WEST ORANGE, N.J. – Key players in northern New Jersey met Thursday night at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange to discuss the future of the region.
Building One New Jersey (BONJ) and Together North Jersey (TNJ) co-sponsored the event and teamed up to create an initiative to emphasize the importance of north jersey’s diverse middle class communities. Through this meeting they hoped to generate support for the Regional Fair Housing and Equity Assessment and the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development.
The purpose of these initiatives is to ultimately prioritize diverse older suburb communities for infrastructure in housing, education and transportation over the next ten years. By gaining enough support at this meeting, BONJ and TNJ hope to influence the direction of an estimated $30-$40 billion of state and federal dollars.
The night was focused on a need for transformative policy change to address the economic and racial disparities that exist in North Jersey. This notion was backed up throughout the night by speakers Sheila Oliver, Assemblyman Tom Giblin and BONJ President John Gandy. “We are here to advance transformative policies that will direct that infrastructure funding to diverse communities like ours where it’s needed most and can make a substantial impact,” Maplewood Mayor and leader of BONJ Vic DeLuca said in his opening.
Presentations by Jon Carnegie about the Fair Housing and Equity Assessment and Rutgers Professor David Troutt about opportunity for transformational change supported the plans for the initiative. FHEA is supposed to target communities that are more exclusionary and low poverty while recognizing the existence and growth of diversity in communities and schools.
In order to fully understand the next step for moving the initiative forward was getting feedback and that was done at the meeting through the use of interactive polling of the attendees. With an attendance of over 150 people, the polling showed that the majority of the attendees were members of the public in Essex County.
The polling asked the audience about the challenges in their region and what they find most important about their community. For example, the greatest overall challenge in the attendees region was high cost of living, as voted on by the attendees.
At the end of the event, attendees were offered the opportunity to get involved by participating in TNJ Standing Committees to shape policies affecting their community.