Posted on August 31, 2010 by Aron Goldman
“The market looks the other way when it comes to neighborhoods like this too often.”
Governor Patrick was in the North End last week, and he made it clear that the deep disparities exemplified by the North End are unacceptable. And at the same time, he spoke about transcending neighborhood boundaries, and his campaign’s commitment to engaging infrequent voters in minority communities (contrary to conventional campaign strategy). Video below. We invite any candidate to offer their perspectives on civic engagement and the issues that have been identified by our stakeholders as priorities (see left).
Filed under: Civil/human rights, Economic & workforce development, Housing & community development, Local democracy & civic engagement | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 26, 2010 by Monique Thomas
The Massachusetts policy for housing the homeless in hotels is now in the spotlight for its inefficiency after several incidents of crime, the most troubling of which involved the endangerment and death of a child. To end the problem of homelessness—to truly end it, not just placate it for the time being— we have to not only get those in need off the streets but into sustainable living situations, and with the resources they need to rebuild their lives.
The state spends about $2 million a month to house the 800 to 900 families that partake in the program. The way the money is being spent now, the solution is temporary at best and detrimental at worst; it’s harder to secure a job or even an interview for one without a permanent address, and it is also emotionally taxing on the families to not have a place to call their own. Here in Springfield, the number of homeless people is nearly double what it was two years ago, and the city’s Housing Department is placing people in hotels because the shelters are full. There is a general consensus that this policy is wholly ineffective, but the question is, what’s the best solution, considering budget constraints and the immediate need for a system that works?
Filed under: Housing & community development | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 22, 2010 by Aron Goldman
Seven of us headed out from the Y at noon yesterday to discover the North End. Gorgeous weather, visually rich. We used the Gerena community corridor to pass under I-91, we happened upon a bountiful community garden, and followed the giant cement wall that separates the Connecticut River and “Riverview Apartments and Senior Center.”
We were fortunate to be joined by a group of young people from all over New England who are spending the summer riding bikes and raising awareness about climate change (Students for a Just and Stable Future). They share their perspectives on Springfield in the 2 min. video below, and they are hosting a discussion about climate change at the Forest Park Branch Library TONIGHT (Thursday) at 6PM (flyer here).
Join us every Wednesday at noon at the YMCA on Chestnut St. (map) for a casual bike ride to a different neighborhood each week. Let us know if you’d like to guide a tour of your neighborhood. We’re headed to Mason Square next week. Try Holyoke, too!
Filed under: Food systems, nutrition, & urban agriculture, Health disparities, Housing & community development, Local democracy & civic engagement, Transportation & infrastructure, Wednesday Rides | 3 Comments »
Posted on March 26, 2010 by Aron Goldman
Gentrification may seem like a problem we wish we had, but I am convinced that the time is now to plan for sustainable and equitable development. One risk is that, at the first sign of economic opportunity, big boxes and national chains will pour in, curtailing an historic opportunity to build real community. 125th Street? Times Square? Holyoke Mall?
This image (above) is part of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts’ exhibit, “The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks.” More images here. From their press release: “This exhibition, guest curated by Dexter Wimberly, will examine how urban planning, eminent domain, and real estate development are affecting Brooklyn’s communities and how residents throughout the borough are responding. The exhibition will include the works of several Brooklyn-based artists, as well as those who have been forced to relocate as a result of gentrification. In addition to works of art featured at MoCADA, there will be a schedule of public programs taking place throughout Brooklyn.”
From the City Limits Magazine review: “Anyone who’s lived in New York for a while has done it: Walked down a familiar block and remembered the old days – even three or four years ago – when that yoga studio was a bodega, that multinational bank was a local business, and you could rent a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000.”
Filed under: Arts & culture, Civil/human rights, Food systems, nutrition, & urban agriculture, Housing & community development | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 4, 2010 by Aron Goldman
Yesterday I talked about environmental justice and land use with Ben Rajotte’s students at Western New England College School of Law. Van Jones (Obama’s exiled green jobs czar) set the stage with this excellent video (below). And I followed up with a guided photo-tour of Springfield’s most dramatic built environment equity issues (environmental justice tourism!). Download the slideshow here (PDF, 11.5 MB).
UPDATE: My friend Bill Childs (see his WNEC “Blawg” here) alerted me that the commercial activity around the Basketball Hall of Fame is not all national chains. Onyx is owned by two local guys (WARNING: annoying music!), one of whom is a WNEC alum. And Max’s is a regional chain.
UPDATE: Relatedly, today’s NY Times piece, “Slumbering Pittsburgh neighborhood reawakens,” is about the revival of a Pittsburgh neighborhood (East Liberty). The article refers to a “community plan” that called for “attracting shoppers to a broader range of businesses than the aging mom-and-pop stores that remained, reviving the street grid, and creating jobs and better housing.” Big boxes are never neighborhood upgrades, but I couldn’t help but consider the possibilities of attracting national chains but requiring that they are scaled appropriately, located downtown, and pedestrian-friendly.
Filed under: Civil/human rights, Economic & workforce development, Food systems, nutrition, & urban agriculture, Green jobs/economy, Health disparities, Housing & community development, Immigrant community, Transportation & infrastructure | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 27, 2010 by Aron Goldman
Have the posts on this site seemed a little sparse lately? I haven’t been slacking off. In fact, I’ve been busier than ever working with twenty-one students from Amherst College, UMass, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Oberlin in the context of a January term course on applied public policy. The group split into four policy teams, and recruited a “client organization” for each:
- The charter schools team linked up with the nascent Springfield Promise Neighborhood Committee
- The biomass team linked up with Arise for Social Justice’s biomass taskforce
- The food security team linked up with the Holyoke Health Center and the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council
- The homelessness team linked up with Interfaith Housing Corporation in Amherst
We have been working hard to include a very diverse range of stakeholders (not just the client org itself), with an emphasis on underrepresented groups. And we have been using a variety of media in order to tell a compelling story. You can see what we’ve done in photos, videos, and words on our splashy course web site (a wiki, really). Students will present their work at a special event at Amherst College on February 4th at 5PM (reception at 4:30). All are welcome. RSVP here. The students have done amazing work,. We are excited about raising the level of debate, and broadening participation in the debate of these regionally relevant and timely issues (does that sound like a familiar objective?). Click on my face to see a CH40 snippet about the course, and here’s an interview by Monte Belmonte with me and two students that aired on WRSI and WHMP.
Filed under: Food systems, nutrition, & urban agriculture, Green jobs/economy, Health disparities, Housing & community development, Public education, charter schools | Leave a comment »