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BYNC launches early action project for quality of life plan

The Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC) in partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), launched an early action project as part of the Great Neighborhoods Community Planning initiative last Saturday Nov. 12.

Its overall purpose is to engage residents, business owners, institutions and other stakeholders to improve the quality of life in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

This initiative, according to Irene Lopez, Great Neighborhoods Project director at the BYNC, will address the community in a comprehensive manner, including housing, industrial and commercial development, community facilities, education, youth and recreation.

To mark the beginning of a sequence of community projects, Saturday’s event invited residents to pick up paint and brushes and move along neighborhood alleys to cover up graffiti painted on garages.

Moving forward, the Great Neighborhoods Community Planning initiative will also take a comprehensive approach to community development – in addition to physical improvements, including good schools, parks, health and child care, safety, social services and opportunities for economic advancement. Promoting collaboration between neighborhood organizations is a priority through the initiative.

“We’ve been trying so hard for a long time to unite the community but we really haven’t achieved a satisfactory outcome,” said Lopez. “This time with the Quality of Life plan and through LISC, we’re trying to get everyone to the table to work for the same goal, which is making the neighborhood a better place.”

Neighborhood organizations have already begun to work together. A clear example of that, according to Lopez, is the recent partnership between the Neighboring Housing Services and the Resurrection Project to rehab foreclosed homes in the neighborhood and encourage residents to stay in the Back of the Yards and value their community.

“The Great Neighborhoods Program will help the Back of the Yards plan for its long term future. Instead of reacting, Back of the Yards is being proactive,” said Raul Raymundo, Chief Executive Officer of the Resurrection Project. “We are going to highlight the assets of Back of the Yards to attract new life as well as investment and opportunities.”

Photo by Magali Rangel

One of the Resurrection Project’s main goals is to return home ownership to the neighborhood. “We are committed to working with many organizations in Back of the Yards to strengthen the community,” said Raymundo.

To ensure overall program success, the BYNC has organized a task force responsible for communications, outreach, scheduling and preparing bilingual materials. The role of the task force is to advise other community leaders, participate in meetings, provide feedback on findings, speak at planning meetings and coordinate the implementation of the plan.

Some of the expected outcomes include the creation of the data book containing community maps and secondary data (i.e. demographics, facilities, city-owned properties, building conditions, land use, housing and crime), along with community strengths and a list of proposed projects as well as up-to-date information relating barriers to progress. The initiative, though new to many residents, calls for unity and engagement.

After Saturday’s event a number of residents asked Lopez if they could be provided with paint to continue painting over the graffiti in the area and some want to get involved in future initiatives.

“I know the graffiti is going to continue to show up,” said Lopez. “But just seeing the community come together on the block to beautify their own communities, demonstrates that the interest is there and it’s instilling them to want to continue to build upon it."

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