New Community Corporation (NCC), affectionately known as “New Community,” continues to help Newark residents improve lives amidst increased racial tensions and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Financially stable; self-sufficient; and strategically positioned to enter its next phase of growth. These are uncommon phrases to hear as the U.S. economy continues to endure COVID-19. However, New Community in Newark – one of the largest and most comprehensive community development corporations in the country – fits the bill, with a best in class model for financial sustainability and a workforce of almost 500 employees.
“We’ve been able to leverage over $80 million to strengthen and revitalize our affordable housing units for seniors, families and the disabled for the next 20 years, and in doing so, we were able to enhance our financial position and generate revenue to continue our mission,” said Richard Rohrman, CEO of New Community.
New Community has 1,812 housing units spread over 12 properties in Newark, Jersey City and Orange. The organization offers 360-degree human services and 60 percent of its employees are local residents.
“Being place-based in Newark allows us to blanket the area we live and work in with a wide variety of comprehensive services that rise to meet people where they are,” Rohrman said. “In addition, our Board of Directors is curated from thought leaders in education, finance, public safety, government, affordable housing and law. This combination of our community connections and boots on the ground expertise allows us to help residents increase their quality of life and drive social impact for generations to come.”
NCC was founded in response to the 1967 violent civil unrest in Newark, N.J., by the late Monsignor William J. Linder (who marched in the famed Selma to Montgomery March with Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. Rep. John Lewis) and a core group of Black community leaders and white allies, including Tim Still, Willie Wright, Bob Curvin, Joe Chaneyfield and Ken Gibson. New Community has since provided affordable housing, critical social services and continuous economic opportunities throughout each stage of community members’ lives.
Now, faced again with similar challenges in 2020, the organization can serve once more as a national model for those seeking best practices in community development as we move through the double pandemics of COVID-19 and social justice.
“Newark is on the rise and a model for peaceful protests. However, the incidents of police brutality, senseless hate crimes and the impact of COVID-19 throughout the Black community are reminders of systemic racism in our society,” said Rohrman and A. Zachary Yamba, chairman of New Community’s Board of Directors. “To that end, New Community has pledged to double down on our existing initiatives to close the asset gap and reduce inequality in health and social services, financial literacy, education, affordable housing and workforce development.”
Its “Walk the Walk” pledge includes working closer with social justice advocacy groups such as New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and Newark Communities for Accountable Policing as well as the development of a think tank that will host topical discussions with thought leaders to address innovations for success, best practices and ways to work together for an equitable future for all.
“When community development corporations work to empower their residents to participate in such neighborhood growth from the ground up, a sort of self-sustaining synergy arises,” said Fred Hunter, chief operating officer of New Community. “New Community is committed to going deeper and connecting with partners and funders to increase our social impact in the Greater Newark Area.”
New Community plans to invest more heavily in three areas in the near future: workforce development, home ownership and improved community health, explains Rohrman.
“We’d like to increase our enrollment at New Community Career & Technical Institute to enhance employability and provide skills for future generations to build a career,” Rohrman said. “And, for the residents of Newark to continue to live here and keep this community intact, we’ll need to increase home ownership opportunities, so that absentee landlords who sell for the right price don’t leave it up to the market to determine whether a current resident can afford to stay.”
Since its founding, New Community has listened to the needs of the people to fulfill its mission of helping inner city residents improve the quality of their lives. Therefore, it offers a wide range of services for individuals of all ages, including housing, health care, education and financial services.
“We’ve made incredible progress over the last 52 years, and our programs, services and expertise are needed now more than ever,” Rohrman said.