Background Information

The City of Trenton, New Jersey’s capital, lies along the Delaware River and borders Pennsylvania. Some of the city’s notable industries include health care and social assistance, waste management, and retail trade.

Trenton is a majority-minority city of approximately 84,000 people. The city’s population is 49% black and 34% Latinx. The percentage of households below the poverty line is much higher than the state or county rates, with 13% of black residents living in poverty, 11% of Latinx residents, and 10% of white residents.

In 2007, the City of Trenton created the Trenton Green Initiative partnership with its local utility, the New Jersey Governor’s Office Energy Savings, the New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection and Labor and Workforce Development, Mercer County, and the nonprofit Isles, Inc. They developed a Climate Action Plan in 2011 that outlines strategies for municipal operations, community-wide energy efficiency, water conservation, and landscaping practices.

Team Summary

The Trenton team is comprised of team members from the New Jersey Work Environment Council, the City of Trenton, the city volunteer Trenton Green Team, and the nonprofit Isles, Inc. The city recently approved a new master plan, Trenton250, which received the President’s Award from the American Planning Association’s New Jersey chapter. The plan was developed through extensive community engagement where residents collectively envisioned what the city could look like in the year 2042, the city’s 250th anniversary. The team is now developing a resilience plan to complement Trenton250.

Promising Practices

  • The Trenton250 master plan identifies priority investment neighborhoods that hold promise for jumpstarting the city’s economy. The Creek to Canal Creative District is focused on elevating arts and culture as key drivers of equitable, sustainable downtown revitalization. This neighborhood plan was recently approved by the planning board after the completion of a year-long citywide planning process that engaged more than 750 people.
  • In October 2015, Trenton received a silver level certification from Sustainable Jersey, having previously been certified bronze in 2012. The Trenton Green Team is focusing on expanding education and community outreach efforts, implementing Trenton’s Climate Action Plan and green infrastructure projects, and pursuing waste reduction and zero waste goals.
  • The Lower Assunpink Creek Restoration Project is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to restore and daylight a section of the Assunpink Creek between the Delaware River and the Trenton city limits. One daylighting section in the heart of downtown is currently under construction to remove a culvert system. The project is one of many green infrastructure projects planned throughout the city.

Key Challenges

  • Resilience funding – While the Trenton250 master plan is very comprehensive, funding is not readily available for implementation. For example, the New Jersey neighborhood revitalization tax credit (NRTC) was not awarded to Trenton during the 2018 budget cycle. The city is currently exploring innovative funding models and partnerships with organizations like Isles that can bring additional resources. Unfortunately, Isles was also receiving funds through the NRTC program and recently reduced staff.
  • Hazard mitigation protocols – Recently, Trenton experienced complications with its emergency notification system when there was a series of water contamination events at the municipally owned utility, Trenton Water Works. The city is evaluating its hazard mitigation protocols through a resilience lens.
  • Community engagement – The city is developing a guide on the ways residents can engage with the Trenton250 plan. The planning department is studying the ways the guide can be communicated in easy, straight-forward language that is accessible to all residents.

For citations, see here.

Photo credit: “E. State St. Stores – Trenton, NJ,” Blake BolingerCC BY 2.0