Renewing Inner City Neighborhoods: Land, Capital, Community
April 14, 2012
We look forward to seeing you at the groundbreaking "Strategies for a New Economy" conference (at Bard College, June 8th-10th), where you will learn about the exciting innovations in theory and practice that are taking place all over the United States. We want to point out two examples: the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Massachusetts and the Green Village Initiative in Connecticut.
The noted author, Jane Jacobs, understood the economies of cities as a lively web of relationships, fermenting and then bursting into exuberant episodes of import-replacement—creating jobs, building economic resilience. Of necessity, this fermentation relies on a base of local access to land, local access to capital, and strong community.
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (dsni.org) in the Roxbury section of Boston has shown how to secure and maintain local access to land. Employing the legal form of a community land trust, the neighborhood acquired land in the early 1980s and stewards it, providing access to use for local home ownership, commercial buildings, and community spaces via 99-year leases. Through a detailed and continuing democratic planning process, residents of the neighborhood determine development criteria—balancing residential, business, and public use of the land and shaping the character of their corner of the larger city.
Dudley Street relies on and fosters active citizen engagement leading to organization of other community programs in education, nutrition, job creation, and deepening of cultural roots.
Green Village Initiative (gogvi.org) started as a citizen group in Westport,Connecticut, committed to building edible gardens in city schools. It expanded to establish a community farm as an educational center and to grow jobs by connecting local farmers with area restaurants, which buy in quantity. Other suburban towns in this wealthy Connecticut seacoast area followed Westport's model with similar programs.
Recognizing the wide economic disparity between their own towns and the nearby city of Bridgeport, members of Green Village Initiative offered their skills and time and capital to the Bridgeport School District in order to build edible gardens in all the city's schools. GVI is in the process of signing a lease for 1.5 acres of city property to grow food in quantities sufficient to service the City of Bridgeport's school cafeterias.
Listening and learning while working with parents and students to establish the gardens, GVI members recognized the need for decent manufacturing jobs for area residents. Convening a group of Bridgeport's successful small business owners as mentors, they are now helping to fund, through a combination of loans and grants, what they hope will be a number of successful employee-owned businesses. The first one recycles mattresses. The process yields cotton, wood, metal, and decent work while reducing the amount of incineration in a community with high asthma rates.
New partnerships in New Haven are expanding GVI's reach and influence as a model of citizen initiative linking an abundance of skills and wealth with an abundance of willing workers and an urban infrastructure ready to support new production.
Both Dudley Street and Green Village Initiative will be presenting workshops at the Strategies for a New Economy Conference, June 8th-10th at Bard College.
You can check the growing list of conference speakers on our Conference Speakers Page or review background materials by theme on the Conference Resource Pages:
We are excited by the number of organizations represented at the Conference—all participating in the complex work of imagining, describing, and implementing an economic system that is both just and sustainable.
Bob Massie, President
Susan Witt, Director of Education