“Promise Land” Illuminates Newhallville
by Andy Ross | Feb 19, 2013 12:17 am
Posted to: Citizen Contributions
The Promise Land project was conceived in 2010 by Pastor Minister Donald Morris, the Executive Director of Newhallville’s Christian Community Commission. His vision was to adopt the most crime-ridden blocks in Newhallville and improve them for the betterment of our entire city. The promise made by the initiative was simple: bring much-needed attention to the Newhallville community in the form of multifaceted, practical assistance to residents while reducing crime and beautifying the area.
The Launch of the Promise Land Project
The area the group adopted runs from Ivy to Dixwell, Ivy to Winchester, Winchester to Shelton Ave, and back up to Bassett Street. Last August, the first annual Promise Land Festival was held at Bassett Lincoln School. A number of nonprofit organizations and city agencies were on hand to offer assistance and information to area residents. Vendors also came to the festival to share everything from arts and crafts to BBQ sandwiches.
Over time, 20 area churches joined the group, making the Promise Land more known and accepted by the residents while increasing its visibility. Residents were made more aware of their neighbors as well as the various social, economic, and health care services available to them. They were also put in touch with area churches ready to counsel anyone with spiritual or other needs.
With bullhorn in hand, Minister Morris (pictured above) and other group leaders relentlessly and tirelessly took to the streets every Saturday at noon – shouting out their prayers for the area and its inhabitants. Soon there were community clean-up days and mentoring programs for area students. Bike ride excursions and daytime fishing trips were arranged for kids during the summertime school break.
Three years later, through laser-like focus on the area, the group has claimed victory in reducing the number of homicides, drive-by shootings, and incidents of domestic violence.
Shedding Light on the Problem
Then a blessing came to the Promise Land organization in the form of Allan Kendrix (pictured), who was moved by an article he saw in the New Haven Register in early 2011 about how 22 black men, most from Newhallville, were killed a year earlier. Kendrix, a Lay Chaplin at the Church of the Redeemer in Newhallvile, asked his pastor, Shelly Stackhouse ,where in the community he should begin to help. Pastor Stackhouse pointed him in the direction of the Pastor Morris and soon Kendrix devised an initiative called Project Lighten Up.
Kendrix believes in an urban development philosophy known as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design that has gained national traction in recent years. Part of that philosophy is that illuminating neighborhoods makes them healthier and safer. So with the full support of the Promise Land group he began pressuring the city to install high intensity streetlights on the neighborhood’s most under-lit and dangerous streets. After working with the city and key players including the New Haven engineering department and Stephan Creminn-Endes, a community organizer for Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven, Kendrix was successful. But it was a long, challenging process.
A Model of City and Citizen Collaboration
“I initially spoke with Seb Sadourian from Neighborhood Housing Services, who is now a dear friend of mine,” explains Kendrix. “I suggested that the Promise Land collaborative and UCC churches could do fundraising to buy the lights and donate them to the city.”
City engineering took the idea to the Aldermen who summarily rejected it. But later the engineering department did find the money to install the 14 new LED lights on Lilac Street.
“Assistant Chief Thaddeus Reddish – who was at that time Newhallville District Manager, Pastor Morris, and I chose Lilac Street because it was just two blocks long but did have a lot of violent crime.” Crime fell by approximately 50 percent after the lights were installed.
Then city engineering Project Manager Giovanni Zinn was able to procure funding for 240 additional lights through two grants. Bassett, Brewster, Lilac, Ivy, Hazel, Star, Thompson, Division, Highland, Sheffield, Winchester, Newhallville, and Shelton streets will all get new high intensity lights, with installation expected by the end of February.
The city plans to convert all the lights in the city, but this time those neighborhoods who typically come last are going to get their lights first. City engineering credits us The Promise Land Collaborative for its hard work, as does the mayor who said at a press conference about the lights “Sometimes we lead by following.”
Zinn described the effort and its success as a great collaboration between the Promise Land Group and the city. Pastor Morris agrees, saying that “None of this would be possible if we did not have the collaboration of many churches, nonprofits, and city agencies.”
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