In 1994, Greg Berman was hired as the lead planner for the Red Hook Community Justice Center. The following are excerpts from his Planning Diary, which he wrote as a record of how he negotiated some of the challenges of early planning, including community needs assessment, fundraising and program design. To read the entire document, click here.
Many good ideas founder on the shoals of poor fundraising. No program, no matter how well-intentioned or creative, can survive without adequate resources. I won’t lie about this: raising money for the Justice Center was not easy. There were days, even months, when I thought that the project would wither on the vine as we waited for grant proposals to be reviewed.
The initial planning of the Justice Center was underwritten by small grants from a couple of sources—the Fund for the City of New York, the Schubert Foundation, the Scherman Foundation and, in what might have been a first in this country, the local housing authority. While this was enough to keep me employed, it was not nearly enough to support a multi-million dollar renovation project. The question quickly became: where do we find that kind of dough?
The answer came at the end of 1996. After several months of conversation, site visits and proposal writing, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance agreed to pay for the soft costs associated with renovating the Visitation School—primarily fees for architects, engineers and renovation managers. With this money in hand, we were able to make a much stronger case to the Mayor’s Office in New York City. Red Hook all of a sudden had attracted the interest of the federal government, which had shown its commitment to the project by making a two-year, $1.2 million grant. Would the city step up to the plate as well?
The decision was made at the highest possible levels: New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and New York City Mayor Rudy W. Giuliani were personally involved in the conversations. Finally, after more than two years of reaching out to the community, building the concept and developing the site, in December 1996 the City announced that it would cover the full cost of renovating the school.