Promoting Integration at the Local Level: Nancy Gagnier Moderated Panel Presentation

New Jersey is paradoxically one of the most diverse states in the nation but also one of the most segregated. The state has grown more demographically diverse over the last two decades, but its macro-level diversity often does not translate into integration at the local level. Most places will tend toward segregation (or re-segregation) without actions to ensure communities remain open to everyone. The panel included local leaders who have proactively taken on this issue discuss examples of what towns can do and have done to foster stable racial integration:

  • Jeffrey Perlman, Senior Director of Planning, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority
  • Jessica Rafeh, Committeewoman and Former Mayor, Pennsauken Township
  • Michele Alonso, Director of Planning and Redevelopment, City of Asbury Park
  • Nancy Gagnier, Executive Director, South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race

These community leaders, planners, and researchers spoke passionately about the need for local, regional, and state-wide plans that support racial equity and integration in areas of community life like transportation, housing, access to community opportunities, shared leadership, and more. Offering incentives to encourage mixed-race and mixed-income neighborhoods along with taking care to write and re-write local ordinances that support these incentives was discussed, along with the need for state polices for foreclosure assistance and gap financing, healthcare disparities, and more affordable housing. Being business friendly, having positive police-community relations, encouraging cross-racial and cross-cultural relationship building, and offering quality, equitable community services were noted as integral parts of successful diverse communities. 

Many thanks to the 2023 New Jersey Planning and Redevelopment Conference hosted by By New Jersey Future and APA New Jersey for sponsoring this discussion.

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