NEWARK, NJ - Monsignor William J. Linder, who founded of New Community Corporation in the wake of the Newark Riots, died Friday. He was 82.
New Community is a nonprofit organization that under Linder’s leadership transformed a blighted area of Newark following the 1967 riots and built new housing and provided critical services such as job training.
Linder grew New Community from a single housing development to an entire network of facilities and services. Today New Community encompasses close to 2,000 units of housing for seniors and families in three New Jersey cities, as well as providing child care, education, health care and a host of other services.
Linder was an institution in the city of Newark and was well known for the work he did within the community. His goal was “ambitious, radical and unlike anything ever attempted in an inner-city environment at the time: creating a planned community within an old, existing city that would provide residents with all the services they need from birth to death.” Linder succeeded in creating that new community.
“The people of the city of Newark have lost their greatest and most persistent champion,” said New Community CEO Richard Rohrman. “There is physical evidence of Monsignor Linder’s legacy throughout the city, but his most important legacy is the difference he’s made in many people’s lives through the New Community mission. He always worked to preserve people’s God-given dignity and helped them pursue personal achievement. We at New Community will continue to serve residents with Monsignor Linder’s vision in mind.”
Linder’s work drew attention from people around the world including visitors from places such as Ireland and Africa. Hillary Clinton once visited New Community in the 80s and Former South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. Housing Secretary Jack Kemp also visited.
New Community expanded extensively over the years. Now New Community owns and operates its own nursing home; a 102-apartment transitional housing facility for homeless families called Harmony House and New Community Workforce Development Center, an accredited post-secondary career and technical school offering programs in automotive technician, building trades, culinary arts and health care.
Linder was also responsible for the opening of the Adult Learning Center and a charter school in the city’s West Ward in 2011.
In the late 1980s, Linden is credited with opening one of the first child care centers in the nation and the first in New Jersey for infants and toddlers suffering with HIV/AIDS after fighting against the will of the city’s political leadership at the time. He considered this one of his proudest accomplishments, according to employees of New Community.
Linder led New Community to recently complete construction on A Better Life, which is a supportive housing facility for the chronically homeless. The building offers studio apartments with a private bathroom and kitchen area.
Linder was born in Jersey City on June 5, 1936 and grew up in West New York. He enrolled in Manhattan College to study engineering in 1954. His father died suddenly during his freshman year of college. He finished the semester at Manhattan College and then spent two years at Seton Hall University studying classical language and philosophy.
In 1958, he entered the Immaculate Conception Seminary, where he spent his next six years. Linder was ordained as a priest on May 25, 1963. At age 27, he received his pastoral assignment for the all-black parish called Queen of Angels in Newark.
In 1968, he founded New Community with a small group of community-minded residents. In 1973, Linder was abruptly removed from Queen of Angels and exiled to the dormant St. Joseph Parish in Newark, according the officials at New Community.
In 1974, he was reassigned to St. Rose of Lima Parish in the Roseville section of Newark, where he became its pastor in 1977. He retired as pastor of St. Rose of Lima in 2012 at the age 76.
Linder previously served as the CEO of New Community Corporation. He was serving as the president of the New Community Corporation Board of Directors and remained active within the organization until his death.