Michael Leo Owens

Department of Political Science

State University of New York at Albany


Paper prepared for delivery at the Meeting of the Urban Affairs Association, Los Angeles, California, May 3-6, 2000

A Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant (#H-21182SG) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development supported the research and writing of this paper. The findings and statements contained here do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Michael Leo Owens is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at SUNY Albany.Formerly Senior Research Associate at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, he will be teaching in the Political Science Department at Emory University (2000-2002) in Atlanta. His research interests include religion and public policy, urban politics and policy, and local and state government.  


1. Introduction
2. Political Development by Community Development Corporations
3. Black Church-Associated CDCs in New York City
Types (Table1) (Table 2)
Programs and Activities (Table 3)
Funding (Table 4)
4. Temporal Politics: Four Forms of Political Action
Electoral Action (Table 5)
Protest Action (Table 6)
Legislative-Regulatory Action (Table 7)
Civic Action (Table 8)
5. Reflection, Inference, and Conclusion


1. Introduction

Theoretically, citizens with political agendas may use community development corporations (CDCs) to draw attention to, challenge, or counter the decisions of private and public institutions that concern their neighborhoods and/or cities. Avis Vidal (1995, 208) observes, they can be instruments to respond to and seek "to correct, failures in the market and in the social and political infrastructure." Nationally, approximately 1,872 urban CDCs exist (NCCED 1999).(1) Urbanites use them to better the socioeconomic opportunity structures of neighborhoods, especially low and moderate income and nonmajority-white neighborhoods (Stoutland 1999). They direct their energies at affecting physical and commercial infrastructures, along with fostering upward mobility among individuals and families (Vidal 1992, 1995, 1996). Typically, they depend on meager resources. Sparse staff, small annual budgets, and modest project portfolios are common (Vidal 1992). Generally, they address market failures in urban neighborhoods primarily through physical and economic activities. They build houses, create jobs, and promote private investment. As of 1997, urban CDCs have built or renovated 435,000 units of housing, both rental and owner-occupied; they have developed approximately 48 million square feet of commercial and industrial space; and they have created 113,000 jobs (NCCED 1999). Concerning failing social opportunity structures, CDCs promote human development activities. They deliver an inestimable number of social services, promote public safety, organize community residents, and develop indigenous leadership. Among other things, CDCs may operate educational instruction, job training, and mentoring programs. CDCs also sponsor events promoting positive social interactions among citizens like community picnics and rallies, and they try to strengthen the capabilities of other community-based institutions such as schools and health clinics. What of CDCs' responses to failed political infrastructures, especially in those cities where descriptive representation yields a symbolic representation that trumps substantive representation?

Ed Goetz (1993, 115) recounts that, "in the early 1960s, the CDC was seen as the means by which poor neighborhoods might achieve a greater measure of political and economic power." Concerning blacks specifically, when CDCs began to appear in urban black neighborhoods in the late 1960s, academics harbored hopes of these organizations becoming effective political institutions. In Black Political Development, political scientist Reginald Earl Gilliam, Jr. (1975), like other scholars, recognized the potential of CDCs to serve blacks as vehicles for delivering public goods and services to urban black neighborhoods. He also identified the CDC as a nongovernmental institution that could become a catalyst for urban blacks to achieve greater degrees of political power, especially over public policymaking. Gilliam anticipated urban blacks would consciously use CDCs to alter public resource allocations to their advantage. First, he reasoned that CDCs could allow them to affect the distribution of public resources, such as land, money, and authority, in their favor. Second, he believed urban black neighborhoods would benefit from CDCs that articulated the political interests of their residents, while proposing policy alternatives and influencing the delivery of collective goods and services to neighborhoods. While CDCs might not become "policy-makers or decision-makers in the purest sense," wrote Gilliam (1975, 21), he posited "there is a very clear brokerage role that they could [perform]." As brokers of black political interests, he envisioned CDCs as a "means by which [black] political articulation is delivered and maintained" (Gilliam 1975, 18). Networks of CDCs might eventually give urban blacks "an internal institutional structure with specific roles in development and as a political voice" that increased black influence over city governments, especially regarding the redevelopment of neighborhoods (Gilliam 1975, 243). The expectation was that these networks over time would deepen and strengthen the engagement of urban black citizens in local affairs.

