Baraka Unveils Model Neighborhoods Program

Friday, 07 November 2014 17:36 Dhiren Shah and Walter Elliott

Local Talk News


Mayor Ras Baraka intends to turn two of the city's toughest residential areas into "Model Neighborhoods" in the next 12 months.

A 38-block area in the South Ward's Clinton Hill - near Baraka's "Model Neighborhoods Plan" announcement here in Newark Police Headquarters Nov. 3 - and a 20-block area in the West Ward's Fairmount Heights section are to be the focus of a comprehensive, multiagency improvement effort.

The agencies - nine city departments, offices or divisions plus 14 "local community groups" - are to provide those neighborhoods special services from code enforcement to market-based employment training.

"We're going to treat crime and violence as a public health issue," said Baraka before a Police Headquarters Conference Room audience of 50 Monday morning. "We're not just chasing individuals but begin to mitigate circumstances of a place that creates crime and violence."

The Clinton Hill Model Neighborhood is bordered by Avon Avenue, Chadwick Avenue, Hawthorne Avenue, Clinton Place, Clinton Avenue and South 14th Street. That area, a couple of blocks away from the Cong. Donald Payne, Sr. Police Headquarters and Fifth Precinct, includes Mildred Helms Park plus the Clinton Hill Elementary School/Early Childhood Center.

The West Ward Model Neighborhood encompasses South Orange Avenue, Ashland Street, 14th Avenue, South 13th Street, 16th Avenue, South 20th Street (across from the Irvington border) and South 19th Street. This area includes the former Ashland and 15th Avenue schools and the current NPD Internal Affairs office along 16th Avenue. The WWMN are also overlays the Fairmount Heights home renewal zone promoted by the Urban League of Essex County and then-Councilman Ron C. Rice.

That NPD IA office, along with a to-be-announced community center location, are to be the WWMN's nerve centers. They and the also yet unannounced CHMN community center, will be the model neighborhoods' gathering places and service outreach points.

"Many people want to have mini police precincts," said Baraka during the 30-minute question and answer session with metro New York media representatives. "But what good would a mini precinct or a center do if you only have people sitting behind desks? We need people to go out into the streets; that's why we're restructuring the police department so that more officers are out on patrol."

NPD Chief of Police Anthony Campos - representing Police Director Eugene Venable - was among the various department heads and city officials standing with Baraka.

"The plan will not cost the city any overtime," said Campos. "If that's where our greatest need is, then that's where we deploy a great percentage of our resources."

Experienced uniform NPD officers will be deployed in the two neighborhoods for enforcement and to interact with the respective communities. Safe Surrender and gun buyback programs will be held.

"We will be going to inmate who will be released in a month or two," said Baraka. "They will be told about our re-entry program and social services. This'll be a change from released prisoners trying to find the Office of Re-Entry by themselves."

Office for Re-Entry is to launch its "Project Hope," for assisting 18- to 30- year-olds with violent crime records and/or gang affiliations.

Newark Engineering's Traffic and Signals Division employees will repair or replace up to 94 signs and signals in the South Ward and up to 42 in the West. Up to 90 potholes in the South and 63 in the West will be repaired.

Code enforcers will meanwhile conduct various inspections, running from homes for safety hazards to food retails for expiration dates.

"We want people who work in Newark to affordably live in Newark," said Baraka. "'Live Newark' will offer abandoned or vacant properties on city rolls - we may even offer them for $1 - to professionals who promise to rehabilitate the properties, live in them and open offices to serve the community there for the next five to seven years."

Baraka intends to attract doctors and other medical professionals, police officers and firefighters with Live Newark.

Economic and Housing Department Deputy Mayor Baye Adolfo-Wilson said that at least $15 million will be put into repairing or replacing up to 50 houses in the South Ward zone and $55 million for up to 150 homes in the West zone.

"We've been talking with employers and our One Stop Career Center Staff about training people for jobs that actually exist." said Baraka. "That, and making sure that Newark residents get first preference for job openings is what we have been doing with Sonic, Shop-Rite and other businesses who want to work with us."

One Stop Career Centers would also be housed within the zone's centers. The city's recreation department and environmental commission will also be fostering zone improvements.

All of the above sounds familiar to residents in and around Straftford Place. A pilot enforcement and wraparound services program was launched on that block between Clinton and Avon avenues shortly after Baraka took office July 1.

"We got in there a cracked down on quality of life crimes and landlord violations," said Baraka. "We put in planters and improved lighting. We have a promise from one landlord across the street to open a community center in a building that has been vacant the last 10 years."

The mayor, who is welcoming any private businesses and civic groups to join the Model Neighborhoods program, will be holding six month progress briefings with zone stakeholders. After "learning what works and what doesn't," the Model Neighborhoods would be targeting other city areas.

"The centers will be around as long as they're needed," said Baraka. "They will not be around for 20 years without improving their neighborhoods."

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