Stories

Submitted by Alex Sanders on

The Northeast Neighborhood Partnership (NNP) just completed the final scope of its Northeast Neighborhood Sustainability Plan - Health Impact Assessment (NNSP-HIA), an effort that will improve public spaces in the neighborhood to positively impact the health, safety and economic opportunities of residents.

Submitted by Alex Sanders on
Northeast Hartford, Connecticut is among the least healthy neighborhoods in one of America’s poorest cities, but our Northeast Neighborhood Partnership (NNP) is working to change that. With the goal of reducing unnecessary hospital utilization among residents and improving their access to primary care, we are leading the development of a local sustainability plan informed by a health impact assessment (HIA).
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This summer, six students from the Northeast neighborhood of Hartford are getting their hands dirty as urban farming interns.

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Greg Jackson, the late founding director of the Brownsville Partnership, described with nostalgia the Brownsville, Brooklyn he knew as a child. He recalled regular “rent parties,” during which neighbors chipped in to help out those who had lost a job or fallen ill, and how residents literally pooled their pennies in collection jars to build the Brownsville Boys Club (which later became the Brownsville Recreation Center) to invest in the future of their young people.

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Four times a week, several dozen Northeast Hartford residents can be seen high-kicking their legs and line dancing across the floors of the Salvation Army. They call themselves the Healthy Northeast Challenge and they are the Northeast neighborhood’s version of the Biggest Loser.

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What does resident-led community transformation look like? Residents of Northeast Hartford, who previously only imagined additions to their neighborhood like more jobs, improved access to healthy food, and attractive public spaces are not only watching those things become a reality, they are also shaping solutions for their own neighborhood.

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The Factory

Once the economic engine of the Northeast neighborhood of Hartford, the former M. Swift & Sons Gold Leaf factory now sits vacant. Years of sitting empty has led to broken windows, overgrown weeds and the factory complex teetering toward blight.. In late 2010, the Swift family donated the factory to Northeast Neighborhood Partners, Inc. (NNPI), a Hartford-based nonprofit organization. NNPI and Community Solutions are redeveloping the factory complex to jumpstart investment in Northeast, preserve an important neighborhood landmark, create dozens of permanent jobs, and improve neighbors’ access to healthy food. Design and environmental engineering work is underway, and project financing is being secured, with the goal of beginning renovations in 2013.  While the long-term plan unfolds, neighbors and partners are already going to work to transform the Swift property.

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Northeast Hartford is a place of contradictions, seemingly equal parts opportunities and obstacles. Walking through the neighborhood, one stumbles along crumbling sidewalks under broken streetlights, then finds groups of engaging young people gathered at street corners, energetic but bored. A large historic park provides hundreds of acres of green space, but it is seldom used, as fear of crime keeps residents traveling their own well-worn routes. Two and three-family homes line the streets, many long in need of repair.

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Maya Acharya
[email protected]

Community Solutions
60 Broad St. 
Suite 2510A
New York, NY 10004
702.523.1830