Presently, some CDCs in black neighborhoods are influential civic actors. Many attempt to combine public and private resources to a target area to improve socioeconomic conditions for the benefit of its current residents. They attract foundation grants, government contracts, commercial loans, and equity investments. They develop affordable housing, employ local residents, and operate vital human service programs in their target areas. Physical, economic, and human development is their thrust. Perhaps some politicized blacks use CDCs as instruments for restructuring city politics and urban governance. If so, they could be an important means by which blacks achieve greater degrees of substantive representation in and responsiveness from public institutions. As Norman Krumholz and Phil Star (1996, 242) assert,

by building the capacities and power of low-income and working-class people and by developing their community leadership and institutional capacity, [CDCs may assume] a position not only to maintain and stabilize their neighborhoods but also to demand even more far-reaching economic and political changes in the future.

CDCs may provide urban blacks with supplemental or alternative means to increase their influence over public agenda setting, decision making, and implementation. Yet, the extent to which CDCs in urban black neighborhoods practice political development -- the purposive use of various forms of political action to address collective problems in a neighborhood for the benefit of its current residents -- is undetermined. Their efforts to publicize the conditions in low- and moderate-income urban black neighborhoods and seek policy-oriented reforms are unknown. Attempts by them to expand black representation in city government or bias municipal policy responsiveness to black needs and values are unconfirmed. The question of whether CDCs servicing black neighborhoods try to reconfigure the distribution of power on behalf of black communities is unanswered.

This paper examines political development by CDCs in urban black neighborhoods in New York City. Political development is the purposive use of various forms or expressions of political action to address collective problems in a neighborhood for the benefit of its current residents. New York City is ideal for the study of political action by CDCs in urban black neighborhoods. Black electoral and administrative representation in city government is relatively high, but black political incorporation is symbolic, not substantive: The black electorate wields little power over the municipal government, especially the mayoralty (Mollenkopf 1986, 1994, 1995; Thompson 1990). Additionally, New York City is home to a collection of mature (i.e., older than ten years) CDCs. The incidence of black church-associated CDCs in majority-black election districts is high (Owens forthcoming). Furthermore, there is a tradition of black political participation through nonpartisan institutions, especially ones that are affiliates of black churches (Owens 1997a).

In studying political action, however, I focus on a particular but common type of CDC in urban black neighborhoods -- the black church-associated CDC. This type of CDCs is one that people, correctly, associate in their minds with congregations belonging to an historically black denomination.(2) These CDCs are commonly affiliates or subsidiaries of black churches. Black churches start or sponsor them to seek public and private resources to develop and administer physical, economic, and social improvement programs in an urban neighborhood. They are tax-exempt, not-for-profit, charitable organizations, as defined by the United States Internal Revenue Service's section 501(c)(3).(3) Under Lester Salamon's (1992) taxonomy of nonprofits, black church-associated CDCs are "service-oriented" nonprofits, "serv[ing] primarily a public or charitable purpose, direct their efforts to a broader public than only the immediate members of the organization and provide actual services" (263). Their specific purpose, which foundation grants, corporate equity investments, and government contracts often underwrite, is to reconstruct the physical, economic, and social environment of a targeted area or neighborhood (Clementson and Coates 1992).(4)

There are four rationales for studying the black church-associated CDC. First, many black church-associated CDCs are affiliates of black churches that favor political development (Owens 1999), or at least are associated with progressive political organizations (McDougall 1993). Second, public officials and black elites, along with many residents of black neighborhoods, look to black church-associated CDCs above all others to assume a greater responsibility for reforming the conditions of inner city. Third, there is evidence that suggests politics factors explain some of the existence of this type of CDC (Owens forthcoming). Finally, the most conspicuous physical, economic, and human development in urban black neighborhoods is done by this type of CDC (Owens 1997b; Thomas and Blake 1996). The black church-associated CDCs in New York City I examine include:

· Abyssinian Development Corporation
· Allen Neighborhood Preservation and Development Corporation
· Association of Brooklyn Clergy for Community Development
· Bridge Street Development Corporation
· Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corporation
· Canaan Housing Development Corporation
· Concord Community Development Corporation
· Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement
· Southeast Queens Clergy for Community Empowerment

My central question is whether these black church-associated CDCs avoid political action (i.e., expressions of political participation mobilized individuals and institutions use to influence who public officials are and/or the decisions they make while in office). An ancillary question is this: What are the dominant modes of political action by black church-associated CDCs?

