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Making Women’s History Every Month – Meet the Women Board Members at New Jersey Future

March 29th, 2024 by Susan O'Connor

When women are involved in urban planning, they plan for all, according to Women Mobilize Women, a worldwide network of changemakers seeking to transform the mobility sector to become more diverse and to raise awareness on the topic of gender and transport amongst planners and decision-makers in the sector.

In honor of Women’s History Month, New Jersey Future had the opportunity to interview some amazing women on our Board of Trustees. We asked them about their experiences in the industries that represent, promote, and/or plan smart land use and growth policies and sustainability practices for resilient communities and a strong economy for everyone. 

It was a privilege to hear directly from these women, who built lasting networks, honoring their trailblazing women mentors, advising the next generation of women leaders, and making a better Garden State for all. Each of their experiences, wealth of knowledge, and passion could make for their own blog posts, and we invite you to discover more about them.

None of us can do this all alone – Success comes from the power of women networks.

“Women influenced my interest in placemaking. It’s important to respect where we are and that these places are the beginning of community,” explains Ingrid W. Reed, Co-Founder of New Jersey Future in 1987 and former director of the New Jersey Project, Eagleton Institute of Politics. “It was growing up in Vineland, NJ, that I first became interested in placemaking. Vineland is a combination of what worked, matching older places with the spread that was taking place.”

Ms. Reed moved to Princeton in 1965 and was the recorder of planning meetings for the League of Women Voters. “The women in my community became more involved in town planning and started trading babysitting time so that we could be part of these discussions,” Ms. Reed reflected. “We wanted a say in the extension of US Route 1 and knew decision-making was in the hands of elected officials. The state controlled Route 1, and we wanted to influence the power structure on how it was going to be developed in our community. All along the way, women made a big difference in seeing the relevance of the questions being raised at the fast growth.”

At the time, no women served on boards of the counties, but all that changed in 1970 when Ms. Reed came on Mercer County Executive’s Planning board and remained for over 20 years. Around that time, she began organizing a group of concerned citizens that met in the basement of the Woodrow Wilson Institute. It was the start of discussions on New Jersey’s State Plan, and they knew they had to get involved by having their own informed conversations, as citizens were doing in Oregon and Florida. She reflects on that time fondly when the seeds of New Jersey Future were sown, all over quiche dinners. 

“Region is as important as the individual town you’re living in,” states Ms. Reed. “How you’re growing also emphasizes what kind of infrastructure you have to support that. It was when they opened up development along the Hopewell Corridor that I got involved in conservation and joined the board of the Watershed Institute.”

Ms. Reed talked about the women trailblazers she’s known that have had an impact on New Jersey, including:

Ms. Reed also credits the successful work of our program, Jersey Water Works, with women at the forefront, including NJF’s Board of Trustees, the NJF team that continues to run it, and the many partnerships that we’ve built over the years. 

“Today it’s very different,” expressed Ms. Reed. “While it’s still a man’s world in some ways with their access to credit, bank connections, and investment from the private side, I am delighted to see more and more women in placemaking careers and in elected office for our state.”

Women, be open-minded about where the world of planning can take you.

“After 20 years in this industry and being between generations, Gen X and Millennials, I’ve started to see the shift in the workplace,” states Meishka L. Mitchell, President & CEO of Emerald Cities Collaborative and Board of Trustees Chair of New Jersey Future. “My staff is predominantly women of color. While there are still white, male-dominated spaces, there are more and more spaces where I’m seeing women involved in work for societal improvement. Planners are working in traditional planning firms, but also in nonprofits, consulting, and government.”

Ms. Mitchell is proud of the mission of Emerald Cities Collaborative, working with minority and women-owned businesses, helping them transition to a green economy, especially those struggling to get into the mainstream. The nonprofit teaches contractors about energy efficiency and the renewable sector, provides comprehensive business support, and helps them find clean energy contracting opportunities. “We ask ourselves, how do we give them the tools to be ready for a just transition to clean energy, for federal incentive programs, to bid on government contracts, and to build wealth in their community?”

Regarding advice for the next generation of women planners, Ms. Mitchell feels we may already have an advantage because of the expansive worldviews that women often bring to the workplace. “Cities were historically built for men, but we need to open that view to include consideration for those who need accessibility, such as neighborhoods for children, parents, the elderly, and other needs. Women often bring those additional perspectives, and those skills are needed in sustainability, social services, and government.”

Ms. Mitchell continued, “I’m happy to see a new culture of work that includes self-care and putting yourself first. It’s an amazing shift. After so many years of being in this industry, especially as a woman, a black woman, balancing work and family, you often put yourself last. But I see this slow shift of women having a different relationship with work. They are taking time off and not burning out. The new generation shows us how we’ve been doing it wrong. It doesn’t have to involve sacrificing ourselves.”

Above all, approach life responsibly, grow responsibly, and consider sustainability in all aspects of life.

While we reached out to all the women on New Jersey Future’s Board of Trustees, Jane M. Kenny, Founder and Managing Partner of The Whitman Strategy Group LLC, stressed the importance of interviewing Katie Feery, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Sustainability at New Jersey Resources. Katie knows all about green jobs and meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals. 

Ms. Feery is responsible for the publication of the Annual Corporate Sustainability Report from New Jersey Resources, the state’s largest developer of renewable energy. “It’s part of our guiding principles,” explains Ms. Feery. “Reporting out transparent, collective corporatewide information on our progress toward our goals and the importance of innovative energy solutions and responsible development. This annual comprehensive report also covers the many engagement channels of New Jersey Resources, our approach to sustainability, environmental issues, and our social responsibility.”

Ms. Feery is also proud to be on the Advisory Board for the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State University. The Institute supports transdisciplinary research and community projects that grow more resilient communities globally. Through partnerships with New Jersey-based and multi-national corporations and organizations, they address local and global sustainability challenges, including climate change, emissions, energy, clean water, waste, food, and food insecurity.

“I see a lot of women in the field of sustainability and less in the traditional energy industry,” states Ms. Feery. “My advice to those entering the field is to take advantage of the growing focus on data – what gets measured, gets done. Figure out what we’re striving for and what’s inspiring you as an individual.

“How do women plan?” she continued. “We plan for future generations. We have diverse perspectives that help us to keep others in mind.”

Among her mentors, Ms. Feery counts New Jersey Future’s former board member Kathleen Ellis, a former colleague at New Jersey Resources and the first woman to hold the post of chief operating officer at New Jersey Natural Gas.

As a follow-up, Ms. Feery shared Sustainability Magazine’s article. Sustainability Paves Way for More Women in C-Suite Roles.


I would love to see more women involved. More voices in a community’s master plan will result in better zoning.

“While I always wanted to ‘save the trees’ and do environmental policy, I didn’t know there was a thing called a ‘planner,’” shares Elizabeth (Beth) McManus, Principal of Kyle + McManus Associates. “I was somewhat interested in water issues and pollution, but when my professor talked about sprawl, that’s when it really changed for me, and I wanted to learn all I could possibly know.”

Ms. McManus has over 20 years of experience in public and private sector planning. She prepares planning studies for various municipal and private clients and advises municipal planning boards, zoning boards, and governing bodies on public policy and land development practice. Ms. McManus has extensive experience serving as Special Master for the New Jersey Superior Court in more than 40 cases where municipalities seek review and approval of their housing plans. 

Even with this prestigious background and experience, Ms. McManus notes, “nearly every boss I have ever worked for and had to fill in during a meeting has been a man. Now, my business partner is a man, and we sometimes fill in for each other. Countless times, the reaction I get when I walk into a room and say, ‘I’m here in place of so-and-so’ is ‘You’re much prettier than him.’

“Another weird thing is that some men, always older, claim they don’t recognize me when I wear my hair down. Not sure which is worse – that they don’t actually recognize me or that they say that.”

Ms. McManus continues, “I understand the demographics have been that white men have been in this longer. A lot of times, I’m the only woman in the room, and when I’m assumed to be someone’s secretary, I do get over it because you have to have tough skin. That said, I am pleased to see more women entering the field every year.”

