Sunday, October 07, 2007

It starts here

Yesterday the residents of the Cadwalader Heights neighborhood held a very successful house tour. Although they have held house tours before, this one was extra special as it marked the 100 years since the fist home was built there.

Through hard work, cooperation and solid promotion they attracted nearly 1000 people to their homes and neighborhood. Similar events have been held in the Berkeley Square and Mill Hill neighborhoods. And the Contemporary Club's popular "Four Views of Trenton" tours have been drawing people to town for over twenty years.

The majority of attendees for these events come from outside of Trenton. Proof that people will indeed visit Trenton for well organized and promoted events and will pay to do so.

But that's not the only good thing about these events.

Writing in an op ed piece in the Times last Wednesday, long time Cadwalader Heights resident Carol Nicholson offered the following "simple recipe:"
...if you want to live in a neighborhood that lasts for 100 years -- take control of your community, don't leave it to politicians, bureaucrats or violent gangs. Know your neighbors, help each other and organize. Even the most informal grouping is a legitimate voice....

Civic pride starts at one's doorstep, continues through our respective neighborhoods and finds its way right up to the steps of City Hall. The neighborhoods that are the most stable are the neighborhoods that have developed into effective communities working together for the benefit of all. Similarly, municipalities around the country, of all sizes, only succeed when the residents work together for the common good.

It is indeed a "simple recipe" and yet so many of Trenton's neighborhoods seem to be lacking in this regard. While there are many civic organizations on the books some are poorly organized and/or suffer from low participation. Even the Trenton Council of Civic Associations (TCCA), which should serve as an umbrella organization for all the neighborhood groups, is not immune to the malaise.

At any given meeting, you can count on seeing the same few neighborhoods represented with a smattering of drop-ins from other groups around town. It has even been reported that some public officials advise against participating in TCCA activities because "it is only people from North and West Wards" who attend or that the organization has become "political."

Well, "duh!"

First of all, the meetings are open to and attended by representatives from civic groups city wide. If people from specific neighborhoods or wards don't attend, it is not by design or intent. It is because of self-exclusion.

Secondly, the TCCA is no more or less "political" than any other organization concerned with improving the quality of life in our city.

While some may point to various projects and proposals as indications of a Trenton revival, they are but window dressing. No more effective at depicting a halt in Trenton's decline than the infamous "kitties and curtains" plywood panels that were applied to the many vacant properties around town a few years back.

The City's successes have been and will continue to be measured neighborhood by neighborhood. It starts with a statement of boundaries: "I am concerned with my house; my block; my neighborhood."

It continues with a commitment to take the necessary steps that will result in incremental improvements each and every day.

This is how it was done in Mill Hill, Berkeley Square, Cadwalader Heights and other neighborhoods.

"Take control of your community," states Doctor Nicholson. "Don't leave it to politicians, bureaucrats or violent gangs."

Take control of your city.

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