Surveys and informant interviews provided data on the nine black church-associated CDCs. One survey was a mail survey of black elected officials in New York City. The other was an in-person survey of pastors of ten politically active black churches that have or support CDCs.(5) Face-to-face interviews involved the leadership and staff of the nine CDCs. Supplemental interviews included the staff of two CDC policy advocacy coalitions, one citywide and another statewide, and high-ranking officials from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Based on the empirical date, my research shows that most black church-associated CDCs, like their secular counterparts, will not exercise political action, but some will. The extent of their political action preceding, during, and following elections is limited to particular forms. The effectiveness of their political actions to increase the influence of the organizations and the communities they serve is an important question. I do not address it fully here, but elsewhere (Owens forthcoming).

2. Political Development by Community Development Corporations

The aspirations and objectives of CDCs, writes political scientist Margaret Weir (1999, 139), put them "squarely in the political arena, where they must work their way through a maze of public and private centers of power." Their leadership and staff know that their physical, economic, and human development activities embed them in the political affairs of their communities. Local politics enmeshes inescapably their organizations, and politics permeates their physical, economic, and human development activities. CDCs, as British sociologist Alan Twelvetrees (1989, 171) learned after studying urban American ones, are "inherently bound up with the political process." CDCs are institutions that operate in a world where political discourse and deeds often influence public and private decisions and actions regarding allocations of collective resources like money, land, and authority in the neighborhoods they service. Operating in a world of politics, one would think challenging political infrastructures would be a common activity of CDCs. Yet, while CDCs generally have the potential for political action (Gittell and Wilder 1999; Glickman and Servon 1998), they lack a penchant for it. For most CDCs, political development lags physical, economic, and human development. Consequently, much of the research on the CDC as political institution generally give it a poor evaluation, particularly as an instrument for changing political opportunity structures in American cities.(6) CDCs are unlikely to be among the vanguard of neighborhood groups pursuing political change through political action. Many, perhaps most, CDCs are inert in preventing politics, especially policy formulation, from failing low- and moderate-income black neighborhoods.

Whether servicing black or nonblack neighborhoods, consistent political participation, electoral or nonelectoral, directly or indirectly, is uncommon among CDCs. Peter Dreier (1999, 180) summarizes: "CDCs are often reluctant to engage directly in political action--whether it means mobilizing community residents around elections, protesting public policy, or advocating for different policies." Few CDCs undertake "all those activities by private citizens [and institutions] that are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of government personnel and/or the decisions that they make" (Verba and Nie 1972, 2). The majority of the development activities of CDCs concern service delivery such as affordable housing production and social welfare programs, not political development. Organizing and electoral mobilization, policy formulation and advocacy, and protest and litigation are not priorities of CDCs. Edward Blakely and Armando Aparicio (1990) offer evidence. Responses to their survey of fifty-eight CDCs in California demonstrate that the delivery of services, especially housing, and job creation, is the highest priority of CDCs; establishing and maintaining active political bases and community organizing are among the lowest concerns.

A conclusion some researchers draw from the reported low levels of political action by CDCs is that the emphasis on service development and delivery deflects citizens' attention and energy away from challenging the influence of elites in urban policy-making. Twelvetrees' (1989, 169) critique is clear: "CDCs are an irrelevance which diverts the talents of local people away from political pressure on those institutions which do have the power to revitalize the ghetto." This is problematic. When physical development projects like building housing units displaces citizen activism from the electoral arena to the business arena, citizens lose a large degree of their ability to raise or debate questions of power (Clarke 1998; Stoecker 1994, 1997). Barbara Ferman (1996, 149), in studying community development organizations in Pittsburgh and Chicago, observed:

[A]s economic development initiatives come to occupy a larger portion of community-based activities, systems of interests designation will replace electoral incorporation. This system of representation will selectively broaden the channels of participation while protecting the underlying structure of power within the city. As in Pittsburgh, it will encourage a conservative form of progressivism.

This conservative progressivism, or "politics of moderation," as Robert Fisher (1996, 47) terms it, forces CDCs to "distance themselves from radicals and social movements," in exchange for (quasi-)insider status with other groups in the urban regime. The access of CDCs to governing regimes, however, inherently restricts their actions. To get along with other regime members, especially resource-rich elites, truly is to go along with them.