When it comes to advice for the next generation of women, Ms. McManus explains, “know the reality of long hours, and late nights, in this field. I’m out up to four nights a week, sometimes until 10 or 11 p.m. I’m not a parent, but I can imagine how difficult this job would be if you don’t have flexibility in your personal life. My schedule is unpredictable, and often meetings get canceled last minute, and I’m already on my way. But, the night meetings are exciting – it’s where your work and effort gets realized.”

Where does Ms. McManus see more job opportunities? “It is a very progressive field, especially in affordable housing. I’m proud of our state because we are one of the few that require affordable housing. Also, like New Jersey Future, my values are to work on real infrastructure issues and provide a voice for those in our communities.”

Be resilient. In any career, you will encounter challenges and setbacks, but it is important to remain passionate about your goals and persevere in your efforts to make positive change.

“My inspiration for being in the urban policy field is rooted in what I believe is my sense of responsibility to contribute to the betterment of communities,” states Tenisha N. Malcolm-Wint, Director, Urban Mayors Policy Center, John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy & Research at Kean University. “I believe my lived experience and that of my immediate family contribute in large and small ways of influencing the decision-making processes and shaping the direction of government actions.”

Ms. Malcolm-Wint commented, “I don’t see as many women as I’d like in this field, and I attribute that to the absence of visible and authentic female leaders. This void can make it challenging for aspiring women to envision themselves succeeding in these fields.

When offering key advice for emerging women leaders, she suggests “staying informed on trends, current challenges, and innovative solutions through podcasts, books, articles, documentaries, and online resources. Another way is to participate in local community initiatives, volunteer for organizations working on urban development or environmental issues, and attend relevant events.” She continued, “This hands-on experience will provide valuable insights and networking opportunities.”

Ms. Malcolm-Wint also has extensive experience working with nonprofits involved in conservation, including being a former Director of Cities Programs for The Nature Conservancy. She is also the Founder and Chief Outdoor Experience Officer (COEO) of Outdoors On Purpose, a hiking community developed to encourage all people to find respite and joy outdoors. 

“I’ve always had a deep love for the outdoors!” she exclaims. “When the pandemic hit, and I found myself with more time and flexibility, I made a conscious decision to spend as much time outdoors as possible, both for my physical well-being and as a means to combat Zoom fatigue. What started as a personal commitment quickly evolved as friends and family began to join me, and it became a movement. It’s been a journey filled with organic growth and the pure delight of sharing experiences in the great outdoors with like-minded individuals.”

Women have a strategic way of thinking that is so valuable. They handle multiple variables and many steps – Super important in ANY industry.

Congratulations to our Board of Trustees Member Madeline Urbish on her new position as Head of Public Affairs, Region Americas at Ørsted, a leader in renewable energy. Prior to this, Ms. Urbish was Ørsted’s Head of Government Affairs and Policy for New Jersey.

“I did not intentionally get into clean energy,” shares Ms. Urbish. “I started my career working in criminal justice policy and then moved to DC to work on Capitol Hill where I was exposed to many different issues, including water resources. When I came back to New Jersey, I worked with NJ Audubon, an organization committed to connecting all people with nature and stewarding the nature of today for all people of tomorrow.

“I’m pleased to see more women entering the industry, but we still have a long way to go,” remarks Ms. Urbish. “When I attend energy conferences at both the US and global level, there are still so many more men than women.

“Advice I would give to young women entering this field is don’t hesitate to join the table and provide your feedback. Diversity brings different perspectives and different life experiences. While It’s a dynamic, fast-moving industry with technology, large-scale infrastructure takes a long time to build together. We need visionaries!”

As for her own mentors, Ms. Urbish shares how lucky she feels to have had so many incredible women as mentors in her career. In particular, Kathleen Frangione, with whom she has worked in the Governor’s Office and at Ørsted, has been an incredible mentor and friend. Additionally, Ms. Urbish reflects fondly on her time as an intern with Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “She is such a force and broke so many barriers. I gained such valuable work experience being part of her team.”

Thank you to all the remarkable women on our Board of Trustees! We are grateful for their commitment to New Jersey Future!

NJDOT’s Safe Streets to Transit Program Is Improving Communities Across the State – Yours Can Be Next

March 19th, 2024 by Zeke Weston

Simple, small-scale transportation features make a community a safer, healthier, and more affordable place to get around. In a community that values street safety, crosswalks are clearly marked and strategically placed to ensure easy and safe passage for pedestrians. Streets are lined with wide sidewalks, benches, and trees to encourage walking. Dedicated and protected bike lanes provide safe access for cyclists and scooter riders. In safe streets communities, commuters seamlessly walk to the bus stop or train station to get to work, children safely ride their bikes to school, and people of all ages and abilities confidently enjoy a stroll to the park. Through the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Safe Streets to Transit (SSTT) program, this type of community can become a reality. 

The SSTT program funds municipalities and counties to improve safety and accessibility for public transit riders walking to transit facilities. To do so, NJDOT awards municipal and county grants based on the following criteria:

  • Proximity to public transit facilities
  • Improved safety 
  • Increased accessibility 
  • Access to schools
  • Pedestrian incidents 
  • Complete streets

This year’s 22 grants represent the largest amount of funds provided in a single year by the SSTT program, $13,629,000. They will fund projects in communities ranging from towns to suburbs to cities. It’s imperative that municipalities have the proper funding to realize even simple infrastructure improvements. Every piece counts as we weave a statewide network of multimodal transportation infrastructure. With NJDOT’s next round of funding opening up in April 2024, this is a good opportunity to review examples of successfully funded projects across the state.

Longport Borough, located on Absecon Island in Atlantic County with a population of around 8001, received an SSTT grant of $1,000,000. The Longport project will make traffic-claiming improvements on Amherst, Sunset, and Winshecter avenues in the East Bayfront neighborhood. These three streets feed onto the JFK Memorial Bridge; therefore, the East Bayfront experiences high levels of fast-moving traffic2. By implementing traffic calming measures like raised sidewalks and speed tables, Longport will make the neighborhood safer for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. This will better enable East Bayfront residents to safely walk or bike to and from the NJ Transit bus stops along Ventnor Avenue in the center of Longport.

North Bergen Township, located across the river from Manhattan in northern Hudson County with a population of around 62,000, also received an SSTT grant totaling $948,000. The North Bergen project will implement safety upgrades for sidewalks and crosswalks near bus and rail stations along Bergenline Avenue from 70th Street through James J. Braddock North Hudson Park3. Bergenline Avenue is home to numerous NJ Transit bus stops; thus, the safety improvements are designed to promote the use of public transit and encourage riders to walk to their bus stops. 

The Town of Princeton in Mercer County was awarded $1,000,000 to improve pedestrian access and safety between two NJ Transit bus stops and new housing developments. With this grant, Princeton will reduce reliance on car-travel by promoting the use of public transportation through pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Princeton’s SSTT grant will enhance pedestrian safety on Terhune Road and North Harrison Street. Specifically, the project will finish the construction of an existing sidewalk network in this corridor and add new sidewalks and traffic calming measures that will make Terhune Road safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. This initiative will provide safe and equitable access to the bus stop on Terhune Road and the bus stop in the Princeton Shopping Center off North Harrison Street.


Princeton residents walking and biking to and from the NJ Transit bus stop.


Although the project’s active transportation infrastructure improvements are noteworthy, it’s not the only reason to highlight its importance. Princeton is combining the SSTT project’s safety improvements with developer-funded bicycle and pedestrian improvements between North Harrison Street and Grover Avenue. These enhancements will include new sidewalks, raised crosswalks, and a bike lane on the south side of Terhune Road. The municipality will complement the developer-funded improvements by replacing the sidewalks between North Harrison and Thanet Circle, raising an intersection, and creating a bike lane on the north side of Terhune Road. This collaboration demonstrates the potential that public-private partnerships have for making the most out of every grant opportunity for the better of the community.


