Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


Build It Green Initiative

Reducing combined sewer outflows while making neighborhoods and downtowns better places to live, work, and invest.

Twenty-one New Jersey cities face a monumental challenge: to upgrade dysfunctional combined sewer overflow (CSO) systems without jeopardizing budding revitalization activities and other pressing community initiatives.  Since 2014 New Jersey Future has mobilized resources to help catalyze innovative CSO solutions that can strengthen and enrich host communities.


Our work has led to the establishment of the cross-sector collaborative Jersey Water Works, which has enlisted hundreds of members in advancing  “Smart Infrastructure. Strong Communities” statewide.

In 2015 New Jersey Future joined with design+finance firm re:focus partners to create the Build it Green (BIG) Initiative, a project to help New Jersey communities design, finance, and implement integrated projects aimed at addressing CSOs alongside other urgent community priorities.

The BIG Initiative launched a design competition in March 2016 for New Jersey cities interested in obtaining technical assistance to address local challenges.  Eight cities submitted proposals, and the selection of three communities was announced in May 2016.

re:focus partners, with design and analytical support from SCAPE, began an intensive nine-month technical assistance process to help each city design financeable, integrated CSO projects and pursue immediate funding opportunities.  In the final report, Small Cities with Big-City Infrastructure Problems; Three Case Studies In Stormwater Infrastructure Innovation re:focus partners describes the approach pursued in each community:

  • Reducing flooding as a barrier to economic development in Gloucester City
  • Mitigating storm surge risk in concert with CSO system retrofits in Jersey City
  • Enhancing pedestrian safety, health and education with green infrastructure in Perth Amboy

The report offers general insights, lessons learned, and recommendations applicable to anyone interested in helping small cities address big infrastructure challenges. To inspire other local officials struggling to address CSO challenges, re:focus and SCAPE created the Field Guide to CSO+: A Strategy for Aligning Priorities & Tactics for Unlocking Resources. The guide includes a discussion aid to help local officials explore integrated infrastructure solutions, identify nontraditional funding/financing resources and outline implementation steps.

Through their national work on the RE.invest Initiative and the Build It Green Initiative in New Jersey, re:focus partners additionally developed recommendations for how they think funders, investors, philanthropies and impact investors can change the game for green infrastructure investment in thousands of small cities. Read more in their Open Letter to Infrastructure Funders and Investors.

As the state-level coordinator of Build It Green, New Jersey Future has been connecting  the BIG team and its resources with New Jersey communities and their partners. It organized a workshop for members of the state’s CSO Permittee Network to learn strategies for spurring near-term action on CSOs from re:focus partners. As co-chair and chief engineer of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority Fred Pocci reminded members that they should be concerned not only with planning for CSO upgrades, but also with implementation.

He explained, “We have to make a plan but we also have to be aware of how we’ll solve a problem.”


New Jersey Future’s Redevelopment Forum hosted BIG team members from re:focus and SCAPE and representatives from the three cities for a lively panel discussion on “Small City Solutions to Big CIty Infrastructure Challenges.”

The BIG Team applauds the New Jersey local leaders who have taken on innovative approaches to stormwater management.

“Gloucester City is on the path to identifying solutions to the chronic flooding in our industrial area, thanks to the technical assistance from the Build It Green team,” said Gloucester Mayor William James. “We are eager to design projects that manage stormwater and support job creation.”

“Perth Amboy is committed to rebuilding 2nd Street to reduce combined sewer overflows and create an attractive, safe corridor for our families and students,” said Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz. “Thanks to the Build It Green team, we are now prepared to apply to the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust for construction funding and we look forward to working towards implementation.”

“Jersey City has taken a leading role in considering innovative approaches for integrating our redevelopment efforts with much-needed water infrastructure upgrades,” said Jersey City Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil. “By doing so, we’ve taken a big first step in exploring how to protect Jersey City residents and our critical assets from the type of devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.”

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Jersey Health Initiatives have generously supported the Build It Green Initiative with funding and thought leadership.

© New Jersey Future, 16 W. Lafayette St. • Trenton, NJ 08608 • Phone: 609-393-0008 • Fax: 609-360-8478

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