On March 12, 2019 the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the expansion of the Community Collaborative Initiative (CCI). This enables CCI and DEP staff to provide ground-level support on brownfields redevelopment and urban revitalization efforts to a wider range of targeted urban areas.
In addition to the cities where CCI is currently operating—Bayonne, Camden, Perth Amboy and Trenton—the initiative will be expanded to new municipalities around the state. The list of additional cities, which has not been finalized, will include Newark and Paterson. This is said to be a part of Governor Phil Murphy’s efforts to build a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy through targeted investments in communities.
“Building a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy requires taking an innovative approach to community revitalization that acknowledges economic prosperity and environmental sustainability are not competing goals but mutually reinforcing ideals,” said Governor Murphy. “CCI has already made significant progress toward achieving both of these goals by working with local leaders to protect the environment and transform dangerous eyesores into valued community assets.”
The CCI embeds DEP staff at the ground-level within communities, providing a more direct connection to the necessary expertise that will enable communities to address environmental concerns effectively and appropriately. By making this expertise more easily accessible in targeted communities where multiple environmental stressors exist, the initiative fosters the communication, relationships, and insights necessary to open pathways to successful remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites.
CCI is already producing impressive results in Bayonne, Camden, Perth Amboy, and Trenton. In Camden, CCI staff collaborated with local leaders and DEP experts to jumpstart the process of transforming a 61-acre landfill into restored shoreline and uplands, with improvements such as the creation of new tidal wetlands, recreational amenities for residents, and a solar field.
CCI has had similar success in Perth Amboy, where embedded staff facilitated the launch of a project to clean up a 6-acre scrap heap and build a new park on the site. In Trenton, CCI staff helped to advance the development of the Assunpink Greenway Park; a 99-acre redevelopment project that will include soccer fields, a waterfront walk, and other amenities.
“The Community Collaborative Initiative exemplifies Governor Murphy’s commitment to revitalizing New Jersey’s communities in a way that puts environmental sustainability front and center and remains true to residents’ priorities,” said DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “The program has already been a tremendous success, with significant benefits for New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations. We are excited to collaborate with the NJEDA to replicate this success around the state.”
Recognizing CCI’s successful track record, the NJEDA is partnering with the DEP to expand the initiative into more New Jersey cities that will benefit greatly from this initiative, such as Newark and Paterson, among others. Under the agreement, NJEDA funding will supplement the existing two full-time equivalent DEP employees dedicated to CCI with an additional six full-time equivalent employees. The six new full-time employees will be selected from current DEP staff, with replacements hired by DEP through a state-approved vendor. The NJEDA’s total funding commitment is approximately $1 million.
“Governor Murphy’s vision for a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy focuses on making smart, targeted investments in our communities in a way that recognizes each of their unique assets and challenges,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of the NJEDA. “With this expanded partnership, DEP and the EDA will be able to help more cities and towns throughout the state do the long-term planning necessary to remediate and redevelop brownfields. We are thrilled to be partnering with Commissioner McCabe and her team on this comprehensive approach to tackling longstanding environmental and economic challenges.”
In separate-but-related news:
Also on March 12, 2019, NJEDA announced that it will award $100,000 to each of the following five communities as part of the second round of the Innovation Challenge. The Innovation Challenge is designed to encourage municipalities and counties to advance plans to strengthen their local innovation ecosystems in collaboration with local higher education institutions and other strategic partners.
Governor Murphy first announced the Innovation Challenge last summer, which resulted in nine communities being awarded NJEDA funding to help advance their planning projects. Due to the interest and positive response generated through the first round of the Innovation Challenge, the NJEDA allocated an additional $500,000 for grants of up to $100,000 each for a second round of funding that launched in November and accepted applications through the end of January.
“The robust and creative responses to both rounds of this challenge illustrate that communities throughout the Garden State are embracing Governor Phil Murphy’s vision for making New Jersey the State of Innovation,” Tim Sullivan said. “Strengthening local ecosystems where new ideas can thrive will have long-term positive effects that will impact the state’s entrepreneurs and small businesses for years to come.”
The five proposals receiving awards include:
- Cape May County: Cape May County officials and local partners have proposed a project that will create an Entrepreneurial Resource Center to support the economic development plans of the county and local municipalities inside and around designated opportunity zones. Cape May County expects that these plans will help to expand the breadth and depth of existing business support systems through the coordination of local assets to increase economic development within the county.
- “This is a great partnership among key stakeholders and shows how the County tries to work with local municipalities to spur on economic growth,” Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton said. “Creating jobs is important and we in County government will always look for ways to promote job growth for our entire County.”
- City of Hoboken: Hoboken has proposed plans to team up with Stevens Institute of Technology, the Hoboken Public Library, and Propelify, LLC to launch a planning process for the creation of a co-working innovation center that will make the vital resources of space, mentorship, capital, and community available to innovative practitioners and entrepreneurs. The city anticipates that this innovation center will support the incubation of Smart City small businesses in northern New Jersey.
- “I’d like to thank Governor Murphy and the NJEDA for recognizing Hoboken in this second round of funding,” Hoboken Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla said. “We are thrilled to partner with local innovation leaders and this investment by the NJEDA will help solidify and nurture the emerging tech community in North Jersey.”
- City of Newark: The City of Newark intends to create a plan for the expansion of its technology infrastructure and to extend existing fiber optic and wireless communication systems by providing street-level kiosks where residents can access the Internet. Newark officials believe that these projects will provide immediate quality of life benefits citywide while serving as beacons to guide local investments into the technology infrastructure. The city will partner on the plan with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, the New Jersey Innovation Institute, Public Service Electric & Gas, and iNeighborhoods.
- “Our goal has been to extend the reach of our internet beyond our downtown and to all of our residents,” Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said. “This grant from the NJEDA will help us accomplish that. I thank Governor Murphy and the NJEDA for developing this program and helping to make Newark a stronger city.”
- City of Paterson: The City of Paterson plans to work with Montclair State University, William Paterson University – Small Business Development Center, and two long-term lessees at the Paterson Food Incubator site to create a business strategy that involves consistent training resources and workforce development opportunities for tenants at the incubator. The City anticipates that the project will result in a strategically-developed business plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of the incubator.
- “We are extremely excited about this news,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said. “This will allow us to develop a strategic business plan for the food incubator to maximize the investment already made. More importantly, we will work in partnership with nearby academic institutions to build new partnerships for the incubator’s long-term success. Our new slogan is: ‘Great Falls, Great Food, Great Future!’”
- City of Plainfield: The City of Plainfield will conduct a technology-needs assessment of the community’s underutilized and vacant industrial and commercial properties. The goal of the assessment will be to determine the feasibility of creating a network of commercial, industrial, and mixed-use corridors within the city so that it can be an epicenter of New Jersey’s innovation economy.
- “We are thrilled to receive this grant from the NJEDA,” Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said. “This technology needs assessment study is another important piece in the continued redevelopment of Plainfield. Governor Murphy continues to demonstrate that he is plugged into the needs of our communities and is focused on bringing real change to New Jersey. This level of support lends impetus as we work to transform our city.”
Photo (by Storm Cunningham) shows people in he dock area of Cape May (one of the innovation winners) getting ready to go whale watching.