Convening the Community
Foreign born residents comprise 36% of Stamford’s total population, and accelerating their economic and social integration has been the strategic goal of the Partnership’s Immigration Task Force. In Fall, 2009 the Partnership invited interested community members to learn more about Neighbors Link, a nationally recognized model for successfully integrating immigrant families, and to explore the feasibility of bringing its programs to the greater Stamford area. More than 150 residents and community resource providers gathered to hear Neighbors Link’s Executive Director Carola Bracco outline its mission to educate, empower and employ newcomers. In January, a Neighbors Link Stamford Initiative was formed, with six working committees harnessing the talents of more than 50 active volunteers whose goal is to establish an Neighbors Link affiliate in Stamford and prepare to open a comprehensive community center using its model by year’s end. For more information on the Neighbors Link Stamford Initiative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout the year, over five hundred interested residents joined experts from around the globe and the region to explore the issues and opportunities which will shape Stamford’s future. Noting Stamford’s history of successful self-reinventions, Kip Bergstrom described the project as series of conversations about how the city might emerge from the recession stronger and more resilient. From climate change to immigration, from workforce education to innovation, from place-making to transportation, Partnership staff and board members helped to lead panel presentations, facilitate working group discussions, create recommendations and nurture new ideas into action..
Bergstrom’s “Pivot Point” publication summarized the year’s discussions and charted the transition to action in 2010, as project teams in transportation, education, environment and technology collaborate in bringing those ideas to fruition. Click on the icon to learn more or join one of the teams in progress.
With millions of dollars riding on an accurate Census count, the City of Stamford asked the Partnership to coordinate its 2010 Census outreach and public education activities. The Complete Count Committee, led by Program Manager Julia Wade, took advantage of the Partnership’s broad network in the Stamford community, engaging virtually every public private, faith and civic organization to participate in the effort.
As part of the Committee’s efforts to engage “hard to count” populations, Partnership Outreach Specialist Lucas Romero helped develop a campaign to educate day workers about how Census data determines funding for the services they use, while an interactive map helped the Committee track overall response rates by Census tract. The Brookings Institute estimates that $1.2 B in federal funding to Fairfield County in 2008 was determined in whole or in part based on Census data. 2010 Census population figures will be available Spring 2011. Click on the icon for more information.
Growing Business and Workforce Opportunities
To help young workers aged 18-24 successfully access anticipated job opportunities in the expanding fields of allied health, green building technologies and home communications networks, Stamford Partnership joined forces with training providers and employers across the Westchester-Fairfield labor region. Funded through a Dept. of Commerce Workforce Innovation and Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant, the highly motivated trainees qualified for nationally recognized credentials and job shadowing / internship / job opportunities in their fields after completing 50 to 128 hours of coursework and testing. Partnership staff recruited 40 Fairfield County youth for the program, provided support ranging from transportation to tutoring, and used our network of contacts to engage employers and training sites including Stamford Hospital.
When the Partnership first brought Student Conservation Association to Stamford two years ago, it piloted a summer internship experience for Stamford’s high school students that provided a welcome stipend, marketable skills, a deep sense of pride in their highly visible improvements to our parks and open spaces—and piqued their interest in college and career opportunities in conservation and environmental sustainability. Summer 2009 saw the program’s Stamford expansion to 41 students whose exposure to “green” jobs’ sites included the Water Pollution Control Authority and LEED-certified Metro Green residential development. Building on its Stamford experience, SCA has begun high school conservation internship programs in both Greenwich and Bridgeport. Impacted by budget cuts, the Summer 2010 program in Stamford will be smaller but SCA will continue to develop the next generation of environmental stewards throughout the region. Click on the icon to learn more.
Building on the Partnership’s commitment to bridging neighborhoods, day laborer outreach continued its ESL for Work program, now housed in the New Covenant House at the Yerwood Center. Crisol, whose mission is to support day laborers, is working with the Partnership to educate the broader Stamford community to the city’s changing demographics through community meetings, film showings depicting the challenges immigrants face, and art exhibits celebrating Latino artists .
Strengthening Key Community Institutions
"Eds and Meds" Recognizing their potential to enhance the city's quality of life, the Partnership has been active in working to expand programs and facilities of its "eds and meds"—UConn Stamford and Stamford Hospital.