The Princeton Shopping Center with the new housing development in the background.


The new nearby housing developments include affordable homes for people of low- and moderate incomes. The pedestrian improvements from the SSTT grant will help connect affordable housing to public transportation opportunities. Residents of the new housing will be able to walk to multiple NJ Transit bus stops and the shops in the Princeton Shopping Center.


New housing development near the Princeton Shopping Center.


From Princeton to Longport to North Bergen, all types of communities, big or small, urban or suburban, can benefit from NJDOT’s SSTT program, and your community can be next. NJDOT will open a new round for the SSTT in April, and applications will be accepted until July. If you are an individual who cares about street safety, now is the time to inform your municipal leaders to begin preparing an application. New Jersey Future encourages municipalities large and small to seize this opportunity and apply to NJDOT’s SSTT program when it opens in April.




Transit-Oriented Development Is Popular, but Won’t Happen by Itself

March 15th, 2024 by Tim Evans

Westfield Northside Town Square rendering from the Lord & Taylor / Train Station Redevelopment Plan which was a 2023 Smart Growth Award recipient.

New Jersey’s transit towns are experiencing something of a revival in the last decade and a half. This is an important positive development, since transit-oriented development (TOD) advances multiple societal goals. For example, TOD is an effective strategy to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, both by encouraging transit ridership (which is much more efficient on a per-traveler basis than travel by personal vehicle), and because TOD’s compact development form brings destinations closer together, shortening vehicle trips and enabling more trips to be taken without need for a car altogether. TOD’s natural focus on pedestrian accessibility, dating to an era when most transit riders arrived at the station on foot, encourages improved pedestrian and bicyclist safety. And many (though certainly not all) transit neighborhoods feature a diverse mix of housing types—single-family detached homes, but also townhouses, duplexes, apartments above stores, small apartment buildings—that enable households of many types and income levels to take advantage of the benefits of living in a place where not every trip requires a car.

New Jersey hosts nearly 2501 transit stations, spread among 153 municipalities that host at least one of them, with many towns in the transit-rich urban core of North Jersey hosting multiple stations. The state’s transit nodes include ferry terminals; major bus terminals; stations on the PATH and PATCO rapid-transit systems, which connect New Jersey with New York and Philadelphia, respectively; and a host of New Jersey Transit commuter-rail and light-rail stations. Having invested in and constructed one of the most extensive public transit networks in the country over time, New Jersey is now blessed with plenty of opportunities to facilitate TOD.

A rendering of the South Orange Taylor Vose building and 2022 Smart Growth Award recipient. The building combines transit-oriented development, affordable housing, community usage, and local business.

TOD is currently popular in New Jersey. The 153 transit-hosting municipalities grew twice as fast as the rest of the state between 2010 and 2020.

Facilitating more TOD would be a popular move among potential residents, if recent trends are any indication. The 153 transit-hosting municipalities grew twice as fast as the rest of the state between 2010 and 2020—the combined population of the transit municipalities increased by 7.7%, vs 3.4% growth for the balance of the state. Together, the transit municipalities accounted for more than two-thirds (67.6%) of total statewide population growth between 2010 and 2020, up substantially from the three previous decades, when jobs were clustering in suburban, car-dependent office parks, and when low-density residential subdivisions were the dominant form of new housing. Transit municipalities have transitioned from representing a disproportionately low share of total population growth in the prior three decades (they make up about half of total statewide population but were accounting for a much smaller share of new population growth) to now contributing a disproportionate majority of total growth.

Given the popularity of transit-oriented development, and its potential to attract and retain young adults who might otherwise leave the state, we should create more of it.

The resurgence of transit towns is one aspect of the recent shift in demand, particularly among young adults, toward compact, mixed-use, walkable places that offer a live-work-play-shop environment where not every trip requires a car. Transit-oriented development is by nature also pedestrian-oriented development, since transit riders become pedestrians the moment they step off the bus, train, or ferry. With transit stations historically serving as focal points for many of New Jersey’s cities and first-generation suburbs, important destinations clustered within easy walking distance of the station, capturing foot traffic among commuters en route to and from the station but also making non-work trips shorter and more efficient, often without needing a car, for all local residents, whether or not they were transit commuters. Transit towns are once again attractive to a new generation of residents who don’t want to drive everywhere, even if they are not regular transit riders.

Given the popularity of transit-oriented development (TOD), and particularly its potential to attract and retain young adults who might otherwise leave the state seeking similar but cheaper living environments elsewhere, New Jersey should be looking for ways to create more of it. 

Obstacles to TOD

Many transit towns have historically embraced density, with many residential and commercial destinations all located in close proximity to the transit station and to each other, allowing many trips to be taken by transit or by non-motorized means. But others more closely resemble their car-dependent suburban neighbors in terms of the variety of housing options they offer. Among the 153 transit towns are 63 municipalities in which two-thirds of the housing stock consists of single-family detached units, compared to a statewide percentage of 53.1%; in 35 of the 153, single-family detached homes comprise 75% or more of all housing stock.

In some places, local zoning does not permit the density and diversity of housing types that TOD relies on to succeed, denying needed housing options to many households in the process. A new report from the Regional Plan Association, Homes on Track: Building Thriving Communities Around Transit, finds a whole host of commuter rail stations throughout the New York metropolitan region, including in New Jersey, that require “extensive zoning changes to allow multi-family and mixed-use at appropriate densities” in order to reach their full TOD potential. To unlock that potential, the state should consider enacting zoning reforms, as Oregon, California, Montana, and numerous individual cities around the country have done to varying degrees. Among the reform techniques are TOD overlay zones that specifically allow as-of-right creation of certain alternatives to single-family housing in transit-adjacent neighborhoods, alternatives that will both boost access to transit for a greater number and variety of households, and encourage greater return on state investments in transit by growing ridership. As a further incentive for municipalities to revisit their zoning codes to allow for greater housing variety, some of these other housing options could be used to satisfy affordable housing obligations under the Mount Laurel process, which are due to be updated and are currently the subject of legislative proposals.

Minimum parking requirements are another regulation that inhibits the development of housing near transit (and everywhere, for that matter), preventing transit-rich towns from meeting demand and undermining the general principles of TOD. Parking requirements force developers to devote land to vehicle storage that might otherwise be used for more housing units, retail options, public spaces, or other more productive uses. They reduce the affordability of the units that get built by forcing developers to spend money on parking, increasing the per-unit costs. Parking lots also force buildings farther apart, undermining the benefits of density that allow people to walk safely from one destination to another and increasing the likelihood that they will drive instead, an ironic effect in neighborhoods where transit offers an alternative to driving.

Even for towns that want to promote TOD and transit ridership, transit funding is a source of uncertainty. NJ Transit does not have a dedicated source of funding, relying instead on the vagaries of the annual budget process, and on periodic (and unpopular) fare hikes. Without stable and reliable funding, transit-hosting municipalities may be reluctant to engage in planning and development focused on state-owned facilities whose long-term viability is not guaranteed. Promoting TOD without a guarantee that the state will continue to adequately fund transit service amounts to false advertising.

The town plaza in pedestrian-friendly downtown Metuchen, a notable Transit Village. Metuchen received a Smart Growth Award in 2017 for its Woodmont Metro at Metuchen Station, a project designed to help implement its Town Center Design and Development plan.

Making TOD Happen

On the positive side, state agencies offer some valuable programs and resources for transit-hosting towns that want to encourage TOD and pedestrian-friendly street networks in the adjacent neighborhoods, including:

  • The Transit Village Initiative, jointly operated by NJDOT and NJ Transit, which offers planning assistance to municipalities with transit stations that want to pursue TOD.
  • NJ Transit’s Transit Friendly Planning Guide, which contains guidelines and design principles for making a place more transit-friendly, with strategies and techniques tailored to the type of development that already surrounds the transit station; recommendations address both transportation/access and land-use characteristics.
  • NJDOT’s Complete Streets Design Guide, which provides a host of street design techniques for making streets more friendly to pedestrians and other non-motorized travelers, a goal that is particularly relevant in transit-focused communities

NJ Transit is also drafting a TOD policy to inform land-use decisions on and near property that it owns. New Jersey Future’s comments on the draft policy can be viewed here.

