NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The city will be rolling out a new program in which representatives from various departments will reach out to residents by going to where they live.
For the program’s launch, members of the police department, department of public works and rent control, among others, will be setting up at Unity Square starting next month.
Keith Jones II, community organizer in the Mayor’s Office, said the goal is to bring government to the residents at a satellite office in an effort to best meet the needs of the community.
“It’s one of those things where if our job is to serve the residents, serve the community, what better than being in the community doing it,” Jones said. “We can take the weight of some of the individuals having to come to our building, the administrative building and we go to them. And try to figure out how we can better meet the needs.”
Although Jones has helped organize the program, he said it is the brainchild of Mayor James Cahill, who was looking for a way to better serve residents.
Unity Square, which is located in a converted firehouse at 81 Remsen Ave., defines itself as a community organizing and social concerns initiative of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen that works to empower community members and catalyze change in the poorest residential neighborhood.
Unity Square addresses a diverse set of issues focused on the residents in a roughly four-block area, including economic development, employment, civic participation, crime and safety, immigrants’ rights and tenants’ rights. According to Unity Square’s web site, most of the adults are Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Jones said that different department representatives will take turns setting up at a desk inside Unity Square. The plan, for now, is to have representatives from the fire department or the zoning board or other agencies sit there and make themselves available for residents.
Residents might have questions such as how do you get a parking permit or how do you pay a parking ticket or how do you file a complaint against your landlord. Bringing local government officials into the community will only make it easier for residents.
“So, there are some challenges with feeling you like you can go to a certain place or if I do go there, who do I talk to and the nervousness and trying to figure out do I need a liaison? Do I need money for this? If the phone is busy, do I call back? Do I leave a message? Do I have to take time off from work to get there? Do I have to get childcare? Can I bring my kid?” Jones said. “There’s so much where we can go in and say, ‘Hey, look, what’s going on?’ And they feel more comfortable at Unity Square, sometimes.”