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Event Offers Inspiration for Neighborhood Revitalization Efforts
Assembly Speaker Oliver and Assemblyman Green Recognized for Community Development Leadership

12/7/2011

Today over 120 elected officials, members, and supporters of the Housing & Community Development Network of NJ came together at the Trenton Marriott for its semi-annual meeting.  Following the theme of Lead to Succeed (Learn. Educate. Adapt. Diversify), breakout sessions centered on inspiring community leaders to push ahead in the face of adversity.

"The current political and economic landscape represent a very difficult time for community development and the people we seek to serve," said Raymond Ocasio, Network executive board president and executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro. "Community development organizations are being challenged by the tremendous need for affordable housing, the blighting impact of foreclosure on our neighborhoods and limitation of the resources to accomplish our goal of building sustainable communities.  We need to steadfast to our missions, share successful strategies to navigate these troubled waters and march together with raised voices for vibrant and sustainable communities. That is what this event is about."

Dr. Ken Reardon, director of the graduate program in city & regional planning at the University of Memphis delivered the keynote address, Uniting Communities for Progress.  Dr. Reardon is a nationally renowned expert in community organizing, community-based neighborhood planning, and university-community partnerships.  He has received national recognition for establishing and directing the highly-regarded East St. Louis Action Research Project and more recently has been involved in recovery planning for New Orleans’ Ninth Ward in collaboration with a group of planning students.  

"Even in the most dire circumstances like we saw in New Orleans there has been significant progress," said Dr. Reardon.  "Community based organizations must continue to roll up their sleeves and stay committed because the hard work does truly pay off.  We may need to change strategies midpoint, but our towns and cities will only thrive with the persistent efforts of those here today."    
 
The Network's Legislator of the Year Award was presented to both Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) and Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) in recognition of their leadership on community development issues in the State Legislature.  Together as Assembly Speaker and Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee Chairman respectively, they have been instrumental in preserving the state’s historic commitment to housing choice  and advocating for comprehensive reforms that will encourage the development of homes and jobs that our state’s economy and residents need so badly.  In addition, they have worked with our members to help enhance and preserve key tools to address the foreclosure crisis and restore problem properties in communities across the state.

"It's an honor to be recognized by a group of advocates so committed to building a better and more affordable New Jersey," said Speaker Oliver. "It's comforting, especially in these difficult times, to know that a group such as the Housing & Community Development Network of NJ is out there working hard day-in and day-out to bring affordable homes to New Jersey, create jobs for working class families and protect them from foreclosures and other economic problems. We share the same goals and commitment, and I look forward to continuing to work them to make New Jersey a better place."
"It has been a pleasure working with the Housing & Community Development Network of NJ," said Assemblyman Green.  "I look forward to continuing our work in the upcoming year.  The Network works very hard to ensure that current and future New Jersey residents will have the opportunity to live and thrive in their state."

This year's meeting was about creating an uplifting and inspiring environment of shared learning and collaboration.  During the day there were two panel discussions which encouraged attendees to reflect upon what it means to be in the business of community and neighborhood transformation, and what are the key ingredients for success.  The sessions, Leading through Challenging Times and Winning Strategies for Restoring Cities & Neighborhoods, centered on how to help New Jersey’s residents, neighborhoods, and communities meet their needs and overcome their challenges by working collectively and being nimble in trying different things until they find the pathway to success.

The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey is the statewide association of more than 250 housing and community development corporations, individuals and other organizations that support the creation of homes and economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans.  For more information, visit the Network's website at www.hcdnnj.org.