Community Foundation of New Jersey

New Jersey Recovery Fund Tops $4.2 Million in Grants

April 22, 2014

The New Jersey Recovery Fund has now topped $4.2 million across roughly 86 grants to pursue smart recovery decisions that will help New Jersey avoid repeating the type of devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. The Fund has awarded grants to a range of organizations focused on three broad categories: planning and public policies that promote community resiliency and environmental protection; engaging and informing the public about recovery decisions; and using the arts to foster individual and community healing and revitalization in impacted communities.

The Fund focuses on bold, long-term solutions that promote economic vitality, healthy ecosystems, strong and engaged communities, government transparency and a fair distribution of recovery resources. Fund grantees will work in collaboration in order to increase their impact on recovery and to strengthen the nonprofit community in New Jersey. Hosted by the Community Foundation of New Jersey with a lead gift from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the New Jersey Recovery Fund is a joint effort between local and national foundations, New Jersey corporations and individuals to support local nonprofit organizations working in communities affected by Superstorm Sandy.


HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GRANTS

PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT: Policy Reform, Community Planning and Environmental Protection and Restoration Projects

The New Jersey Recovery Fund supports nonprofit organizations working to ensure that Superstorm Sandy recovery funds and related decisions promote environmentally sound planning and public policies that will protect communities and natural systems. This includes protecting our most vulnerable residents and engaging New Jerseyans in a transparent and inclusive recovery planning process.

Thirteen projects received a total of $2,595,000 in the planning and environment grant category.

Information on grantees in the Planning and Environment category is below.

  • The American Littoral Society and its partners NYNJ Baykeeper, Clean Ocean Action and The Nature Conservancy are working to develop and advocate for policies to increase coastal resilience, restore and protect coastal waters, and reduce recurring destruction. The organizations are quantifying the economic, social and ecological benefits of our natural infrastructure to illustrate the role natural infrastructure plays in reducing risk from coastal storm events and the economic benefits that natural areas provide.
  • The Conserve Wildlife Foundation and partners worked under a tight timeline to restore destroyed beaches in the Delaware Bayshore, thereby enabling horseshoe crabs to breed in high densities in key locations just in time for the critical spring bird migration. The project involved an emergency restoration of beaches and the installation of wave-attenuating oyster reefs. All phases of the project benefited not only wildlife, but also the local economy. Sand was purchased from a local sand mine and the oyster reefs provide aquaculture platforms for local commercial oystermen.
  • The Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University received funding to execute community participation vision processes in three towns to engage in regenerative planning. These processes are currently underway in Sayerville, Highlands, and Sea Bright.
  • The Bloustein School also received funds to provide comprehensive geospatial, policy and analytical support to recovery, community engagement, planning and policy efforts of the Recovery Fund.
  • New Jersey Future fielded a network of on-the-ground recovery managers that provide direct assistance to Sandy-impacted communities. Three Local Recovery Planning Managers are currently embedded in the following communities: Highlands/Sea Bright, Egg Harbor/Tuckerton and Commercial/Downe Township. Like many towns in New Jersey, those municipalities lack the capacity to effectively navigate the recovery landscape which is marked by a complex web of information, programs and funding sources from state government, federal agencies, nonprofits and independent organizations.
  • The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is working with the Bayshore Center at Bivalve and communities to develop a sustainable infrastructure plan for the South Jersey Bayshore that values local stewardship, natural capital and environmental justice.
  • In January 2014 Sustainable Jersey launched the NJ Resiliency Network to provide and coordinate assistance to post-Sandy municipalities in New Jersey. While federal and state monies (e.g. FEMA, HUD) helped allay the cost of major infrastructure improvements and housing repair, other significant recovery and resiliency needs remained to be addressed. The Network’s Resiliency Managers are charged with assisting municipalities in matching their needs to the appropriate resources.  Based upon community needs, the Managers may provide direct assistance with small, targeted projects, or, connect the community with a resource provider that can provide the desired services.