State and local governments need to address the policy and regulatory factors that stand in the way of providing TOD to present and future residents.

Our comments on NJ Transit’s TOD policy echo recommendations from our 2012 report Targeting Transit: Assessing Development Opportunities Around New Jersey’s Transit Stations. Most of the recommendations aimed at promoting more transit-friendly development are still relevant today, including:

  • Expand and improve the public transit system with sustainable funding. (Recent discussions about how to fund NJ Transit demonstrate that this remains an unresolved issue.)
  • Foster transit-oriented development projects on NJ Transit-owned sites. (NJ Transit’s TOD policy is an important step in this direction.)
  • Strengthen state programs that foster TOD. (This could include greater support from the Transit Village program for municipalities that agree to increase zoning density near stations.)
  • Facilitate structured parking. (This would mitigate the effect of surface parking lots pushing destinations farther apart and discouraging walking.)
  • Enlist municipal support for zoning changes. (Given recent interest, and even some successes, in other states, state-level zoning reforms should be pursued too.)
  • Foster good design to ensure attractive, pedestrian-friendly station areas. (This may entail a comprehensive review of all the disparate factors that affect how local streets get designed.)
  • Promote a range of housing options near transit.

As a transit-rich state, New Jersey is not lacking in TOD potential. Recent population growth trends indicate there is demand for more such development. State and local governments need to address the policy and regulatory factors that stand in the way of providing TOD to present and future residents.

1 The exact number depends on how you count. For example, should the Glen Rock stations on the Main and Bergen commuter rail lines count as one station or two? Or the Exchange Place stations on PATH and Hudson Bergen Light Rail, and the ferry terminal of the same name? See New Jersey Future’s 2012 report Targeting Transit: Assessing Development Opportunities Around New Jersey’s Transit Stations for a thorough description of the state’s transit systems and stations.

New Report Digs Deeper into Diversity in Morris and Monmouth Counties

January 29th, 2024 by Tim Evans

New Jersey is an expensive state, with among the highest housing costs in the country. It is also one of the most segregated states in the nation by both income and race, despite being one of the most racially diverse states overall. A new report from New Jersey Future explores the relationship between the enforcement of housing requirements, housing affordability, and racial and economic diversity, using a comparison between two demographically similar suburban counties—Morris and Monmouth—that followed different trajectories in complying with New Jersey’s affordable housing obligations. The findings of our analysis are included in “Breaking Barriers: A Comparative Analysis of Affordable Housing Compliance and Diversity in Morris and Monmouth Counties, New Jersey.”

Morris County municipalities had a head start in meeting affordable housing obligations. Our new report compares their progress to their counterparts in Monmouth County to chart New Jersey’s progress in promoting integration through affordable housing. 

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions in the 1970s and 80s took on the issue of racial segregation by addressing the lack of housing options, eventually leading to a legal requirement for every municipality in the state to provide its fair share of the regional housing need for low- and moderate-income households. But the bureaucratic process set up in the wake of the court decisions, overseen by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), featured numerous loopholes via which municipalities could shirk their responsibilities to produce actual housing units. Monmouth County’s municipalities have been governed entirely by the Mount Laurel process, while a group of Morris County municipalities were the subject of a separate lawsuit, initiated in 1978, that predated the second Mount Laurel decision, giving Morris County a head start in compliance with affordable housing obligations.

Housing costs and racial segregation go hand in hand. Many towns use their zoning power to limit the variety of housing options available, allowing primarily single-family detached homes on large lots. The resulting lack of lower-cost housing options renders many places off-limits to households of modest means, particularly Black and Hispanic households, whose incomes tend to be much lower than those for other racial subgroups. Whether motivated solely by fiscal concerns or by race- and class-based prejudices, large-lot zoning often results in segregation by both income and race.

The report considers whether Morris County’s having been the subject of an earlier, separate lawsuit appears to have resulted in the county producing more affordable housing, or achieving greater reductions in racial and economic segregation, compared to Monmouth County. Analysis suggests that the lawsuit was effective; the municipalities of Morris County have outperformed those of Monmouth County in the subsequent decades, in terms of producing new affordable housing. Morris County’s increase in affordable housing was more broad-based than in Monmouth County, happening across all municipalities and not just mainly in the handful of places that had already been providing a disproportionate share of the county’s supply before the COAH process was instituted. 

While both counties today remain whiter and wealthier than the state as a whole, Morris County increased in racial diversity and narrowed its gap with the statewide racial distribution at a faster rate than Monmouth County did between 1990 and 2020. This is particularly true with the counties’ Black populations; the Black population share increased in Morris County as a whole and in a majority of its individual municipalities (30 out of 39), while in Monmouth, the Black percentage dropped countywide and in 30 out of 53 municipalities.


While Morris County and Monmouth County both remain whiter than the state overall, Morris has closed its diversity gap with the state faster than Monmouth has.

Morris County’s better progress toward reducing racial segregation at the local level is visible in the demographics of the two counties’ high schools, where changes in the Black and Hispanic student populations tended to mirror changes in the demographics of the general population. Morris County high schools generally saw their Black student percentages increase slightly, whereas in Monmouth County, more than half of high schools saw their Black student percentages decline. Hispanic student populations grew across the board in both counties, with the median Hispanic percentage being almost identical in the two counties’ high schools in 2023, though Morris County started from a lower baseline, in relative terms, in 1990. Progress was much less pronounced in both counties regarding income diversity, however, suggesting that the Mount Laurel process alone is simply insufficient to address the housing needs of households throughout the lower and middle parts of the income distribution.


Morris County high schools generally saw their Black student percentages increase slightly, whereas in Monmouth County, the median Black student percentage among the county’s high schools actually declined.

The data examined in this report suggest that targeted enforcement of municipal requirements to produce more affordable housing actually results in more affordable housing. When presented with loopholes like those embedded in the COAH process that allow participants to evade their responsibility to provide housing options for lower-income households, many municipalities will avail themselves of the opportunity. But under more specific accountability, as illustrated by the Morris County lawsuit, towns can indeed be induced to produce a greater variety of housing options, thereby making themselves more affordable to a broader range of households and helping dismantle racial and economic barriers.

The report makes several recommendations for advancing the creation of more affordable housing, and more generally for mitigating local resistance to creating a greater diversity of housing types. Two of the recommendations are of particular interest in light of new legislation being proposed to revise or refine the Mount Laurel process:

  • Retain effective enforcement of Mount Laurel obligations: Given the effectiveness of enforcement demonstrated by the report’s findings, it is important that any new legislation retains mechanisms for ensuring municipal compliance.
  • Measure progress on affordable housing production and integration: The draft bill encourages greater transparency in how municipal affordable housing obligations are determined and how compliance is measured. Making data consistently available, both on affordable housing production and on some of the metrics of inequity that the Mount Laurel doctrine was designed to address, would advance this goal.

The report’s findings also suggest the need for a broader housing policy agenda to address affordability up and down the income spectrum. While the Mount Laurel process is a critical tool for providing homes for those most in need, the state should not rely on it exclusively as the means of making sure New Jersey remains affordable to a full range of households.

What You Read 2023 – A Message from the Editor

January 12th, 2024 by Sneha Patel

2023 was a year full of many unpredictable environmental events ranging from major rainfall to extreme heat to a collapsed highway overpass. Our daily newsletter “What We’re Reading” brings our readers the most up-to-date articles covering our New Jersey Future issue areas and major developments in the Garden State. We compile our daily digest by monitoring our favorite news sites and newsletters, and always bring you NJF in the news. Have an article you want to see included? Feel free to email suggestions to the NJF communications team  (commsatnjfuturedotorg)  .

