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Pleasantville submits 2023 Neighborhood Preservation Plan to state

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Main Street Pleasantville

Pleasantville officials are seeking state grants to help beautify and revitalize downtown Pleasantville.

Stephen Head, founder of Muh’s Garden of Life, an organization dedicated to community healing and anti-violence initiatives and members of the community as they begin painting a portion of the Pleasantville-Somers Point bicycle route as a way to rejuvenate the area with a “pathway to peace.” The project is being designed to provide young people with a safe place for outdoor activities, to stoke interest in art and reduce violence. The path is expected to be painted in vibrant colors and be lined with lit sculptures of flowers and trees. It would also include games such as hopscotch, as well as a selection of inspirational quotes. The group Create 48 will do much of the artwork for the bike path, while volunteers from Pleasantville Public Schools and across the city will also help with the project.

PLEASANTVILLE — The city is pursuing state grants to help revitalize its downtown and enhance recreation.

City Council adopted a resolution to submit the city’s 2023 Neighborhood Preservation Plan for downtown Pleasantville to the state Department of Community Affairs. The plan seeks to rejuvenate the neighborhood, keeping incumbent businesses and communities satisfied while drawing new investment.

“The NPP has been a tool to create economic value, place value and civic value to the great people and visitors of Pleasantville,” the city said in its submitted plan.

The plan proposes a budget in which it would receive $55,000 in NPP funds for community development and $70,000 for economic development, for a total of $125,000. Specific line items include $30,000 for beautification, $11,500 for signage and cross walk stripping, $35,000 for public art and murals, and $20,000 for marketing.

In turn, the city would match the funding with $175,000 of its own money.

Of that total, $115,000 would be used to develop a new park at 36 W. Washington Ave., with $35,000 spent to acquire the property. The city would also take on $25,000 of administration costs.

A confidential document from the gunshot-detection company ShotSpotter details the extensive role human reviewers play in checking the work of its proprietary, artificial intelligence algorithm. A selling point for crime-fighting tools underpinned by AI has been that they lessen the role of all-too-fallible humans. But the operations document obtained by The Associated Press describes how humans have the ultimate call in deciding whether sounds picked up in more than 140 U.S. cities are gunshots or other noises such as fireworks or thunder. Experts say some of the guidance — including allowing for “100% certainty” in the reviewer's mind — could allow subjectivity to creep into the decision-making.

The Neighborhood Preservation Program was created by the state in 1975. It fell into obsolescence in the 2000s, with the Murphy administration reintroducing the program in 2020. The DCA webpage about the program says it is meant to strengthen “threatened but viable neighborhoods,” meaning those “that are beginning to decline but can be rehabilitated and restored by cultivating existing social, economic, financial, and technical resources toward the development and implementation of planned activities that sustain neighborhood vitality.”

A municipality can participate in the program for three to five years.

Eligible uses include support for development planning, renovations of retail businesses and residential properties, community groups, historic preservation and code enforcement.

The program has generated significant growth for the city in recent years, according to city officials and other stakeholders who helped prepare the submitted plan.

Funds from the program helped the city create a new Art & Music District, repurposing what had been dilapidated buildings and helping to support the city’s inaugural Art & Music Wellness Day. The city hopes the changes will draw new art and music businesses to the area.

The program also helped the city decorate the Pleasantville Bus Station with new murals through a partnership with Create 48 of Atlantic City. The station had been closed for three years due to concerns about crime and the need to repair its walls and floors, and city officials hailed the murals as a sign of renewal for the site.

Other projects supported by the preservation program include the installation of a new clock on Main Street and the growth of events such as Trunk or Treat, Bazaar under the Big Top and the Winter Wonderland Bike Giveaway.

City officials have said there is evidence the program is succeeding in attracting new investment. Three new businesses have opened downtown, including a bookstore, furniture store and a Latino restaurant.

The city said its preservation plans will continue its beautification efforts, supporting large community events such as farmers markets. Special attention would be given to the Arts & Music District, with the city asking to bring in additional signage, banners and flowers, along with new public-art installations and live music events.

The city said the success of the program has led it to take on new development projects.

In August, council voted to designate Keshav Real Estate Development LLC as the conditional redeveloper for a portion of center city that runs along Main Street just off Washington Avenue. Officials from related firm Ideal Institute of Technology said at Monday’s council meeting they were considering several projects for the area, including a microbrewery and a cloud kitchen, or a kitchen for a delivery-only food business. There were also plans for a small hotel and a hospitality-training facility that could help grow the workforce for Atlantic County’s biggest industry.

The Neighborhood Preservation Plan complements a host of other state-supported revitalization projects. The Pleasantville Housing & Redevelopment Corp. submitted a Pleasantville Midtown Neighborhood Revitalization Action Strategy to the DCA over the summer. That plan is similarly designed to create new opportunities for the residents and businesses of the city’s midtown neighborhood, supporting programs such as property rehabilitation, adult-education sponsorship and workforce training. The revitalization application, which is submitted to obtain a state Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit, cited the synergy between the two programs.

In December, the state Department of Transportation awarded the city $818,000 to support projects in the city’s downtown, with a goal of improving transit in the area, including pedestrian and bicycle trails.

On Wednesday, council voted to authorize an application for a Local Recreation Improvement Grant from the DCA, seeking about $100,000 to help improve the Pleasantville Recreation Center. The request follows an earlier vote in October, which saw council award a $14,450 contract to install a new professional boxing ring in the rec center. The project was funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant. A ceremony to unveil the new ring, christened the Michael V. Hall Boxing Gym, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the rec center.

Contact Chris Doyle

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