New Community Corporation founder Monsignor William J. Linder is one of the country’s leading urban visionaries, a trailblazer within his generation, and a founding member of the American Community Development movement. He has made an incredibly positive mark on Newark, the city that has been his home for over 50 years.
After the summer riots of 1967 devastated much of the Central Ward of Newark, Monsignor William J. Linder founded the nonprofit New Community Corporation. The mission was to improve the lives of inner-city residents to reflect individual God-given dignity and personal achievement. Beginning on just two acres of land, NCC would ultimately evolve into a community of people sharing and caring for one another on a 45-acre tract encompassing 14 city blocks in the heart of the former riot-torn Central Ward of Newark. To this day, a small green house serves as the logo for New Community, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive community development agencies in the nation.
As a young priest based at Queen of Angels parish in Newark, Monsignor Linder essentially set out to create a “city within a city,” with the initial focus on housing and economic development. Today, NCC owns and operates about 1,700 units of affordable housing for seniors and families in Newark, Orange and Jersey City. But Monsignor realized long ago that a holistic approach to community development must involve more than just bricks and mortar. New Community’s other facilities and programs include Harmony House, a 102-apartment transitional housing facility for homeless families; Extended Care Facility, a 180-bed skilled nursing facility; A Better Life, a housing facility to serve the chronically homeless; Family Service Bureau of Newark, NCC’s mental health component; two Early Learning Centers serving youngsters from infancy to preschool; a Workforce Development Center that offers programs in automotive, culinary arts, building trades and health care; and an Adult Learning Center with courses in GED, English for Speakers of Other Languages and basic citizenship.
Born in Jersey City on June 5, 1936, Monsignor grew up in West New York and enrolled in Manhattan College to study engineering in 1954. However, halfway through his freshman year, Monsignor’s father suddenly died at age 53. Monsignor finished the semester at Manhattan College and then spent the next two years at Seton Hall University studying classical language and philosophy. In the fall of 1958, he entered the Immaculate Conception Seminary, where he spent his next six years. Monsignor was ordained as a priest on May 25, 1963. At age 27, Monsignor received his pastoral assignment for the all-black parish called Queen of Angels in Newark, and founded New Community with a small group of community-minded residents in 1968. In 1973, Monsignor was abruptly removed from
Queen of Angels and exiled to the dormant St. Joseph Parish in Newark. In 1974, he was reassigned to St. Rose of Lima Parish in the Roseville section of Newark, where he became its pastor in 1977. Monsignor retired as pastor of St. Rose of Lima in 2012 at age 76. He is currently the president of the New Community Corporation Board of Directors and remains active within the organization.
Monsignor holds an AB in Sociology from Seton Hall University, an MA and Ph.D. in Sociology from Fordham University and honorary degrees from 10 institutions of higher education. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from Fordham University in 1988. He has received numerous honors, including Person of the Week from ABC World News Tonight; McArthur Foundation Fellows Award; Governor’s Gold Medal (NJ); Rudy Bruner Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment and the Entrepreneurial American Leaders Award; and the 2007 Project of the Year HOPE Award from the National Association of Realtors.
Monsignor has lectured all over the world to those interested in the community development movement, including a two-week teaching engagement at the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. He served as adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University for seven years. New Community has hosted about 25 visits from the non-government sector of foreign countries each year. In addition, the U.S. Department of Commerce employed NCC to develop the Non-Government Sector in Northern Ireland as part of the peace process in that country. That was under the leadership of President Bill Clinton and Mrs. Hillary Clinton.
Educating young people has always been important to Monsignor. The Monsignor William J. Linder Scholarship helps pay for high school students to attend area Catholic schools. He’s also been involved in area charter schools.
Monsignor released his memoir, Out of the Ashes Came Hope, with Gilda Rogers in 2016. The pair is currently working on a second book.