In the past several weeks, a number of events have had an impact on the Garden State’s court-mandated affordable housing program, often called “Mount Laurel housing.”Long administered by the state Council on Affordable Housing, the program has required every town to provide homes that low- and moderate-income residents can afford. This housing was funded in part by fees paid by developers. In recent weeks, though, the governor has signed another 2½-year moratorium on the fees, and COAH has been abolished. The state’s Department of Community Affairs now will administer the program.
    Read more…

    3.   Camden, two other New Jersey towns, among nine U.S. cities going broke
    While President Obama and the assorted GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination push their ideas for getting the country back in the black, there are some U.S. cities and counties on the brink.  An analysis by 24/7 Wall St. examines the nine municipal bodies with the worst credit ratings assigned by Moody’s, not including school systems, rated Ba2 and lower. (For perspective, Moody’s rates junk bonds as Ba1.)  Coming in at No. 9 on the list is Camden. The city has been beset with money issues for quite a while, highlighted by a mass layoff of its police officers and firefighters earlier this year. The city collected $181,257,000 in revenue in 2009, but was in debt to the tune of $103,284,000 during that same year.
    Read more…

    4. Study: growing up in bad neighborhoods has a devastating impact
    Growing up in a poor neighborhood significantly reduces the chances that a child will graduate from high school, according to a study published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review. And, the longer a child lives in that kind of neighborhood, the more harmful the impact.  “Compared to growing up in affluent neighborhoods, growing up in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and unemployment reduces the chances of high school graduation from 96 percent to 76 percent for black children,” says Wodtke, a Ph.D. student who works with Harding at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). “The impact on white children is also harmful, but not as large, reducing their chances of graduating from 95 percent to 87 percent.”
    Read more…

    5. Clinton Road, New Jersey: The most terrifying road in the U.S.
    About seven years ago, my cousin Julie and her husband Mark moved back to New Jersey from South Carolina. After months of searching, they found a great house in West Milford, New Jersey. Julie, who I grew up with, called me and asked me to meet them at the house and let them know my opinion.   After checking out a map online, I saw the home was on a street just off Clinton Road north of Route 23. I drove up Green Pond Road, got onto Route 23, and then turned right onto Clinton Road. Almost immediately, I noticed that Clinton Road was different from almost all the roads in New Jersey.  There were no homes along the road and no connecting roads. Clinton Road was very curvy and kept winding around between different bodies of water.
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    6. Despite price tag, a charter school finds perks in private space
    By the time Hyde Leadership Charter School expanded into high school grades three years ago, overcrowding at their co-located Department of Education building had become severe. Limited to two floors for over 700 students, classes were held in hallways and high school students complained of filthy conditions in the bathroom they had to share with elementary students.  “It was terrible,” said Dominic Batista, a junior. “It was like a jail.”  Rather than jockey for more space in an increasingly crowded public school system, the growing school took a road less traveled for a charter school in New York City. Keeping its elementary and middle school at P.S. 92, Hyde developed a private facility for its high school just down the road on Hunts Point Avenue in the south Bronx.
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    7.   NJ sets right course on charter schools with high standards, close review
    The Christie administration last week rejected 56 of the 60 applications for new charter schools, a welcome sign that its standards are tough despite its ideological support for the choice movement.  The best of these schools, like the TEAM Academy in Newark, are miracles in our midst. With the same demographic mix of students as district schools, their kids are doing much better in basic skills. And they are doing it for less money, in a setting that is safe and orderly. Expanding on that success should be a top priority.
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    8. The ‘Shadow Northeast Corridor’ Draws Warehouses … and People
    An article on GlobeSt.com describes a recent meeting sponsored by NAIOP NJ where one of the speakers, Alex Klatskin, partner of Teterboro-based Forsgate Industrial Partners, made an astute observation: “The real beltway [around New York City] is not Interstate 287,” he said. “It’s 81 to 84.”  What he’s talking about is something that might be called the “Shadow” Northeast Corridor — a phenomenon that has been emerging recently in data on commuting and on county-to-county migration. It seems that the actual Northeast Corridor has gotten so densely populated, pushing land values so correspondingly high, that it no longer makes economic sense for the warehousing and distribution industry to build large-floorplan facilities there.
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    9. New Urbanists: No Economic Recovery Without Smart Growth
    What happened to the United States over the past several years is most commonly described as a recession. By the technical definition of the word we’re two years into a recovery. But it sure doesn’t seem that way.  Meanwhile, a growing chorus of intellectual leaders says the country is experiencing something different than a normal cyclical fluctuation: the end of an epoch.  Leading urban thinkers, from Richard Florida to James Howard Kunstler, believe we have reached the limits of our fossil-fueled, double-mortgaged, McMansion-based economy. Relief won’t come, they say, until America begins confronting the systemic problems that produced the meltdown, including inefficient and unsustainable public infrastructure investments and housing development.
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    10. Study: Worst hospitals treat larger share of poor
    The nation’s worst hospitals treat twice the proportion of elderly black patients and poor patients than the best hospitals, and their patients are more likely to die of heart attacks and pneumonia, new research shows.  Now, these hospitals, mostly in the South, may be at higher risk of financial failure, too. That’s because the nation’s new health care law punishes bad care by withholding some money, says the lead author of the study published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs.
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  • CD WiRe (August 25-31)