Regime membership by CDCs should -- theoretically and normatively -- advantage their neighborhoods. The communities they service should expect and receive more benefits from government and the market. Empirically, too often, Susan Clarke (1998) remarked at a previous Urban Affairs Association meeting, elites integrate CDCs and their "demands in a way that is less troublesome than disrupting the patronage and incumbency already invested in existing structures." CDCs must collaborate with members of urban regimes. They cannot confront them. "The politics of moderation gives up on more radical change, but it helps build the capacity for governance, gets advocates to the bargaining table, and wins modest victories." CDCs cooperate with "the power" and align themselves with "the system," rather than challenging it and fighting it. Ferman (1996, 124; see also Imbroscio 1997, 120-132) substantiates this point in her study of CDC-regime relations in Pittsburgh:

[T]he collaboration required by economic development activities of CDCs encourages consensual relations . . . However, consensual approaches prevent any serious questioning of the larger political economy within which these organizations operate . . . These organizations have not changed the larger relations of power within the city, and their consensus prevents that.

She (1996, 141) notes further, CDCs

cannot, for the most part, behave in a highly confrontational manner, nor can they push hard on issues that are seen as divisive; they are too tied into the institutional network that was built on, and continue to promote, cooperative, conflict-avoidant behavior.

This explains why many researchers (see, e.g., Drier 1999; Goetz 1995; Metzger 1988) find CDCs neglecting to organize residents to advocate on their own behalf, not trying to restructure relationships among powered interests in American cities, and not seeking to control local state. "Primarily concerned with development activities, these organizations," notes Margaret Weir (1999, 140), "have done little to build power in low-income communities." They also have done little to upset or displace pre-existing interests in the hierarchy of local power. Dennis Keating, Norman Krumholz, and John Metzger (1995) demonstrate this in their historical analysis of public-private partnerships in Cleveland during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They report that CDCs rarely contested the balance of power over the allocation of municipal resources under the mayoralties of George Voinovich and Michael White. They also note that the CDCs' political influence remained weak in relation to that of for-profit developers.

There are exceptions to the axioms that CDCs avoid political development and CDCs cannot gain redress for their communities. Some of the research suggests the existence of what I refer to as "political CDCs" (see Owens 1999). This type of CDC acts purposely to alter its local political opportunity structure and succeeds at biasing municipal policy responsiveness. Ross Gittell and Margaret Wilder (1999, 344) write, such "CDCs have organized community members to advocate their own interests and have represented community interests in the local context." These CDCs acknowledge the need for and rely on political development to complement, and even, extend their other activities. A common act of CDCs that acknowledge the centrality of political power CDC-state relations is community organizing, often by professional, led by well-trained, paid organizers.(7)

Survey research suggests that the use of community organizing by CDCs is more widespread than earlier reports suggested. The National Congress for Community Economic Development (1999), the national trade association for CDCs, reports that two-thirds of CDCs responding to its national survey are involved in activities that fall under the rubric of community organizing. Marilyn Gittell, Jill Gross, and Kathe Newman (1994) report that half of the 347 CDCs and other neighborhood development organizations they surveyed in eight states identify community organizing as one of their activities. Many, perhaps most of the CDCs that organize community residents grew from grassroots movements grounded in the traditions of community organizing and political advocacy (Zdenek 1987). Clinging to these traditions or adopting them new, CDCs may use community organizing to develop a neighborhood of activist residents that seeks to develop "social leverage" (Briggs 1998, 2; also Gittell and Vidal 1998), resulting in other people assisting the community to solve its problems. If successful, social leverage via community organizing may yield, for example, new information on employment opportunities, more public and private money for affordable housing development, or expedite the clean up of brown fields.

Sullivan (1993) studied twelve urban CDCs to assess their social effects on the residents of their service areas. His examination revealed that community organizing by CDCs is instrumental. CDCs work to forge relationships with community residents that they can mobilize for social action in the future. CDCs also use community organizing to build reputations for themselves as democratic and representative institutions. With mobilized residents and strong reputations, CDCs can advance their pursuit of public and private funding for their physical, economic, and social development projects. CDCs do need not follow a single pattern in organizing communities to be effective. In many ways, organizing is "quite different from the traditional images of community organizing as militant confrontation between community-based groups and powerful institutions based outside the neighborhood such as banks and city government" (Sullivan 1993, 115). Contemporary community organizing by CDCs includes such things as control of buildings and property, promoting ownership and self-governance, developing sustainable leadership, and recreational and social events. Xavier de Souza Briggs and Elizabeth Mueller (1997) made similar findings while studying the qualitative and quantitative social effects of three CDCs in Boston, Minneapolis, and Newark. Furthermore, they observe that, as community organizers, CDCs may act independently of or in concert with other local groups with similar interests and goals (see Briggs and Mueller 1997, 194).