We’ve compiled the most-read articles from the year—no surprise that housing, flooding, and transportation were popular topics. Check out the top articles that have captivated our readers in 2023 and continue to keep current with news and developments by reading What We’re Reading!
– Sneha Patel

  1. Op-Ed: School segregation in NJ is not an accident (NJ Spotlight)
    Despite being one of the most racially diverse states in the country, New Jersey remains stubbornly segregated at the local level. Persistent segregation in New Jersey’s schools has given rise to a lawsuit that seeks to compel the state government to develop a strategy for addressing it. Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy has issued a ruling that acknowledges that segregated schools are indeed a problem in many parts of the state, and while it does not call for any specific remedy, it finds that the state has a duty to correct it.
  2. Lambertville City Council Approves Stormwater Management Ordinance (New Hope Free Press)
    During Thursday evening’s council meeting, the City of Lambertville Council approved a wave of ordinances. Perhaps the most important one approved was the stormwater management ordinance. By approving this ordinance, the city will be able to fulfill requirements set by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
  3. NJ lawmakers to consider slew of legislation about warehouses (NJ Spotlight)
    New Jersey lawmakers are due to consider at least two dozen warehouse-related bills in the current lame-duck session in response to growing public calls for state action to cool the continuing warehouse construction boom across the state. “It certainly tells me that warehouses are still firmly on everyone’s radar screen,” said Pete Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future, a nonprofit that advocates for “smart growth” including the placement of warehouses where they help the economy without hurting the environment or their towns. “They continue to be problematic, and it shows that legislators are hearing from their constituents that this is a problem.”
  4. What are the chances your home will flood? New N.J. law, revamped tool hope to help. (
    Storm surges will not only likely worsen in New Jersey due to climate change in the future, but much of the consequences are already here. Some residents in mid-July saw it firsthand in towns that received a month’s worth of rain in three days. As part of the bill, S-3110, which was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on July 3, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will also look to revamp its publicly-available “Flood Indicator Tool” to make it more user-friendly for anyone to determine flood risks for themselves.
  5. A Climate Change Success Story? Look at Hoboken (New York Times)
    Let’s take a moment to give a shout-out to Hoboken. As climate change delivers more extreme weather and rising seas, communities across America are struggling to prepare. That’s not Hoboken’s situation. New York City has been spending billions on flood walls and breakwaters and is still contemplating giant gates to hold back rising tides, but it hasn’t done as much to deal with rain. Hoboken has been adding infrastructure to cope with both rain as well as sea-level rise.
  6. Affordable housing quotas may get a sweeping overhaul. How it could impact your town (
    New Jersey towns may follow a new process to calculate their constitutionally mandated affordable housing quotas in two to three years, under a wide-reaching overhaul introduced during the lame-duck session by legislative leaders Monday. New Jersey needs to create more than 224,000 affordable rental units to meet its needs for extremely low-income families, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
  7. Microforests in NJ: Turning developed urban spaces back to green (NJ 101.5)
    To help bring new environmental and public health benefits to this Union County city, three microforests have been planted. A microforest is an innovative and effective method of tree planting and it increases carbon mitigation in urban areas like Elizabeth, said Phillips. With New Jersey being the most densely populated state in the nation, it has many urban areas, where microforests could be beneficial.
  8. 3,300 NJ localities aren’t part of the state’s municipal governments. What are they? (Asbury Park Press)
    There’s Double Trouble, The Alligator and Water Witch. Loveladies, Wickatunk and Success. They’re among more than 3,300 New Jersey localities tracked by the state that aren’t among the 564 municipal governments incorporated as cities, townships, boroughs, towns or villages within the state’s 21 counties. The curious names for many of these communities, neighborhoods and hamlets have interesting stories behind them, although some are in dispute and a few remain mysteries.
  9. Extend NYC subway to New Jersey? (NJ Spotlight)
    Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9th) and Rep. Rob Menendez (D-8th) sent a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Traffic Mobility Review Board last week urging the agency to couple congestion pricing with the extension of the 7 train line to Secaucus via a new subway tunnel under the Hudson River. Such an extension — which would be the first MTA line to cross state borders — would allow commuters transferring from New Jersey Transit trains to directly access Grand Central Station and points in Queens.

Interested in staying on top of New Jersey news? Take advantage of this one time no cost sign up opportunity to receive our What We’re Reading newsletter for more on urban planning, water, and infrastructure in the Garden State!

Sustainable Water Management: Program Rundown of Municipal Options

December 18th, 2023 by Michael Atkins

The following feature was originally published in the December 2023 edition of NJ Municipalities Magazine, which has been relied upon by local government leaders, department heads and administrators for over 100 years. NJ Municipalities is read by over 6,000 readers each month. You can read an online version, or view the pdf of the print edition.

The future of New Jersey’s water relies on commitment to equitable decision-making to solve legacy water infrastructure issues like lead service line replacement, combined sewer overflows, coastal and riverine flooding, and upgrading water infrastructure. By working together to address the growing needs of our water systems, we can properly mitigate the stress they will face with growing and more frequent storms fueled by climate change, and ensure that natural and tap waters are free from contaminants to support healthy and resilient communities across the state. Learn more about the programs and resources available to assist municipal leaders in addressing these issues within their communities.

MS4 Primer

Over 90% of New Jersey’s waterways are considered impaired, and over 60% can be attributed to pollutants from stormwater runoff. In January 2023, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ-DEP) issued an updated Tier A Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit to address these water quality impairments and flooding issues.

The updated permit reflects a shift toward water-shed-level planning with the inclusion of a mandatory Watershed Improvement Plan requirement. For a highly developed state with large quantities of impervious cover, it is more important than ever to plan ahead to improve our water and protect all New Jerseyans from flooding events worsened by climate change.

New Jersey Future and One Water Consulting, LLC created an MS4 Primer to help municipalities understand the recent changes to the MS4 Permit and improve their municipal stormwater programs. The MS4 Permit and this primer provide a framework for water quality improvements and a regional approach to stormwater management in New Jersey. Contact our Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure Program Manager Lindsey Sigmund  (lsigmundatnjfuturedotorg)   to get your copy of the MS4 Primer.

Looking for funding to get started on permit compliance? Apply for NJDEP’s Tier A MS4 Stormwater Assistance Grants. There is funding allocated for every municipality in New Jersey. Rolling deadline is December 31.

Funding Navigator

Water utilities around the state need funds, either low interest loans or grants for capital improvement projects to repair or enhance their systems. To help the most underserved water systems identify and navigate agency application processes to secure government funding, New Jersey Future has created its new and innovative Funding Navigator program.

Launched in April of this year, the Funding Navigator program specializes in offering meaningful community engagement and access to free professional technical assistance services to small-to-medium sized under-resourced public water utilities and municipalities. This is the first nonprofit statewide program committed to helping localities access funding for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater needs. By coordinating with other providers such as New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC), Syracuse University, and Moonshot Missions, NJF leverages a wide range of resources to help tailor unique funding application consultation to unique water infrastructure problems.

The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates approximately $900 million over 5 years for water infrastructure improvements in New Jersey. The Governor and the Legislature also allocated nearly $300 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for water infrastructure. New Jersey Future’s Funding Navigator program is designed to steer these funds, along with other state funding, to those water systems and municipalities that need it most. These funds are time limited, so it is crucial for municipalities to begin applying for funding. The Funding Navigator helps eligible municipalities and water systems by aiding with upfront application costs for engineering design and legal fees, community and stakeholder outreach, gap analysis report/presentation of water utility systems,
and funding application review and consultation.

Pursuing financial infrastructure support does not have to be a complicated and arduous journey. Navigating these streams of funding with the New Jersey Future Funding Navigator staff and partners can make for a smoother process. To learn more about our Funding Navigator program and step by step process working with municipalities and water utilities, please visit us at or contact our Program Manager, Lee M. Clark  (lclarkatnjfuturedotorg)  .

