Born Out Of Destruction, A Will To Rebuild
New Community was born in 1968 from disorder, poverty and despair. The organization, founded by Father Linder and a dedicated group of associates that met at Queen of Angels Church, where he was a young parish priest, had no money and no political influence. It faced overwhelming odds against success.
The original NCC Board of Directors included Willie Wright, President; Timothy Still, Vice President; Elma Bateman, Secretary; Arthur J. Bray, Msgr. Thomas J. Carey, Joseph Chaneyfield, Robert Curvin, Kenneth Gibson and Father Linder.
A Bold Yet Simple Vision
Their goal was simple and bold: to develop safe, decent and attractive housing for poor residents in a new community within the Central Ward. They sought to use the new housing to spur neighborhood revitalization. To promote interest and pride, they developed a process for community participation in developing the new housing, including actively involving residents in the design process.
They proposed developing a 45-acre tract–South Orange Avenue to the north, 15th Avenue to the south, Jones Street (now Irvine Turner Boulevard) to the east and Bergen Street to the west—covering fourteen city blocks in the heart of the Central Ward.
NCC began by purchasing two acres of land. The Board envisioned the development of this land as a small beginning, which would have a significant impact. “The two acres—and from them the entire 45—will stand as a symbol of a community that rebuilt itself physically and spiritually,” the board wrote at the time.
The early days brought severe challenges. There were numerous confrontations with black nationalist and activists who were acquiring a large local following. White conservatives, who were anxious to block political or economic gains by blacks, objected to NCC’s efforts to improve life in the Central Ward and to its visible attempts to oppose their racially inflammatory tactics.
There were few models for the kind of resident-led community development NCC was trying to achieve. It took years of struggle to develop housing plans that would be approved by state and federal authorities, to secure financing for construction, and to cultivate skills members would need to undertake the complex task of housing development.