RPA’s long range plans have and will continue to look ahead to the next generation, but we know that generational change begins with work on the ground today. The Fourth Regional Plan includes 61 recommendations for making the tri-state region healthy, equitable, prosperous and sustainable, but it also highlights places in the region where there are ripe opportunities to implement recommendations and achieve significant, positive change.
In our annual strategic planning we decided to focus advocacy and planning resources in two of these cities to help advance Fourth Plan goals. Over the course of this year we have been collaborating with partners in Newark, New Jersey and Bridgeport, Connecticut on a variety of initiatives that apply best practices and demonstrate what plan implementation looks like in legacy cities.
Newark and Bridgeport both have strong legacies as regional centers of commerce and industry. Yet like so many urban centers across the region and the country, they have struggled to recover from loss of jobs and tax revenue, racial segregation and property disinvestment fueled by redlining and steering practices, and vast brownfield contamination on former industrial sites. But the tide is turning and these two places, recognized in the Fourth Plan, are becoming models for how to transform small industrial cities in the tri-state region. With a focus on equitable economic growth, they are once again attracting people and jobs and working to ensure that longtime residents benefit from new investment.
In Newark, RPA’s Fourth Plan focus on both growth and equitable outcomes aligns closely with Mayor Baraka’s declared policy priorities. Under the Mayor’s leadership, the City established an Equitable Growth Advisory Commission to recommend policies and plans to streamline growth while assuring Newark residents that economic development will benefit – and not displace – city residents. Newark has also solicited and obtained support from Bloomberg Associates to conduct a planning analysis in support of the City’s equitable growth goals over the next three years. To match these city initiatives, RPA has partnered with Tri-State Transportation Campaign to target Newark’s bus transit service for improvement. The first report on this topic was published in September. RPA has also partnered with the New Jersey Innovation Institute, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and local civic organizations and municipal leaders to leverage major investments in transit to Newark International Airport to improve transit system access and increase economic opportunity for Newark residents.
In Bridgeport, the City recently adopted a new Master Plan – Plan Bridgeport – inspired by its recognition as a Flagship Place in the Fourth Plan. RPA has been working with municipal and community leaders to advance actions identified in Plan Bridgeport. These actions include; launching a collaborative of higher education and healthcare institutions to advance equitable economic growth; supporting Make the Road Connecticut’s efforts to improve student access to bus transit and safe walking routes to school; providing input as the City rewrites its zoning code; and working with Bridgeport and Connecticut’s other biggest cities to create and advance a Cities Agenda for the state.
The Sustainable Cities partnership program with Newark and Bridgeport is an important element of RPA’s work to realize the vision of the Fourth Plan and we’re excited to be an active partner in these communities.