CDCs are not limited to community organizing and other civic actions as political development. CDCs can select to participate in other political actions, including protest actions. Briggs and Mueller (1997, 84) detail the Newark-based New Community Corporation's (NCC) "explicit strategy for putting pressure on city government." It involves public demonstrations, telephone calls, and letter writing campaigns by the residents of its housing, particularly elderly blacks. NCC has, over time, maintained, rather than minimized, its "aggressive advocacy posture toward city government, continually pressuring local decision makers to consider the needs and interests of [its neighborhood] residents" (Gittell and Wilder 1999, 348). This is contrary to the truism of declining political action as CDCs age and become more service-oriented (see, e.g., Gittell 1980; Stoecker 1997). There are other political actions and strategies available to CDCs. The Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA), a CDC in Lowell, Massachusetts, employed, with success, negative publicity and media advocacy to prevent the city government from leveling its neighborhood (Gittell and Wilder 1999). It also devised and executed civic education and voter mobilization campaigns that increased resident turnout in and determined the outcomes of citywide elections and eventually governmental appointments. Most important, beyond influencing who would hold public office, the CBA effected the decisions public officials made while in office, especially on neighborhood-based issues like affordable housing production and public service delivery.

Another political action some CDCs use is legislative and regulatory advocacy. Studies conclude that housing advocacy, for example, is an important activity among urban CDCs. A national study of 130 CDCs reports that 60 percent engaged in housing advocacy activities in support of their work and their clients/constituents (Vidal 1992). While some CDCs go about influencing policymakers by themselves, most concerned with the policymaking process will collaborate with others. They will foster and join coalition-building efforts, notes Ed Goetz (1993, 127), because coalitions "among CDCs and across housing organizations . . . provide crucial political support and a means of political participation for nonprofit organizations." There is evidence that CDC collaborations with other community organizations are often successful at representing the interests of their communities to the larger institutions of urban power (Dreier 1996; Squires 1994, esp. 70 and 76-82). For instance, "a number of CDCs and advocacy organizations," observes Robert Zdenek (1987, 119), "have joined forces to negotiate major lending agreements with banks and other financial institutions, to have them reinvest dollars in their communities."

In building affordable housing, providing social services, and promoting neighborhood-based capitalism in majority-minority and low-income neighborhoods CDCs practice another form of political action - coproduction. Coproduction is a process of managing collective problems that relies on cooperative relationships between nongovernmental organizations and government agencies, where the former bears a responsibility for implementing public policies/programs and the latter bears a responsibility for funding and oversight. As implementers of public policy, CDCs have "in part taken on the service functions of the local state" (Clavel, Pitt, and Yin 1997, 452). Sometimes they do more than implement public officials' decisions, making and executing their own policies (Judd and Swanstrom 1984, 410). Many also provide policymakers and bureaucracies with "advice and input in policy formation" (Goetz 1993, 130). Consequently, there are CDCs that can influence, for instance, decisions over who will build new housing, where they will build it, how they will build it, and for whom they will build it.

Coproduction by CDCs may institutionalize them in the public policy process surrounding housing and neighborhood renewal (Swanstrom 1999). Local government efforts to devolve and decentralize the formulation and administration of programs aimed at redeveloping urban neighborhoods, and encourage public-private partnerships leading to the coproduction of public goods, facilitate CDC institutionalization (see, e.g., Orlebeke 1997). In some urban areas, the institutionalization of CDCs in public policy processes has allowed them to find and pick up "fragments of governmental power" (Judd and Swanstrom 1998, 410). These particles of public power grant CDCs less than absolute authority over the redevelopment agendas and programs of local government. They allow CDCs, however, to make political elites hear more than the political and policy voices of CDCs. Additionally, they permit CDCs to share in the responsibility for public program formulation, and implementation. Their inclusion in public-supported neighborhood redevelopment processes grants CDCs the chance to represent their communities in government and incorporate their interests in governance.

