Support for CGIU 2017
Title: Be the Change Kean University
Dr. Norma Bowe
Newark, the largest city in New Jersey has a crime rate five times the national average (46 crimes per one thousand residents). Newark has 3.65 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. National standards call for 325-500 acres for a population of this size. Be the Change N.J at Kean University is engaged in peace efforts by adopting vacant lots in dangerous Newark neighborhoods and turning them into gardens or playgrounds. These projects address urban challenges such as food deserts and crime. We have seen a significant decrease in violent crime around the peace gardens. Jessica Fernandez, Darnell Felder and Denise Winkle are applying to go to CGIU. After receiving an Employee Impact Grant from the company Neuberger Berman, a pilot project using vertical garden design was launched in June 2015. The stacked design allows for forty plants to grow in only eight feet of space. The vertical gardens have a self-watering unit with a submersible water pump making them green and sustainable. Vertical gardens offer an increased accessibility to food sources for urban residents. Five pilots (2016) were conducted in New Jersey and one in Kosovo at a battered women’s shelter. In Kosovo, the garden also serves as a therapeutic milieu. The group is expanding the scope to include vertical gardens in five domestic violence shelters (4 in NJ and one in Roanoke Virginia) and then collect data on gardening and the mitigation of PTSD. The Roanoke location was chosen because a women in the shelter was so battered that she couldn’t bend down to garden. The tower design is perfect for her. Be The Change also created “murder maps” of each ward in Newark. These maps reflect homicides from 2011-2015. The 2016 data will be released to the group in June 2017. Deaths are recorded by age, race, gender and cause of death. The homicide data was collected at the Newark Regional Medical Examiner’s office. We are using these maps to plan for future community and garden peace projects.