In January 2012 Women Rising submitted an application to the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-NJ) for pro bono support to update its community plan. Their plan had been written in 2005/2006.
Women Rising is one of many local community groups and non-profits organizations in the Bergen Hill section of Jersey City that collaborate together under the umbrella of Bergen Communities United (BCU). Women Rising is the fiscal agent for BCU, and submitted the proposal to APA-NJ in that role.
An updated plan was needed so BCU could continue their efforts for area residents by continuing to leverage further funding for the area. Specifically they needed the updated community plan to allow them to renew their grant with Wachovia, which was set to expire in June 2012. Also, the plan’s original preparation had been a great tool for community building, and it was time to bring the community together to discuss changing conditions. It was felt that conditions in the area had changed since the original plan, and it was time to bring the community together to discuss those changes and the appropriate response to them. Women Rising was hoping that APA-NJ’s CPAP could provide the planning team to do this.
The new plan would address the accomplishments since the first plan was written in 2005, describe the challenges they encountered during its implementation, and identify any new goals and objectives that would be identified in the facilitated community meetings. The BCU was looking to have at least one facilitated session with the community at-large, with breakout groups to discuss specific details about what should be addressed in the plan update. The overall objective was to continue to promote the area as an emerging urban village with a diverse population in a neighborhood that is a great place to live, work and shop. The term of the updated plan would be three to five years.
In June 2012 meetings between the APA-NJ team and the representatives from Bergen Community United were held to plan and schedule the work. The decision was made to schedule the community meetings fro September, after the summer holidays, and use the summer to prepare for the meetings.
The Planning Process
The process for updating the plan gave considerable attention to community outreach and participation, seeking input from a wide range of community residents, business owners and officials. Hundreds of participants helped to shape the original plan and this update.
On a Saturday morning, September 29, the public workshop was held at Saint Peters University. Attendees were asked to identify accomplishments since the first plan was developed in 2005/2006, concerns and issues that still affected the neighborhoods. The final plan update was then written based upon that public input.