    Posted on August 31st, 2011 lauren No comments

    1.  Charities Struggle With Smaller Wall Street Donations
    Operation Hope built a nonprofit powerhouse over the last decade, spinning a stockpile of donations from Wall Street firms into 27 financial education centers across the country.  But the charitable organization’s donor base has retrenched in the wake of the financial crisis. Citigroup’s foundation last year cut its giving 60 percent, to $115,000. The ING Foundation delayed paying its $300,000 commitment to Operation Hope. And the CIT Group, a lender that was once one of the organization’s biggest benefactors, stopped giving altogether.
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    2. New California Law Will Boost Social Entrepreneurship
    A new California law that comes before Governor Jerry Brown today could make it easier than ever to combine business with social mission, a welcome respite for those seeking to harness the engines of capitalism in the service of good deeds.  While growing ranks of entrepreneurs are combining business and social missions—think Toms Shoes or Method cleaning products—current law makes it difficult for them to raise money and control their enterprises.  That’s changing around the country, and California could be the next frontier, if advocates of social business ranging from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group to apparel giant Patagonia have their way and create a new legal category for what they call Benefit Corporations.
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    3. Announcing The Great American Teach-Off: One Outstanding Teacher Will Win $10K
    GOOD and University of Phoenix are proud to announce the launch of The Great American Teach-Off, a nationwide competition to celebrate teachers who are making a positive impact in America’s classrooms.  Here’s how it works: Click here to nominate an outstanding teacher for kindergarten through sixth grade*—it can be one you’ve had, your child’s, or even yourself—by September 16. We’ll select the finalists based on how he or she makes a positive difference for students; how creativity and innovation is fostered in the classroom; and what impact he or she has made on the greater school community.
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    4.  Newark ‘Teachers Village’ progresses as state clears way for financial incentive package
    After years of planning, the Teachers Village in Newark — a major urban renewal project housing charter schools, apartments for educators and a new retail corridor — is coming together.  The state’s Economic Development Authority gave final approval Thursday to a package of financial incentives for the village, freeing up the money for construction to begin soon. Developers are counting on a broad array of public financing tools, including tax breaks and grants, and city officials say all of those pieces are now in place.
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    5.  Despite Hurricane Irene’s approach, construction pushes on at Jersey City school
    Despite the approach of Hurricane Irene, construction is continuing today at a Jersey City school.  Workers from New Brunswick-based construction company Tekton Development were hard at work today renovating the old St. John the Baptist School at Kennedy Boulevard and St. Paul’s Avenue. The building, which will be home to Golden Door Charter School, is getting new windows and renovated classrooms.
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    6.  Where is the Center of a City?
    Google Maps searches include a pinpoint of what the search engine has determined are the centers of cities. One artist has built sculptures of those pinpoints in their real-life locations.  Titled “Map”, the pinpoint sculptures are part of an installation by German artist Aram Bartholl.  Starting in 2006, Bartholl created a series of six-meter tall sculptures of the iconic red marker used by Google Maps. The artist had recognized that the familiar 20-pixel graphic used by Google casts shadows on the widely consulted digital maps as if they were physical objects in real space. Likewise, when the map is switched to satellite mode, the virtual pins seem to become part of the city.
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    7.  New York Expects Lengthy Recovery of Transit System
    The New York City subway, whose closure in the lead-up to Tropical Storm Irene was perhaps the most unsettling element of a prodigious storm preparation effort, reopened on a limited schedule on Monday morning.  Nearly all of the subway’s 22 lines, including express and local service, have restored, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Web site. Fewer trains will run than in a normal morning rush.  Still, other parts of the region’s mass transit network are likely to remain partially paralyzed for the morning commute, including the suburban commuter rail networks that carry thousands of workers to hospitals, investment houses and corner bodegas alike.
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    8. NJ Supreme Court Decision Chips Away at Nonprofit Confidentiality
    The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously declared Tuesday that the nonprofit New Jersey League of Municipalities is subject to the same open-record disclosure standards as the municipal governments it represents. The decision means that the League is no longer able to use its nonprofit status to deny access to records that it and other nonprofits have typically thought of as protected from public disclosure.  The case arose in 2008, when the nonprofit Fair Share Housing Center sued the League calling for disclosure of documents such as e-mail messages, letters and reports related to the municipalities’ clash with housing advocates over a “fair-share housing” requirement.
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    9.  Solar Industry’s Boom in N.J. Casts Shadow Over Program That Spurred It
    A giggling Kyle Bartz used the new rooftop solar panels as a trampoline atop the sprawling Toys R Us distribution center here on a recent sunny summer morning.  “This is the latest panel on the market,” said Bartz, the national director of energy management for Toys R Us. “It’s extremely durable, extremely flexible.”  The thin-film solar panels he was jumping on are now part of the nation’s largest rooftop solar installation, covering 20 acres — the size of about 15 football fields — atop the distribution center. The 5.38-megawatt project will slash $350,000 a year from the building’s power bills, a 72 percent reduction, the company said.
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    10.  Town mints own money to fight austerity
    A small town in central Italy is trying to go independent and mint its own money in protest at government austerity cuts.  Filettino, set in rugged hill country around 100 km (65 miles) east of Rome, is rebelling against a proposal to merge the governments of towns with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants to save money.  Filettino has only around 550 people, but instead of merging with neighboring Trevi, mayor Luca Sellari is trying to go it alone and set up a “principality” along the lines of the famous republic of San Marino to the north.
    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.”
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    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.
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    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.”
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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  • CD WiRe (August 4-10)

