Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced today that Cities of Service has awarded Newark as a winner of its Cities of Service City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA Love Your Block competition. Through Love Your Block, city leaders engage citizen volunteers to revitalize city neighborhoods, one block at a time. Newark will receive $25,000 to be used for mini-grants and resources to support the efforts of citizen groups and local nonprofits to prevent or eliminate property blight through home repairs, lot transformations, and community clean-ups. In addition, two AmeriCorps VISTA members will serve in city hall to build capacity and raise awareness.
This year’s Love Your Block competition targeted legacy cities—older, industrial cities that have faced substantial population loss. The cohort of winning cities, including Buffalo; Gary, Ind.; Hamilton, Ohio; Hartford, Conn.; Huntington, W.V.; Lancaster, Pa.; Milwaukee, Wisc.; Newark; Richmond; and South Bend, Ind. were selected based on the potential for impact and the clarity of vision for their proposed projects.
“The Love Your Block program is an exciting addition to the toolkit of strategies we are using to revitalize neighborhoods that are in great need. With increased programming support and mini-grants, we can help empower residents to carry out their own vision for having cleaner, safer streets and a better quality of life,” Mayor Baraka said.
Initially focused on the Clinton Hill and Lower West Ward neighborhoods, MNI redevelopment efforts are aimed at increasing home ownership, improving public space, stepping up law enforcement efforts, and connecting residents with their fellow neighbors.
In Newark, Mayor Baraka sees the Love Your Block program as a natural extension of his Model Neighborhood Initiative (MNI), an effort to coordinate the human and financial resources of government agencies, nonprofits, residents, and other local stakeholders to transform Newark neighborhoods into models of community prosperity.
Cities of Service has helped dozens of cities implement Love Your Block. Since 2009, more than 10,000 volunteers have been engaged to remove over 480,000 pounds of trash, clean up nearly 600 lots, and create more than 180 art displays, in addition to numerous other community projects.
“A recent study from the Urban Institute has shown us that the impact of Love Your Block goes beyond cleaning up neighborhoods and creating more park space,” said Cities of Service Executive Director Myung J. Lee. “It is also bringing neighbors together and strengthening communities. We are excited to help Newark revitalize neighborhoods and build trust between city hall and residents as part of these efforts.”
“Empowering residents is the best way a city can revitalize and beautify blocks to urbanize a neighborhood. We’re grateful to have won this cities of service award to continue implementing Mayor Baraka’s vision,” said Deputy Mayor of Economic and Housing Development Carmelo Garcia.
For Chief Sustainability Officer Nathaly Agosto Filión, the Love Your Block grant will help Newark advance Sustainability Action Plan 2020 goals. “The Sustainability Action Plan 2020 calls for litter reduction, improved access to parks and gardens, enforcement of environmental regulations, energy cost savings, and much more. I’m thrilled Newark has won this Love Your Block program support so that we can keep carrying out our citywide sustainability agenda,” she said.
The Urban Institute study found that the connection that Love Your Block forges between city leaders and citizens at the neighborhood level can be an essential catalyst for collective action by neighborhood residents. This connection between city officials and citizens boosts the social capital exercised by citizens who plan and implement Love Your Block projects, and strengthens social cohesion. Love Your Block volunteers believe their efforts also positively influence public safety and community ownership of public spaces.
Using the Cities of Service Love Your Block blueprint, city leaders will engage citizen volunteers and local nonprofits in co-creating solutions to urban blight. Cities of Service will provide expert technical assistance to winning cities for two years. Cities of Service City Hall AmeriCorps VISTA Love Your Block is made possible with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
About Cities of Service
Cities of Service is an independent nonprofit organization that helps mayors and city leaders tap the knowledge, creativity, and service of citizens to solve public problems and create vibrant cities. We work with cities to build city-led, citizen-powered initiatives that target specific needs, achieve long-term and measurable outcomes, improve the quality of life for residents, and build stronger cities. Founded in 2009 by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Cities of Service supports a coalition of more than 250 cities, representing more than 73 million people across the Americas and Europe. To learn more, visit www.citiesofservice.org or follow Cities of Service on Twitter at @citiesofservice.
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