Jersey WaterCheck

This data dashboard connects water consumers, utilities, and decision-makers with easy-to-understand information on drinking water and wastewater systems in New Jersey. This tool to tracks progress of local water/sewer utility and showcases success stories in infrastructure improvements.

The dashboard was created to serve Jersey Water Works, a statewide collaborative working on New Jersey’s water infrastructure challenges. Metrics on both the Shared Goals, and Benchmark Hub pages are categorized according to Jersey Water Works’ goals and subgoals, such as Effective and Financially Sustainable Systems, Wise Management and Spending, and Transparent Water Systems. Each metric on Jersey WaterCheck has a description that explains the information being shown, and things to keep in mind when reading it. From the home page of Jersey WaterCheck, you can learn about an individual water or wastewater system using the System Finder.

On a particular water or wastewater system page, metrics are displayed on cards that are organized based on “Communication Categories,” which were created specifically for this dashboard. Jersey WaterCheck provides granular utility level and state level actionable information that can help generate community support for decision making on water infrastructure needs. Visit

SRF Equity Report

New Jersey Future recently published a report examining how funding reaches water systems of all sizes throughout the state, Improving a Program that Works: Prioritizing New Jersey Water Bank Projects in Disadvantaged Communities. The New Jersey Water Bank (NJWB), which finances water infrastructure projects, is a successful program that has provided over $9 billion in low-cost financing for water and wastewater projects. New Jersey Future partnered with the national Environmental Policy Innovation Center in producing the report, which analyzes NJWB awards and provides 10 recommendations to increase equity and effectiveness of the NJWB. Visit

Lead-Free New Jersey

Every water system in New Jersey must identify and replace all lead service lines by 2031. Jersey Water Works and Lead-Free NJ have resources for elected and municipal leaders to achieve this goal, thanks in part to the collaborative efforts of our diverse members.

Two resources of note include the Primer for Mayors, produced by the Lead in Drinking Water Task Force, and our Community Hubs, operated by Lead-Free NJ.

The Lead in Drinking Water Task Force, which provides policy recommendations to Lead-Free NJ and assists Jersey Water Works in supporting a community of state water leaders, advances statewide policy while empowering municipal and local leaders with the necessary information to ensure equitable, cost-effective, and efficient lead service line replacement through resources like the 2023 Primer for Mayors – Let’s Get the Lead Out of Our Drinking Water: Lead Service Line Efficiency Measures. This most recent edition includes 10 recommended efficiency measures to assist municipalities and water agencies to better inform and collaborate with their communities.

For more information, visit

New Jersey Future’s Lame Duck Legislative Priorities for 2023-2024

December 5th, 2023 by Sabrina Rodriguez-Vicenty

The Legislature’s “lame-duck” session began in November and will end in early January. This is a time before newly elected legislators take office in January, and is a time of great unpredictability.  This can be an active, albeit brief, window of time when legislators may be willing to hear new policy priorities or advance existing bills in the final weeks of the session. 

New Jersey Future is watching and supporting several bills that align with our priorities—strengthening lead disclosure laws, allocating dedicated funding to NJ Transit, providing municipalities with tools to plan for warehouse development, and more. We also support policies that will improve how we redevelop and alleviate affordability issues we face as a state, such as the legalization of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and a reduction of parking requirements for projects close to public transportation. 

We are advocating for a series of land-use, infrastructure, and water-related policies we hope the legislature will act on:

  • We are pushing for S2695, regarding lead disclosure in rental properties, passes in the Senate and is signed by Governor Murphy. Currently, in NJ, if your landlord pays your water bill, you don’t have access to information on lead exposure in your home. Hence, this bill closes a very important gap in the disclosure of lead in drinking water hazards by providing a more comprehensive disclosure process for tenants.
  • We’re hoping for an introduction of a bill that addresses warehouse sprawl. The bill will not change municipal land use authority, but calls for the creation of useful tools for municipalities, and provides for a thorough regional review process for large warehouse proposals.
  • We support the creation of a dedicated source of funding for New Jersey Transit. Over 630,000 passengers rely on New Jersey Transit’s buses and trains every day. We urge the Legislature to dedicate a sustainable funding source to the transit system so it can retain its bus and train service and keep fares affordable for riders. We also support the renewal of the Transportation Trust Fund.

New Jersey Future is actively supporting the following legislative initiatives, which are under active consideration, and hopes our leaders take action during this lame-duck period:

  • The legalization of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which will help both existing homeowners and people looking for rental housing. ADUs can help solve New Jersey’s housing crisis, make the state more affordable, lessen racial segregation, and build home equity for homeowners. 
  • Bill A4984/S3605 which reduces the number of parking spaces required in statewide Residential Statewide Site Improvement Standards for residential developments depending on the development’s proximity to public transportation.

These aren’t the only bills and potential bills we’re promoting—we continue to seek every opportunity to promote sensible and equitable growth, redevelopment, and infrastructure investments to foster healthy, strong, resilient communities; protect natural lands and waterways; increase transportation choices beyond cars; provide access to safe, affordable, and aging-friendly neighborhoods; and fuel a strong economy. Significant policies that have had a long-lasting impact on contemporary politics and law have also come about as a result of lame-duck sessions. We encourage you to follow these issues closely and advocate for them in your communities—now is a great time to speak with your local representatives directly, by placing a call or sending an email to their offices. 

Search your local elected officials using this online tool. Follow us on our social media for the latest updates on these issues, and read more in our blogs.

The Future of Housing in New Jersey

November 30th, 2023 by New Jersey Future staff

The following feature was originally published in the November 2023 edition of NJ Municipalities Magazine, which has been relied upon by local government leaders, department heads and administrators for over 100 years. NJ Municipalities is read by over 6,000 readers each month. You can read an online version, or view the pdf of the print edition.

By Chris Sturm and Michael Atkins

Housing shapes communities while communities shape the quality of life and access to opportunities for each of us. Local officials are on the front lines of housing development, shaping what kind of housing gets built, where it can be constructed, and the local roads and sidewalks residents use to get from their homes to everywhere else. Municipalities have the authority to adopt land use plans, set zoning codes, and create redevelopment areas and parking maximums that facilitate high quality places. Municipalities and counties have the transportation teams to design, pave, and maintain the streets and sidewalks that create the character of a community and determine if it is welcoming and safe for all users. If “home is where the heart is”, then housing is at the heart of a strong and inclusive New Jersey.

But the external challenges facing local leaders have become more complicated and more intense. The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change in particular have exacerbated the pressing issues of escalating housing costs, pedestrian safety, displacement of lower-income people, empty office space, and flooding, to name a few. Recent economic turmoil due to the pandemic only amplified these pressures—first demand and inflation drove up housing prices, and now high interest rates have made mortgage financing increasingly difficult. 

As a nonprofit organization focused on land use and smart growth, New Jersey Future works to help communities emerge strong from crises. And together with many partners—including local and state government, developers, community activists, and environmentalists—we see housing as not only the center of much debate but as an important lever to advance strong, healthy, resilient communities for everyone.  

Center-based housing development

Towns and cities that encourage a range of housing types in walkable neighborhoods and centers aren’t just revitalizing town and city centers for aesthetics. Successful downtowns and centers are converting abandoned strip malls, vacant shops, and empty office space to new housing, which provide municipalities with more reliable, steady, tax revenues, often without adding the costs of new students to their school district. The result is stronger tax ratables and dynamic live-work-shop places where residents enjoy local restaurants, parks and theaters. Towns should not overlook the benefits of providing mixed-use centers to their local residents, and enabling their residents to host friends and family at their favorite places to promote even further commercial activity. 

Center-based housing development supports long-time residents as they undergo changes in life, but seek to remain close to their personal networks that provide them fulfilling opportunities to live full and meaningful lives. Consider empty nesters looking to downsize from their single-family home to age in place, and newly separated parents who want to continue to live in the same school district that their children attend. While occupancy rates for office and retail space have been weakened by post-pandemic hybrid work schedules and online shopping, the demand for center-based housing is robust, and growing as new generations, primarily Millennials and Gen Z, seek to live close to family, but with a modicum of urbanity to facilitate their hobbies and interests. Towns and cities that plan and zone for center-based housing create options for their community members undergoing life transitions, without forcing them to relocate. 