    Posted on August 10th, 2011 lauren No comments

    1. Stranded in ‘food deserts,’ hundreds of thousands of N.J. residents lack access to healthy, fresh food
    Cooke’s neighborhood on the Hamilton-Trenton border is one of 134 “food deserts” in New Jersey, according to the federal government. They are mostly low-income pockets of big cities, sprawling suburbs and small towns that lack easy access to a supermarket but are usually brimming with expensive convenience stores and fast food restaurants.   Experts say food deserts are the equivalent of nutritional wastelands, where families who can’t afford to hunt down fresh food are often left to subside on Slurpees, Big Macs and calorie-laden packaged foods. Studies show food desert residents are more likely to be obese and spend a greater percentage of their time and income shopping for meals.
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    2. Stevens project aims to change home development practices
    To outsiders, Stevens Institute of Technology’s entrance into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a competition between colleges to prove knowledge and execution of green energy concepts.  To those working on the project, the so-called Empowerhouse is a catalyst for a Washington, D.C., neighborhood, and changes the way one of the largest homebuilders in the nation does business.  When the decathlon is over at the beginning of October, the Empowerhouse will move from the Potomac Mall to a plot in the Deanwood community, donated by Washington, D.C., where a mirror version of the structure will be constructed by Habitat for Humanity to turn the exhibition building into a home for two families. This is the first home built for the decathlon to be implemented as a permanent home.
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    3.  High marks for Pier Village
    Crack houses, a rat-infested water slide and boarded up arcades. This was the setting where the Pier Village retail and residential complex was built in a city that had endured decades of decline.  And while the complex — the first to be built in the most recent spate of oceanfront redevelopment projects — is readied for its third and final stage, the community last week observed the fifth anniversary of the first phase with nary a hiccup.  Nonetheless, the impact on the city has been substantial, and officials foresee Phase 3 providing additional, significant benefits.
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    4. New Brunswick school group partners with national nonprofit to support public school reform
    The New Brunswick-based school reform group Better Education for Kids announced today it partnered with StudentsFirst, a national nonprofit started by former Washington D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, which supports expanding charter schools and merit-based pay for teachers.  Begun in March by two New Jersey financiers, Better Education for Kids has promoted teacher evaluations based on student test scores and restrictions on tenure. It has praised Gov. Chris Christie’s school reform efforts, and has raised the ire of the New Jersey Education Association, which mounted an expensive campaign last year attacking the governor’s state aid cuts.
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    5.   New Jersey’s Commitment to Transit Has Shrunk Over Past 8 Years
    With commuters still reeling from an NJ Transit derailment that has snarled travel across the region, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign — a regional transportation policy watchdog group — warned today that New Jersey’s commitment to public transit had waned. The state has dedicated smaller and smaller shares of its annual transportation capital program to transit over the past eight years, and next year’s capital plan will devote an even smaller percentage.