The critique of the CDC as an institution of conservative progressivism is strong and influential. Still, there are other ways to view the process of CDCs seeking urban regime membership and the outcomes stemming from their membership. The pursuit of regime membership by CDCs grants grassroots organizations low-income and minority people lead opportunities to develop the skills needed to influence economic and political issues (Zdenek 1987; Briggs and Mueller 1997; Medoff and Sklar 1994). David Imbroscio (1997, 99) contends citizen participation in CDC-led redevelopment provides a "fuller individual self-development of creative human capacities and, more specifically, as a basis for persons to acquire and exercise the skills of citizenship." Greater CDC involvement in the resource allocation politics of neighborhood redevelopment creates new possibilities for minority citizens to acquire the ability and authority to influence the outcomes of public policy. Such exposure may allow common citizens to understand complex issues, and the processes by which they settle them. Through their contacts and ongoing relationships with governmental officials and processes, CDCs may allow citizens, especially racial and language minorities, to use their new skills in directly participating in the planning of urban neighborhood redevelopment. Minority participation in the community development partnerships among government, private funders, and CDCs also "may have a mediating influence on the actions of traditional urban institutions that otherwise might not consider community-based concerns in neighborhood development activities" (Yin 1998, 138). Moreover, CDCs and their neighborhood initiatives may advance minority self-determination. In Boston, for example, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative has yielded a strategy for blacks and Latinos to influence public zoning regulations for the benefit of their community (Medoff and Sklar 1994). Generally, this strategy includes monitoring the policymaking process, pressing public officials to enact equitable legislation and regulations, and formulating and lobbying for policy alternatives that grant "residential representatives more power over development decisions in their neighborhoods" (Jennings (1992, 142).

Perhaps CDCs can be instruments for expanding minority incorporation. CDCs may advance minority representation in and responsiveness from urban political systems, as Gilliam (1975) expected they would. Consider this. Decentralization and devolution characterize the current policymaking context. Responsibility for managing collective problems flows downward through the federal hierarchy to cities and often into their neighborhoods. Decentralization and devolution encourage the creation of new policy subsystems in which organized interests wage political conflict and "enlarge[s] the number of groups participating in the policymaking process" (Fainstein and Fainstein 1976, 922). Arena shifting due to devolution may permit CDCs to alter the decisions of local policy-makers and win equitable public policies from city government (Clavel and Wiewel 1991; Drier 1996; Ferman 1996; Metzger 1988; Mier 1993; Weiss and Metzger 1989). As Ferman (1996, 99) found in Pittsburgh, CDCs and other neighborhood-based organizations can be "instrumental in promoting more balanced policy initiatives" if they are regime members, even if only in the affordable housing policy subregime (Swanstrom and Koschinsky 1999). In some cities, the activities of CDCs have led municipal "agencies to adapt public programs and agency operating procedures to CDC's distinctive capabilities and needs" (Vidal 1992, 20). Ferman (1996, 99) notes that "operating support for CDCs . . . was given line-item status in Pittsburgh's capital budget" (Ferman 1996, 99). Furthermore, in cities where CDCs are more than observers of governmental discussions concerning the implementation of public redevelopment policy, there is evidence that suggests they give voice to the concerns and aspirations of minority communities and get good results. As Briggs and Mueller (1997, 194) aver, "through their sometimes sizable real estate investments and tenant constituencies, and through informal ties to other groups and well-placed individuals, [CDCs] can be potent actors in local politics." According to Pierre Clavel, Jessica Pitt, and Jordan Yin (1997, 447),

there is evidence that the direct and indirect effects of CDCs on [city] politics is enormous . . . Direct effects, as in overt campaigning for community candidates, sometimes occurred. Indirect effects, in which neighborhood organizing and service delivery resulted in the creation of a community base that they could deliver electorally, were just as important. Most common were efforts short of a real political takeover. In many places, CDCs became a political force by becoming [real estate] developers and providing other services and by maintaining -- if indirectly in most cases -- the advocacy function in their neighborhoods.

Clavel and his colleagues, Pitt, and Yin (1997, 450) even assert that CDCs are "in the process of creating a new configuration of [urban] interests." If this is true, maybe the prospects of CDCs to be mediums for representing citizens' interests to city government and influencing city government responsiveness are better than most reports suggest. Perhaps CDCs, despite their deficiencies and limits as political actors, can be mediums for expanding the scope of conflict in urban politics. Maybe black church-associated CDCs, in particular, can play this role for urban blacks and their neighborhoods.

