Local Self-Reliance: the Tri-City Citizens' Union

The Tri-City Citizens Union for Progress is a non-profit community corporation focused on maintaining quality of life in the western Newark, NJ neighborhood where it was founded. They have ongong projects in housing management, health care, and education.

| September/October 1978

  • Since its founding in 1967, the Tri-City Citizens' Union has worked to maintain quality of life in Newark, NJ.

To many people Newark, New Jersey seems to be the epitome of the decaying, depressed, Eastern urban center. The city's population has declined 20% in the last decade. Whole blocks of homes, factories, and warehouses lie vacant. One Newark neighborhood—with a population of 40,000 people—has only one supermarket. At the same time, unemployment has reached incredible levels and high blood pressure affects one out of every ten residents. It's little wonder that great numbers of people—who remember the 1967 riots which ripped through vast areas of this town—shake their heads in resignation and consider Newark a wasteland, an unsalvageable city.

The Tri-City Citizens' Union for Progress—a multi-purpose non-profit community corporation based on Newark's western edge—however, thinks differently. Since its founding in 1967, Tri-City has worked in its twelve-square-block neighborhood to maintain and improve the quality of life for area residents. For eleven years, then, Tri-City has focused on providing essential services: housing, health care, and education. Its underlying goal has always been the same: to foster local economic development and to provide local leadership.

After the 1967 race riots, for instance, when much of the city's housing was abandoned because nobody wanted to invest in Newark, the people at Tri-City didn't abandon their neighbors. Instead, they sponsored the purchase and rehabilitation of Amity Village I, 96 units of housing which were designed to be owned collectively.

Amity Village, which was funded by the New Jersey Housing Finance Agency, was the first housing rehabilitation project in post-riot Newark. Furthermore, the cooperative has played a continuing and important role in the development of Tri-City's program, and at the same time has contributed to the stability of the area. (In contrast to the rest of the neighborhood, where only 19% of the residents have lived in the same house since 1965, three out of every four residents of Amity Village have been there since the cooperative's inception.)

Tri-City manages the co-op and does its best to keep rents low. In cases where it is needed the community group helps residents secure rent subsidies. As evidence of the success of this project, Tri-City has purchased another 200 housing units in the neighborhood. These units, now called Amity Village II, are scheduled for co-op conversion next year.

And there's more. In April of 1972 the TriCity group opened a community education center—the People's Center—which has since become the focus for a number of community projects. The Center, for example, houses a day-care program for 30 children aged two to four, and an after-school program for 65 children between the ages of five and nine.

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