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    6. Community FoodBank’s mobile food pantry goes where it’s needed most
    With demand for food assistance growing in South Jersey, the FoodBank’s EHT-based Southern Branch is expanding its services through the use of mobile pantries. And while the need has grown steadily, officials say donations have declined.  Although demand is increasing across the county — last year, the nonprofit distributed a record 7.1 million pounds of groceries — Barham said the food bank has focused its limited resources on places where existing food pantries are overtaxed.
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    7. Immigration and Poverty in America’s Suburbs
    As the foreign-born have grown more numerous, they have dispersed geographically. Some metropolitan areas have become immigrant gateways for the first time. And within many metropolitan areas, increasing numbers of immigrants have settled in suburban communities, where they were once only a sparse presence.  Meanwhile, another change has been taking place on the metropolitan landscape: poverty is on the rise in the suburbs. Recent Brookings research shows that at the end of the Great Recession a majority of the nation’s poor in the 100 largest metropolitan areas lived in the suburbs.
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    8.  NJ Environmental Intrastructure Trust Fund to get $650 million as Chris Christie signs bill
    With a fine summer day on Barnegat Bay as his backdrop, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that will recharge the state’s Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund with nearly $650 million, including $32 million for projects to staunch the flow of polluted storm water to the bay.  “It took generations for the bay to get to the point where it’s at now, and it won’t be reversed overnight,” Christie said Thursday, after signing a trio of bills to fund water and sewer projects throughout the state with low- or no-interest state loans.  “There can’t be any compromise at all when it comes to our state’s water infrastructure,” Christie said, describing Barnegat Bay as “a huge economic driver” for both the Shore region and the whole state.
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    9. West Milford is on the way to becoming a NJ Sustainable Jersey Certified community
    Requirements for the township to become a Sustainable Jersey Certified Community have been completed, opening the door for grants and other benefits for the municipality. The township needed 150 points for bronze certification and submitted 195.  “The last piece to the puzzle was the township energy audit, which we finally completed,” said Sustainability Subcommittee Chair Renee Allessio. “I am thrilled to report that according to Township Administrator Kevin Boyle, we are implementing all the recommendations. All municipal-owned buildings were included in the energy audit. We should realize tangible energy and financial savings when this is completed. We are now waiting to hear back from Sustainable Jersey.
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    10. Poll finds ‘quality of life’ responses vary widely in N.J. depending on where you live
    New Jersey may be the most densely populated state, but its residents in various counties are living worlds apart.  A poll released this month by Monmouth University found the “quality of life” responses varied widely based on where people live.  Morris County residents like New Jersey most, while Cumberland County residents give it the lowest score. Essex County comes in three above dead last.  Economics is one factor, with residents in Morris, Hunterdon and Somerset, the three wealthiest counties, giving the state high marks.
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