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The late 1960’s were years of change in the country and in Baltimore. “White flight” in entire sectors of the city, particularly Northwest Baltimore, was fueled by the racist manipulation of elements of the Real Estate industry.
Determined not to allow this to happen here, the churches in Northeast Baltimore were the catalyst for the formation and funding of NECO in 1969. An Executive Director was hired. The strategy was to counter the realtor fraud by counseling White neighbors that potential African -American neighbors shared the same values as they did—good homes, safe neighborhoods and good schools. White flight was slowed dramatically in Northeast compared to elsewhere as neighbors began to live together in integrated neighborhoods.
In the early 1970's, NECO used confrontation methods against realtors attempting racial "blockbusting" practices. These battles helped forge the Northeast Real Estate Conservation Program, which preserved the integrated nature of community neighborhoods.
In the mid to late 1970’s, NECO received United Way support for its core operating cost. The organization benefited from the federal Comprehensive Employment Training Assistance (CETA) program to employ neighborhood organizers and to operate a bus transportation program for seniors and disabled persons. A neighborhood promotional campaign was created in partnership with realtors to expose potential buyers to our positive integrated community. Bus tours and other promotions were conducted by this subsidiary of NECO known as Northeast, Inc.
By prioritization of the Congress in the 1980’s, crime became a top priority. The Anti-Crime Committee organized a large scale door-to-door registration throughout the NECO community. The concentration of “blockwatchers” qualified blocks for a flood of newly available Neighborhood Watch signs. A unique Victims’ Assistance program was operated in cooperation with the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Police Department. Members of the program were allowed access to police records in order to contact neighborhood victims of crime in order to provide personal and visible community support.
Citing the success of the Victim Assistance program and Neighborhood Watch organizing, United Way presented to NECO the Harry Greenstein award as the outstanding program in Central Maryland in 1985.
For a number of years, much of the NECO area was part of a Real Estate Conservation Area that prohibited signs on private property to stabilize the area. This law was struck down by the courts, and in the 1980’s NECO battled again with unscrupulous elements of the Real Estate industry. In partnership with the Department of Public Works, NECO volunteers removed over 400 for sale signs illegally placed in the public right of way (median strips and corners). The City held hearings and returned the signs to companies who agreed in writing not to repeat the violation of Article 19 Section 1.
NECO lost the United Way funding in 1989 and reorganized early the following year under a volunteer decentralized North/ Central/ South Committee model. Savings, together with the sale of the CETA transportation program busses, held in an emergency reserve account, funded the continued employment of the secretary to support the volunteers.
In 1992, a proposal was submitted for the NECO Youth Service Bureau, an early intervention and counseling program. NECO was selected over a number of organizations to take over the North Central Youth Service Bureau, one of three in the city that operated as part of a statewide system of Youth Service Bureaus.
In 1994, NECO organized a meeting of 150 residents with Housing Commissioner Daniel Henson to discuss concerns with the relocation of residents from imploded public housing to Northeast Baltimore.
Through the end of the decade NECO held regular forums with elected officials and city agency representatives for information and accountability.
With the new millennium came new organizing. A large planning meeting was held at Morgan State University in 2001 with breakout sessions on a number of topics, including the need for a community development corporation. In 2002, The City Planning Department sent out requests for groups of neighborhoods to work together on Strategic Neighborhood Action Plans (SNAP). Two SNAP groups evolved from the NECO area: a group of 8 Associations along the north city line known as the Northern Neighborhood Network as well as the Northwood SNAP, a group of 7 Associations. By 2003, the two SNAP groups had merged into the Northern Neighborhoods Marketing Committee with the goal of promoting our neighborhoods, increasing home values, and fighting flipping.
NECO eventually became the partner in a community development corporation with Morgan State University and Good Samaritan Hospital known as the Northeast Development Alliance (NEDA). NEDA has embraced and continued the partnership initiated by the Northern Neighborhood Network with St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center that has led to the renovation and sale to owners of fifty HUD foreclosed houses in the NEDA area.
Born a grass roots civil rights organization fighting for fair housing for all, NECO has a rich history that serves to inspire and challenge us today and in the future.
Provided by NECO History Committee
NECO Congress 2006
Pete Pakas, Facilitator
We dedicate this History page in the memory of Pete Pakas
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