 

MEDIA: Public Information and Engagement

The New Jersey Recovery Fund recognizes the vital role that reliable, accessible news and information plays in the health and well-being of New Jersey’s communities. The Fund supports projects that inform and engage the public on the issues the state faces as it recovers from Superstorm Sandy.

Thirteen media grants totaling $750,000 were made.

Information on media grantees is below.

  • Benjamen Walker’s Mobile Storytelling App tracks users’ locations by GPS as they walk in Seaside and hear stories about how Hurricane Sandy impacted particular points on the boardwalk. Benjamin links these stories to larger issues of Sandy recovery.
  • Jersey Shore Hurricane News – Justin Auciello created this media outlet, relying on crowdsourcing for its content and facebook/twitter for its platform. Justin was funded to hire editors to maintain operations, set up a website and launch a mobile app. Justin is training and developing his skills through classes at Montclair State University and CUNY. He has also signed on as a paid blogging partner with NewsWorks. He expects a launch of his website in early 2014.
  • Citizen’s Campaign Funding was provided for educating, empowering and engaging citizens to constructively participate in the policy decisions stemming from Post-Sandy recovery. CC organized three citizen journalism workshops to train the public on a variety of topics including photojournalism, storytelling, interview techniques, online tools for information sharing and investigative journalism. These conferences were carried out through partnerships with Jersey Shore Hurricane News, WHYY, NJ Spotlight, Creative New Jersey, WNYC, Monmouth University, Sustainable Jersey, Penn Project for Civic Engagement and Clean Ocean Action.
  • Creative NJ has been working closely with many Sandy impacted communities to help design convening opportunities for citizens to discuss solutions for a more resilient rebuilding effort. The grant supports five Calls to Collaboration which are in development in Highlands, Cumberland County–Bayshore region, Moonachie and Little Ferry, Perth Amboy, Atlantic City, and the Toms River region.  As word spreads about the inclusiveness and effectiveness of the convening process, efforts also have started brewing in Jersey City, Asbury Park, and Keansburg/Union Beach.
  • Monmouth University Polling Institute are tracking displaced people and collecting information and opinions of the recovery from those impacted by the storm. MU obtained commitments from numerous towns, long term recovery groups, non-profit groups and other community organizations, to assist MU in reaching displaced residents. See some press coverage of their work here.
  • Montclair State University Center for Cooperative Media , NJRF funded MSU to grow the news ecosystem using micro-grants to establish new sites, some of which will cover Sandy-impacted areas. Winners receive four months of training and support from Community Journalism Executive Training (CJET) coaches, the option to receive a turnkey website, and access to the statewide NJ News Commons network. With these grants, MSU is not only growing the NJ media ecosystem to enable more NJ coverage, they are also facilitating broader distribution of this coverage through the NJ News Commons network.
  • In July, August and October of 2013, WHYY/NewsWorks and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement (PPCE) held a series of five forums where attendees were asked to consider three distinct approaches for handling future storms: Rebuild and Prepare, Rethink and Adapt, and Restore and Retreat. WHYY relied on the expertise of fellow Recovery Fund grantees The Citizens Campaign, Creative New Jersey, and Sustainable Jersey in the planning execution of the forums. The forums also informed story ideas for WHYY’s Shore reporter Tracey Samuelson. Some of her coverage can be found here.
  • NJ.com launched a “Sandy Recovery Scorecard” which tracks recovery progress by municipality with data such as FEMA aid, construction and demolition permits, and loans by the Small Business Administration. NJ.com continues to add data and will do some additional data visualization work. NJ.com, which has the largest online news platform in New Jersey, also helped highlight and share Sandy-related coverage by other New Jersey news organizations (notably NJ Spotlight and Scott Gurian’s reporting), bringing greater public attention to these important stories. Funded to create and maintain a Sandy Recovery scorecard, which is an interactive database that monitors progress in 15 representative communities that were impacted by the storm, while also allowing users to examine recovery-related data for all communities in New Jersey. The scorecard is hosted on an NJ.com page called Hurricane Sandy: The Recovery.
  • NJTV/Public Media NJ produced a tri-state, multi-platform, interactive town hall addressing post-Sandy recovery community issues. “Superstorm Sandy: A Live Town Hall” aired on Thursday, May 16th on NJTV, THIRTEEN, WLIW21 on Long Island and their respective websites, in collaboration with other regional media outlets, including WNYC and WHYY. The event included two panels, one in New Jersey and one in New York fielding questions from the live audience and from emails. Panelists were from a variety of sectors including private businesses, government, academia, media, and non-profit organizations. NJTV continues to produce and air ongoing hurricane recovery-related stories. The broadcast reached over 125,000 viewers and was the station’s largest multi-platform event to date (click the image at right for the video).
  • Sustainable Jersey was funded to advance participatory models for citizen and municipal engagement by creating the Sustainable Jersey Community Information & Civic Engagement Taskforce.
  • Washington Township received funding to implement a Communication Enhancement Plan to ensure effective communications with the public during emergencies. WT has extended the antenna for the township’s HAM radio and set up a wireless hotspot for its Police Department and Emergency Operations Center. WT is in the process of purchasing a digital signboard and constructing sandwich boards. Residents have been notified about where to get information during an emergency by a flyer which was included in tax bills, public meetings and promotion on the township website.

