Welcome to the Heights Section of Jersey City, NJ



Guide to Establishing a Neighborhood Block Association

This guide to establishing a Neighborhood Block Association has been designed to help you organize your neighborhood. It will show you the basic steps to get your Block Association up and running. To get a better understanding, it is suggested that you visit with several well established Block Associations in other neighborhoods. Their experience and advice can be a big help in getting you started. Upon organizing, please be sure to announce your new Block Association to the CASID with an email.


Why Organize?

Before you begin asking your neighbors to organize, you have to convince them of the benefits, reasons, and value of forming a neighborhood association. Some of the points to be made to your neighbors are that Block Associations:

  • Facilitate meeting neighborhood's common goals.
  • Empower Neighborhoods to help control what happens in the area.
  • Provide the neighborhood with an effective communication link with government officials and other influential groups.
  • Help members take part in the decision making that directs the neighborhood's actions.
  • Can plan social activities for the neighborhood.

Step One & Two: Organize the Neighborhood/ Developing the Core Group

Various factors help a neighborhood to gain a sense of identity and a reason to organize. To get started, you will need a small group of committed neighbors to form the Block Association. The number of people needed will depend on the size of the area you think you want to organize. Some examples of groups to be represented are:

  • Homeowners selected to represent each block or street
  • Apartment House owners, managers, and residents

When you have a commitment from five to ten people, set up a meeting at a comfortable place, such as someone's house. Do this quickly, before you contacts lose interest. Explain to the potential committee members what you have in mind and what you want them to do.

Keep the neighborhood advised of the activities of the newly formed Block Association through the use of communication tools. At this point, do not be concerned about having a general meeting of all the people in the area.

TIP: Organize your neighborhood group to include the young and the old.

Step Three: Developing a Block Association Plan

The health and vitality of a neighborhood depends on the ability to plan now and for its future. If the neighborhood is viewed as a permanent home for families and businesses and as a continuing investment, then steps need to be taken to address changes that will occur. A neighborhood plan is a guide that provides a framework for future decision making.

A neighborhood plan contains broad statements about what the residents would like to have happen (goals) and principles they would like to see followed (policies). It also contains suggestions for strategies on how to reach goals.

Step Four: Establish Boundaries

An important step at the beginning of a neighborhood plan is to determine its boundaries.

Once boundaries have been determined, a complete list of property owners and tenants should be obtained. The list should be kept current throughout the process and allow every neighbor to become involved. To get a complete list, you may need to go door-to-door.

TIP: Don't try to include too large of an area when designating your neighborhood group's boundaries.

Step Five: Delegating Responsibilities to Core Group

The following are examples of possible volunteer responsibilities.

Review neighborhood goals. The draft neighborhood plan should be reviewed and changed as you continue to form.

Review and evaluation. The progress of the plan must be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis to ensure its success. Periodic evaluation should be done to recognize successes, detect problems and suggest improvements in the program.

Cultivating Leadership

The importance of qualified leadership is often overlooked as a neighborhood Block Association develops. Strong leadership gives an organization:

  • Guidance
  • Stability
  • Continuity from year to year
  • Motivation to take action
  • Unity of Purpose

A part of your job as a Block Association organizer is to identify and develop leaders. The task of recruiting and developing leaders has to be an ongoing activity through the lifetime of your Block Association.

TIPS: Some general points to keep in mind are:

  • Your contribution to the neighborhood are your abilities and skills to organize. Therefore, try to delegate other responsibilities like event planning.
  • You should search continually for many "potential" leaders, not just one or two.
  • Identify people who have the time to devote to the work of the Block Association.
  • New leaders may develop as the problems and concerns of the Block Association change. Keep your organization open and flexible enough to bring new members and leaders in.
  • Look for individuals who have shown that they:
        • want to succeed and want their group to succeed
        • communicate well with people
        • can motivate people to take collective action
        • are knowledgeable about the neighborhood, its people and their interest
        • have an allegiance to the neighborhood and the Block Association
        • know how to share power.

Meetings

Nobody likes to attend meetings that are an unproductive waste of time. As a Block Association organizer, you have the opportunity and responsibility to make meetings productive and even pleasant.

While meetings do not always have to be strict and formal, it is recommended that some order be kept. If you never have organized a meeting before, Robert's Rules of Order is a great resource to familiarize yourself with meeting basics such as agendas, meeting minutes, and voting. Remember, Meeting Minutes serve the very important function of recording the business of the meeting and continuing progress at the next.