Walkable places with a mix of housing and services simplify the way residents get between home, pick up their children from school, and make it to their next doctor’s appointment. Smartly designed, compact town and city centers can reduce commute times and allow people to accomplish multiple tasks within one trip, ideally returning time back to people by freeing them from commuting long distances in their private vehicles and sitting in traffic congestion. 

Attainable housing 

Rising costs of housing in New Jersey are a significant driver of the growing affordability crisis in the state. A 2021 Rutgers-Eagleton poll “found that 90% of New Jerseyans are worried about the cost of housing in the state, with 55% considering it a “very serious” problem.” It’s in New Jersey’s best interest economically, socially, and environmentally for our local leaders to provide stable and lower-cost housing options in their communities, so the state as a whole is more affordable. New Jersey’s high cost of housing has long had an impact on the state’s “brain drain”, the migration of highly educated individuals out of the state, due to the lack of housing access. 

Developing additional housing also eases pressures on lower-income households. In the absence of new development or quality redevelopment, affluent households will outcompete lower-income households, fueling gentrification and triggering displacement of long-time residents. Housing affordability is not just about out-migration or displacement though. It raises basic quality-of-life questions like: What could households do with an additional $100 a week? What would commuters do with an additional two or three hours back in their lives? 

Too many hard-working residents are unable to rent, let alone buy, in the communities in which they work. Teachers, healthcare professionals, and service workers of every variety, are commuting longer, often in their private automobile, to their places of work. “Across the state, municipalities that facilitate solutions to promote sustainable housing opportunities for all workers will see a ripple of positive effects for their communities,” observed Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller, who also serves as president of New Jersey Educators Association. “Making sure educators, and educational support professionals, and their families are able to live in the communities they serve if their circumstances allow, is a win-win for educators, students, and communities as a whole,” Spiller continued. “Aside from policies that fairly compensate hard working, vital public servants, like educators, New Jersey cities and towns should think holistically about the benefits of promoting diversity and sustainability within their communities, and as we’ve done in Montclair, take legislative action to achieve and preserve that diversity.”

Climate change and housing

The manner in which we build new and improve existing housing must assist in our broader climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. New developments must be sited out of flood zones to foster resilience, safeguard public health and minimize property damage. They can be designed to reverse our mismanagement of stormwater. Sprawling developments, big box stores, and highly-developed downtowns have laid vast impermeable surfaces across our state. Rainwater runs off of these surfaces, pollutes our water supplies, and flooding worsens. Today, new development and conscientious redevelopment is beginning to rectify this issue by installing green infrastructure facilities like street trees, bioswales, and rain gardens. Municipalities can not only comply with new state regulations for stormwater management, they should embrace and encourage them as vital tools to address a growing risk.  

Finally, compact densities can reduce car dependency, shorten trips, cut emissions, and improve air quality. By building a network of places well-linked by public transportation, we can ensure that New Jersey has its best foot forward and is ready to face the challenges of climate change with minimal loss of lives or property values. 

The future of housing in New Jersey

Since its formation in 1987, New Jersey Future has steadfastly advocated for center-based development and smart redevelopment projects in accordance with our statewide goals of balancing development and preservation and spurring equitable economic growth. While we have had an eye to statewide progress, it is local municipal leaders and planners who have the tools and powers to encourage development and redevelopment that can deliver more housing that is affordable, inclusionary, climate resilient and located in walkable, people-oriented centers that increase commercial activity and improve public health.  

But local community planning and zoning is tricky and complicated. Even as we celebrate local success stories (see this year’s Smart Growth Award winners in the sidebar), we know municipal leaders often struggle to redevelop and add housing supply to our already dense and well-connected state. Many of our partners in government, nonprofit, and the private sector are likewise interested in identifying and constructing solutions out of the current crunch. 

Over the coming months, New Jersey Future will be convening partners and stakeholders to envision future housing development in our state that is equitable, affordable, resilient, and diverse. Through a collaborative process we seek to identify practical, actionable steps to get there including everything from understanding and elevating municipal needs, to state planning and policy, to partnering with low and moderate-income residents. We encourage readers to stay tuned as New Jersey Future and its partners work together on a set of solutions and publicize our findings in Spring 2024. 

To inform that conversation, New Jersey Future is circulating a simple survey to collect the perspectives of municipal leaders, community members, planners, architects, and developers. We invite you to take 10 minutes or less and share your thoughts on the pressures, successes, and challenges you and your town are facing as we confront this together. Survey available online.

The NJ State Development and Redevelopment Plan is Being Updated – Where and How Should New Jersey Grow? Add Your Voice!

October 12th, 2023 by Chris Sturm

The NJ State Planning Commission is hosting a series of eight webinars in October to gather input on how to update the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan. Last adopted in 2001, the State Plan provides a comprehensive framework intended to guide future development, redevelopment, conservation, preservation, and restoration efforts in the state of New Jersey.

Each webinar focuses on one to two of the State Plan’s existing high-level goals and strategies or one of the two proposed new goals for Climate Change/Resilience and Equity/Environmental Justice. The webinars allow for high-level input through polls and a chat function. Interested parties may also submit written comments at this email  (stateplandotcommentsatsosdotnjdotgov)  .

Launching the Next State Plan session at the 2023 NJ Planning and Redevelopment Conference. State Planning Commission members in attendance included Tom Wright, Edward McKenna, Elizabeth Terenik, Stephen Santola, Bruce Harris, and Danielle Esser. Photo by Frank H. Conlon

Launching the Next State Plan was a session held at the 2023 Planning and Redevelopment conference and explored how to best update the State Plan to better reflect the present conditions and future outlook of New Jersey.

To learn more about the State Plan update, to register for a session, or view recordings of past sessions, visit We will share information on additional opportunities to participate in the State Plan update process when available. 

In the meantime, the 2023 Planning and Redevelopment Conference workshop, Launching the Next State Plan, explored how to best update the State Plan to better reflect the present conditions and future outlook of New Jersey.

Upcoming State Plan Meeting Schedule as of October 12, 2023
from the New Jersey Office of Planning and Advocacy:


Open Space, Historic and Cultural Preservation Strategies in an Updated State Plan

Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Time:  9 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Eastern Time)

In this two-hour webinar, participants will hear a panel discussion on the State’s desire to enhance, preserve and use historic, cultural, scenic, open space and recreational assets by collaborative planning, design, investment, and management techniques. Our expert panel will provide feedback on updating the current language in Goal 7:

  • Goal #7: Preserve and Enhance Areas with Historic, Cultural, Scenic, Open Space and Recreational Value


Julie Hain, Executive Director – South Jersey Cultural Alliance

Captain Bill Sheehan, Riverkeeper – Hackensack Riverkeeper

Vincent Mann, Chiefmann – Ramapough Land & Cultural Foundation

(Additional Palnelist to be announced)


Establishing Goals for Social Justice in an Updated State Plan

Date: Thursday, October 19, 2023

Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (Eastern Time)

In this two-hour webinar, participants will hear a panel discussion for establishing new goals and strategies for social justice in the updated NJ State Plan and the topic’s influence on all other Goals in the State Plan. Our expert panel will provide feedback on establishing language in new Goal 9:

  • Goal #9: Prevent the Concentration of Adverse Environmental Impacts in Overburdened Communities


Deidre Belinfanti – Garden State Equality

Dr. John E. Harmon, Sr. IOM – African American Chamber of Commerce of NJ

(Additional Palnelist to be announced)


Establishing Goals for Climate Change & Resilience in an Updated State Plan

Date: Friday, October 20, 2023

Time: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Eastern Time)

In this two-hour webinar, participants will hear a panel discussion for establishing new goals and strategies for climate change and resilience in the updated NJ State Plan and the topic’s influence on all other Goals in the State Plan. Our expert panel will provide feedback on establishing language in new Goal 8:

  • Goal #8: Address the Negative Impacts of Global Climate Change


Paul Drake, Regional Public Affairs – PSE&G

Kerry Kirk-Pflugh, Executive Director – NJ Conference of Mayors

(Additional Palnelist to be announced)


Economic Development and Workforce Strategies in an Updated State Plan

Date: Monday, October 23, 2023

Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (Eastern Time)

In this two-hour webinar, participants will hear a panel discussion on the economic development and workforce strategies in the current NJ State Plan and their influence on revitalizing the State’s cities and towns. Our expert panel will provide feedback on updating the current language in Goals 1 and 3:

  • Goal #1: Revitalize the State’s Cities and Towns 
  • Goal #3: Promote Beneficial Economic Growth, Development and Renewal for All Residents of New Jersey

Panelist: (To be announced)


Sound & Integrated Planning in an Updated State Plan

Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Time: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Eastern Time)

In this two-hour webinar, participants will hear a panel discussion on the Plan Endorsement process, planning based on capacity analysis and integrating planning with investment decisions at all levels of government and in the private sector. Our expert panel will provide feedback on updating the current State Plan language in Goal 10:

  • Goal #10: Ensure Sound and Integrated Planning and Implementation Statewide

Panelist: (To be announced)

Green Infrastructure in the Garden State: Stormwater Research in the Delaware River Watershed

September 20th, 2023 by Brooke Schwartzman

In 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) updated the Stormwater Management Rules, which now require that municipalities incorporate green infrastructure into major development projects. In many areas of the state, this relatively new policy change has meant a significant departure from the way that stormwater management was approached previously. New Jersey Future (NJF) sought to explore the impact of the rule change on green infrastructure implementation in New Jersey’s Delaware River Watershed region. 

Stormwater is water that accumulates on land either through rain or snow, but instead of soaking into the ground as it would in nature, it accumulates into stormwater runoff. Poorly managed stormwater can result in a host of negative consequences like flash flooding and water quality issues caused by nonpoint source pollution. Green infrastructure (GI) is a solution to addressing stormwater runoff. This umbrella term includes any structure or installation that manages stormwater by protecting, restoring, or mimicking the natural water cycle. Consequently, GI decreases impervious cover and the stress on outdated stormwater infrastructure and effectively filters said water before inundating it back into the ground.

New Jersey has several regulatory structures in place to control stormwater as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). One such structure is  N.J.A.C. 7:8, commonly known as the Stormwater Management Rules, which requires municipalities to hold a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. Municipalities receive the MS4 permit after developing a stormwater program and meeting Statewide Basic Requirements (SBR) which set minimum standards for controlling stormwater pollution and inundation. One of the SBRs is for municipalities to develop a Stormwater Control Ordinance (SCO) that codifies compliance with  N.J.A.C. 7:8. The SCO is then applied to all major development and redevelopment projects within the municipality. When NJDEP makes an amendment to their Stormwater Management Rules, municipalities are required to reflect that update in their SCOs within one year of the effective changes. Stormwater data for all NJ municipalities is available online through Jersey WaterCheck.

The Delaware River Basin. Source: Delaware River Basin Commission

In spite of its many benefits, green infrastructure is still underutilized in New Jersey. NJDEP sought to address this by making changes to the Stormwater Management Rules in 2020 that officially took effect in March 2021. The biggest difference between the Stormwater Management Rules then and now is how SCOs are expected to regulate GI. Prior, the minimum amount of GI that SCOs had to have demanded was “the maximum extent practicable”, leaving loopholes for the installation of green infrastructure. Now, SCOs require that GI be used for every major development project. Additionally, as part of New Jersey Protecting Against Climate Threats (NJ PACT), updates to the stormwater management rules went into effect on July 17, 2023, due to the Inland Flood Protection Rules. Further updates are expected as part of Resilient Environments and Landscapes (REAL). NJDEP released a model stormwater ordinance to guide municipalities as they amend their SCOs. This ordinance uses minimum standards but municipalities are free to make those standards stricter. NJF released their own enhanced model stormwater ordinance in 2021 to demonstrate ways in which municipalities could go above and beyond minimum requirements, such as including the definition of minor development and reducing the threshold for major development in their SCO. Municipalities that implement an enhanced model ordinance are eligible for Sustainable Jersey points.

New Jersey Future wanted to understand how the updated SCOs are impacting the implementation of green infrastructure, specifically in the Delaware River Watershed. The Delaware River Watershed is an interesting case study because it intersects with over 200 municipalities in New Jersey and several other states. 30 municipalities were selected for outreach. Communities were more likely to be targeted if they had populations especially vulnerable to flooding impacts, had certain kinds of infrastructure present suitable for complete and green streets, or were located in certain ecological regions. 27 of the 30 researched municipalities have updated their SCO and posted it online. Only one municipality, Edgewater Park Township, adopted above-minimum stormwater requirements language in their SCO. Note that even though a municipality adopted the minimum requirements language it does not necessarily mean they are installing the minimum amount of GI, as evidenced by Camden later in this article. Of the 30, NJF interviewed 10 municipalities. 

Several overall trends were revealed when analyzing the municipalities’ responses. Small municipalities were less likely than large ones to require GI prior to the rule change, but almost all municipalities regardless of size already had GI present. The most common types of green infrastructure implemented are retention and infiltration basins, rain gardens, tree plantings, and permeable cover. Some municipalities have incorporated the impacts of the updated SCO into their master plan. Most are still in the process of building their stormwater infrastructure maps, another new requirement of the updated Stormwater Management Rules. All 10 municipalities interviewed are working with outside consultants for the task. Most municipalities have approved little to no projects under the new SCO either because there is little new development going on or because current projects are legacied under the previous rules. The municipalities that engaged stakeholders about GI did so primarily through regular council meetings; there have been a range of reactions from the general public. By far the most common barrier to meeting the new SCO requirements cited was funding even though most of the municipalities had already received stormwater grants from NJDEP. It also became clear through NJF’s interactions with municipalities that many have limited capacity to handle the additional work that is born out of implementing the updated SCO, which demonstrates that additional technical assistance is needed. 


Waterfront South Rain Garden, Camden. Source: Rutgers GIS web map of Camden Green Infrastructure Projects


One municipality that is a good example of what it means to build an expansive green infrastructure system is the City of Camden. Even though Camden’s SCO is using the minimum requirements language set by NJDEP, the city’s actions have gone far beyond that. The city takes part in the Camden SMART initiative founded in 2011 and is made up of several organizations and stakeholder groups including Camden Community Partnership (CCP), the City of Camden (City), Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA), Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program (RCE), New Jersey Tree Foundation (NJTF), and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Camden SMART is responsible for at least 50 GI projects. The city is filled with tree plantings, rain gardens, stormwater planters and rain barrels. Over 60 million gallons of stormwater have thus far been captured. Between the additional GI projects coming up and the new street bump outs and green curb lines that will be installed as a response to the new SCO requirements, the city aims to eventually capture 30 million gallons annually. Camden is also adept at engaging community members via regular city-wide meetings on upcoming GI projects, sustainability events, community rain gardens, and rain barrel workshops. Two challenges face Camden in the expansion of their GI network: the large amount of impervious surfaces and lack of available space, and litter which has the potential to interrupt the water inundation cycle if too much accumulates in green infrastructure installments. To learn more about how Camden is leading the charge in green infrastructure, visit their interactive map of GI projects



The changes made by NJDEP to the Stormwater Management Rules bring New Jersey one step closer to achieving climate resilience. Municipalities are working toward incorporating the amendments into their SCOs, but are in need of more support. One strategy to increase dedicated stormwater management funding is to explore the implementation of a stormwater utility. The increased workload and expenses associated with the initiative put additional strain on municipalities. In spite of these challenges, places like Camden demonstrate how powerful green infrastructure can be when local leaders are committed to its installation.

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

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