 

COMMUNITY HEALTH & ARTS: Community-Driven/Participatory Projects

Community Health

The New Jersey Recovery Fund supported grants to organizations that will provide mental health services and medical care in Ocean and Middlesex County.  These grants are being used to meet the high demands of services in these Sandy impacted areas frequently at no cost to the patients.  The services will address on going storm related stress in patients by offering counseling, improving community education tools to assist in the reduction of mental health stigma, and stationing a mobile command center equipped to be used for dental or medical examinations.

The Arts

The New Jersey Recovery Fund supports arts nonprofits that promote community healing and recovery through arts and creative expression. As neighborhoods and communities deal with displacement, blight and difficult decisions about reconstruction, the arts and creativity can play a valuable role in community healing and revitalization.

A total of six organizations received $431,000 in arts grants.

Information on the grantees is below.

  • Arts Horizons’ ‘Table Talk’ project creates a unique public forum to engage community members in civic discourse and promote healing by placing collaboratively created “conference” tables (made from doors of damaged homes) in diverse neighborhoods throughout the Asbury Park area. The public participates in open studio workshops with artist Molly Johnson. Community members of all ages learn how to carve, paint, draw, write, and embed objects on the tables.
  • The Atlantic City Ballet developed “In the Eye of The Storm,” an original, full-length ballet that explores the impact of nature on mankind and the resilience of spirit that enables people to overcome and transcend even the most devastating circumstances. The development of “In the Eye of The Storm” consisted of two components: choreographed pieces performed by professional dancers of the ballet company, and an audience participation component during which audience members work with the dancers to use movement to communicate their own Sandy experiences.  A segment of this moving ballet premiered at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on the 2013 anniversary of the storm.
  • Through its ArtHelps program, Monmouth County Arts Council (MCAC) is using various artistic endeavors, including mural painting, improvisational theater, film screenings, poetry readings, and painting workshops to help Sandy survivors process their experiences. MCAC is partnering with organizations and institutions, including Meridian Heathcare, to work with a diverse spectrum of people, ranging from young students to senior citizens in Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic Counties.
  • The Sandy Recovery Writing Project is a partnership between Playwrights Theatre (lead partner), StrangeDog Theatre, Enspirited Projects, and Walter Rodriguez Photography. It is a three-pronged project to provide artists-in-the-schools, multi-genre professional readings, and community writing projects in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
  • The Jewish Renaissance Foundation/Raritan Arts Collaborative is working with students on documentary film-making within the context of Creative Placemaking to document and process their experiences. Students will gain experience in the various skillsets necessary to produce a documentary film including script writing, interviewing, camera operation, and video lighting.
  • Young Audiences of New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania are providing arts experiences for school-aged children, their teachers and families, in order to comprehend loss, process memories and envision the future.  An example of the impact of this programming was captured in this article.