The following is a guide.

  • Decide on a convenient time and date to meet by consulting with your core group and neighbors.
  • Develop a well-planned agenda for the first meeting (Sample Agenda).
  • Determine a method of follow-up to remind the neighborhood volunteers. This may be done by use of: Phone Calls - Letters - Flyers
  • Locate a place that is centrally located and familiar to the neighbors. The location can set the mood and friendliness of the meeting. Try to estimate the size of the expected attendance. The room should be comfortable but not so large as to make the people feel lost.
  • Set up the room for the meeting in advance. Tables and chairs should be in place.
  • Display any handouts near the entrance.
  • The room temperature should be comfortable.
  • Setup and test any special equipment in advance.
  • Serve refreshments only if it will enhance the friendliness of the meeting and not interrupt it.

TIPS: Develop agendas for meetings and limit them to an hour. Regular meetings are good but too many meetings burn out volunteers.

Committees

Organizations accomplish their objectives through the dedicated work of committees. The tasks and the types of committees depend on the overall purpose and structure of your Block Association. The types generally can be divided into two major categories.

Internal Affairs: Neighborhood Affairs:
  • Fund Raising/ Finance
  • Housing conditions
  • Meeting arrangements
  • Police - Neighborhood relations
  • Communications/ Public Relations
  • Economic development
  • By-laws
  • Neighborhood maintenance
  • Social Events
  • Community services and resources
 
  • Traffic safety

TIP: Figure out what issues are important in your neighborhood. To Maintain active, productive, motivated members on the committees:

  • Have a committee meeting prior to the monthly meeting to prepare an agenda.
  • Encourage members to participate in the Block Association and the committee planning process.
  • Define and discuss the goals and objectives of the committee.
  • Provide reasons for the actions to be considered by the committee and Block Association.
  • Make meeting time and committee work as productive as possible. No one wants to feel they are wasting time.
  • Help members develop communication skills.

Communication Tools

You will be planning a lot of great programs in your neighborhood - don't keep them a secret! Spread the word. This will help others in the neighborhood join the efforts and take part in making a difference. Here are a few ways to get the word out:

  • Word of mouth: a) Tell Friends b) Tell Neighbors
  • Block Association Newsletter (Its easy to do using your computer)
  • Set up a web page (you don't have to be a computer guru to get one going)
  • Weekly local newspapers (send in a community announcement)
  • Neighborhood survey: a) Mail a flier b) Phone c) Door-to-Door

Finances

Over the course of time, every Block Association accumulates money for one reason or another. The association needs a management system in place for dealing with these funds. What kind of bank account should be opened and how do you go about opening an account for your organization? Either a person or a corporation can open a bank account. If you are a corporation and you also have nonprofit status, you may be eligible to receive free banking privileges at some banks.

  1. Obtain a Tax Identification Number: A tax identification number is a federal tax number that is filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The number enables the bank to report the earnings of the association's account to the IRS for tax filing purposes. You can get an ID number from the IRS. If you don't have a tax ID number, or feel that is not necessary, you can open an account with a member's personal Social Security number. Often the secretary will use his/her number. The person whose number is being used is liable for paying taxes on the interest income reported by the bank to the IRS. This means that the money in the account is considered the personal money of the ID holder and taxes must be paid as if it is additional income.
  2. Obtain Information on Fees and Charges: Research the fees and charges assessed at different banks. Some have better programs than others. Banks may waive service charges to organizations that provide a necessary public service. The decision to waive the charge is at the discretion of the individual bank. If you are a nonprofit organization and are eligible for a nonprofit account, there may be no charge for the service the bank is offering. You, however, must take the type of account offered by the bank.
  3. Obtain important document: If you are a nonprofit corporation, you must bring a copy of the Articles of Incorporation stamped "Filed" by the Corporation commission. If you are not a corporation, bring a copy of your by-laws or minutes of your first meeting. You also must state the names and titles of people who are authorized to conduct business for the organization. Personal identification, such as a driver's license, credit cards or a passport, is required to open any type of account.
  4. Obtain Signature Cards: Signature cards must be signed by the secretary of your Block Association along with anyone else who will be signing on the account. You also will need a director's signature (an officer of the corporation or a designated director).