How NJIT’s Center for Community Systems will help 4 N.J. counties get grants to assist in environmental, energy initiatives

School is partnering with Inter-American University in Puerto Rico on ways to identify issues — and ways to address them

The Center for Community Systems at New Jersey Institute of Technology is partnering with the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico to create Technical Assistance Centers to help communities not only improve their environmental conditions and become more energy efficient — but potentially get grants from the federal government to help them do so.

Inter-American is leading the multistate and territory effort, which is backed by a $10 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Inter-American is allocating $1.5 million to NJIT’s center to create a New Jersey and New York hub of a TAC, one of 16 the EPA is funding under its Environmental Justice Thriving Communities TAC Program.

The hub will assist community leaders and nonprofit environmental groups in four New Jersey counties (Passaic, Union, Middlesex and Hudson) as well as seven New York counties (in the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region) secure grants from the EPA and DOE.

The help will take the form of guidance in identifying and addressing environmental and energy problems, training through workshops at NJIT and in New York and technical assistance in applying for grants, according to the center’s executive director, Colette Santasieri.

“We’ll help underserved communities identify different grants that are out there and navigate the grant process,” Santasieri said. “Ultimately, the goal is to get money to the communities that need it most, particularly those that experience environmental degradation.”

The center’s pairing with Inter-American was natural because both are part of Region 2 of the EPA, which encompasses New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight Indian nations.

The center also has extensive experience in the region through its Technical Assistance to Brownfields Communities Program.