Stamford Hospital's commitment to long term, major investment in state of the art health care facilities at its West Side campus location provided the Partnership with the opportunity to bring hospital and neighborhood planning efforts together during the past year to heighten their impact. Among the successes: a new entrance to the hospital campus from Stillwater Avenue, contributing to the revitalization of that commercial corridor; newly renovated housing on Stephen Street, a first step towards serving the university student/young professional market; an active role for the hospital in the WSNRZ.
At UConn, Partnership CEO Walsh joined university, city and private sector colleagues comprising a UConn Garage Study Task Force responding to legislation introduced by Rep. Jim Shapiro. Challenging UConn to identify the highest and best use of its 3-acre garage site overlooking Mill River Park, the legislation provided the opportunity to examine the UConn’s plans for the expansion of programs and facilities at the regional campus.
Supporting mixed use, transit-oriented development projects which provide housing opportunities for hospital workforce, students and young professionals, teachers and non-profit sector staffers, Walsh provided written and oral testimony before city planning and zoning boards on several occasions during the year. In March, the Partnership’s board reviewed the city’s affordable housing accomplishments, identified opportunities for additional action and recommended reconvening its Housing Task Force to focus on accelerating its development.
Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods
Multi-year revitalization efforts in the city’s South End, Waterside, East Side and West Side neighborhoods showed highly visible results during this year, despite the economic downturn. In the South End, major new construction activities by Malkin Properties and BLT brought transit oriented development including affordable and market rate housing, office and infrastructure. In Waterside, Charter Oak Communities’ Southwood Square continues to bring high quality affordable housing and a strong sense of community to its residents, complementing the Waterside Coalition’s business development activities.
On the East Side, the new LEED-certified Rogers School models sustainable development while DOMUS and CLC deliver enhanced educational and community services from their new Lockwood Avenue setting. The East Side Partnership has joined forces with the URC to explore the creation of a transit improvement district around a hoped-for East Side train station, one of several transportation and place-making initiatives growing out of the Reinventing Stamford discussions.
On the West Side, Charter Oak Communities’ completed Fairgate development adds both mixed income residential and retail space, jumpstarting the Stillwater Corridor Implementation Plan which Partnership staff and WSNRZ members helped to create. Along West Main Street, affordable in-fill housing projects sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and Mutual Housing Assn. are in construction. Most recently, the Partnership has helped convene stakeholders to participate in traffic improvement and planning studies currently underway.
Now in its third year, the Partnership’s efforts to expand low income Stamford residents’ access to Earned Income and Child Care Tax Credits through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has grown to provide public education and marketing support for the city’s Tax Aid sites serving seniors as well. At the January 2010 EITC Day press conference launching the opening of these free tax preparation center, Partnership board member Laure Aubuchon, Stamford’s Director of Economic Development, credited the tax credits with making the difference between economic stability and hardship for some families. IRS reports 1,436 returns handled by eight VITA and Tax-Aide sites returning $1,761,371, including $607,000 in tax credits, to Stamford’s local economy. Click on the icon for more information.
Targeting middle school students who will be the first in their families to attend college, the University Pals program developed by UConn’s Dr. Michael Ego has enjoyed widespread community support since its inception. Partnership President Kathleen Walsh is among several of its board members offering electives to its incoming students and “alumni” returning for enrichment programs each summer. Her “What Makes a Great City?” course exposes students to critical thinking about the built environment with guest speakers highlighting careers in urban design-related fields. In Summer 2009, she and intern Danielle Chacra led the alumni on a week-long exploration of “Financial Literacy” topics, using an FDIC-approved curriculum. Click on the icon for more information.
Partnership staffer Juan David Paniagua and a talented design committee launched Somos Vecinos (We Are Neighbors), an educational resource series in graphic novella format targeting Latino families. Somos Vecinos storyline shows its characters in typical family, school and community scenarios, illustrating successful and unsuccessful behaviors in each. Initially distributed through CLC, community organizations and churches as a discussion resource, a Stamford Public Schools curriculum is planned for the elementary schools. . Fairfield County Community Foundation, St. John’s Community Foundation and First County Bank Foundation provided start-up funding for the project. Click on the icon for the electronic version of Somos Vecinos 2.