Carmel Hill Block Renewal Project

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Through The Children's Aid Society/Carmel Hill Project, one block on West 118th Street has been physically and socially transformed from a blight-ridden area to a thriving neighborhood.

How was this accomplished?

The Carmel Hill Project uses a variety of strategies that focus on the individual residents, their families and the community, including:

  • Strengthening families through connections. A social worker/community organizer provides individualized attention to residents and helps them access the benefits and resources for which they qualify.
  • Providing residents with better housing. Through a city program, three buildings comprised of 50 units were renovated. Residents banded together to form a tenant association.
  • Improving the lives of children through educational opportunities, family counseling, outreach and training to parents. Through a partnership with The Children's Aid Society's Dunlevy Milbank Center, a community center on the block, children have access to after-school and teen programs, health care, recreation and other services.
  • Increased safety. A partnership with the local police precinct and physical improvements such as the installation of additional streetlights have helped residents feel more secure.
  • Community organizing through the formation of a block association. Through events and projects, the association connects neighbors and welcomes new residents as they move to the block.
  • Increasing academic achievement. A scholarship program allows children and youth to attend the local parochial school. Previously, children on the block attended 26 different schools.

The Carmel Hill Project is a proven success.

How do we know this? Two years of research show that:

  • More than half (55 percent) of the residents say life on 118th Street is "great" or "very good."
  • Only 3 percent want to move away.
  • Of those who have lived on the block 10 or more years, more than 80 percent feel that the block is better or much better.
  • Approximately nine out of 10 residents say that people who live on 118th Street know each other by face, get along with each other and take action to maintain order or fix problems in the community.
  • Block residents access and benefit from local services. Sixty-nine percent of residents have received some form of personal assistance from the Carmel Hill Project or its partner, The Children's Aid Society. Services range from housing to health care to after-school programs.
  • Nearly two-thirds of residents said that they felt safe on their block alone at night and an additional 32 percent felt safe at night when accompanied.

Residents are Carmel Hill's greatest advocates.

If the Carmel Hill Project were not there, "it would be just like 119th Street: drug infested, a lot of crime, vacant buildings and lots," says one resident of 118th Street.

A mother of two adds, "Carmel Hill has gotten things organized. They've tightened the whole deal up. Drug-wise for example, things used to get kind of funky down on the street. No more. People are pulling together now, and you feel as though you've got a support system."

Who else is involved?

The Carmel Hill Project is a partnership between The Children's Aid Society and a private philanthropist. The project also works closely with the local police precinct and various city agencies. A partnership with a nearby community-based organization provides intensive academic tutoring and support to youth on the block.

Why Carmel Hill matters

The Children's Aid Society/Carmel Hill Project exemplifies a comprehensive approach to revitalizing a particularly distressed neighborhood. By investing in both "bricks and mortar" and individuals, communities realize greater gains than they would if each problem was treated in isolation. In addition, by focusing on strengthening the capacity of the "insiders" -- the neighborhood residents, associations and organizations at work -- positive change is both possible and sustainable.

For more information

Please contact Project Director Ann Hamm at (212) 423-5806 or visit The Carmel Hill Project at 69 West 118th Street, Suite 1-W, New York, NY 10026.

This study was conducted by ActKnowledge.