3. Black Church-Associated CDCs in New York City

Like all institutions, black church-associated CDCs exist to do certain things. There are four possible purposes or utilities of black church-associated CDCs: Manifest the Christian social gospel (spiritual); protect congregations from liabilities (financial); develop and administer programs (production); and represent communities to public and private institutions of power (political) (Owens 1999). Those that can do all these things well have acquired fame beyond the limits of their cities. National political and financial elites celebrate them as among the country's best community development organizations. Examples are Los Angeles' Renaissance Development Corporation (an affiliate of First African Methodist Episcopal Church) and Detroit's REACH, Inc. (an affiliate of Twelfth Street Missionary Baptist Church). Most black church-associated CDCs, however, have modest reputations and receive little publicity. Today, black church-associated CDCs are located in all of the largest American cities. In some cities, the black church-associated CDC is the preeminent means by which black residents have reformed the conditions in their neighborhoods. Nowhere is this truer than in New York City, where nine black church-associated CDCs toil to make areas of black settlement decent and stable.


The earliest black church-associated CDCs in New York City, which continue to operate today, generally emerged from formal and informal interdenominational associations of black churches. In time, some of the associations opened their membership to other religious institutions, namely, churches affiliated with white-led denominations and mosques. In the beginning, the coalitions supporting the CDCs were small. It was rare for their membership to consist of more than fifteen congregations. Most began with memberships of ten churches or less. The number of churches and other religious institutions that sponsored the CDCs grew as the reputation and project portfolios of the organizations grew. Another factor in membership growth was the conscious actions of the CDCs to seek new allies and collaborators. One purpose was to increase the legitimacy of the organization in the eyes of residents and the city's elites, especially the banks. Another purpose was to build capacity collectively by sharing costs and reducing free riders. Furthermore, in line with the view of Mark Weinheimer (1996, 14), more members supporting the coalition-based CDCs could provide "strength in numbers, enabling member units to contribute skills and assets and to leverage the interests of other institutions." Often these other institutions were governmental. In seeking to leverage public resources, the CDCs did, and continue to, rely on their member-churches' moral, financial, and symbolic resources, as well as political capital gained from past electoral involvement, to provide a fulcrum. As the pastor of a Missionary Baptist Church in Queens, notes,

the coalition works best [because of] numbers. Politicians look at numbers. To get elected they need numbers. So, the coalition is the best way to go. As I pointed out, there are churches that are large enough in magnitude to go their own way. I take nothing away from that model. That model is fine. But I think the coalition is the best way to do it.

When "doing development," having an association of black pastors and their churches supporting it often helped the coalition-based black church-associated CDCs get the resources they needed. Whether the collective action of coalition-based black church-associated CDCs had an advantage over independent black church-associated CDCs is an empirical question.

Not all of New York City's black churches that were interested in using the CDC joined with other churches. Those black churches with the largest, most affluent, and often most professionally skilled congregations chartered their own CDCs as nonprofit subsidiaries. Initially, these independent black church-associated CDCs relied on the resources of their chartering churches, particularly congregants' tithes and church office space and equipment. Eventually, by acquiring resources beyond the congregation, they became freestanding, separate legal entities. Although the CDCs no longer rely on the material resources of the churches, they continue to depend on the nonmaterial resources of the churches. These resources are as important as material resources. The Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC) is instructive. Chartered in 1989 as an independent CDC, ADC has found it necessary to retain a close affiliation with the Abyssinian Baptist Church. The necessity is due to ADC's respect for the role of the church in the formation and nurturing of the organization. However, other factors that encourage the closeness of the CDC to the church. In New York City, the prominence of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Afro New York history, and its politically connected pastor, are well known, respected, and received by the city's economic elites and institutions in the private and public sectors. The mystique of "Abyssinian" creates resource opportunities for its CDC. Often its staff can convert their opportunities into short-term projects and long-term programs. An officer of the CDC clarifies the point:

In the ten years, we would not have been able to accomplish the things we have if we were not associated with the Abyssinian Baptist Church, its legacy, its institutional resources, which were not dollars. Volunteers and the political might. The legacy that people walking in . . . would give us project money because the church is gonna be there, they've been their 190 years already so you can pretty much take a risk, even though we are distinctly separate, with separate board of directors.

Few black churches with CDCs rival the notoriety of Abyssinian, or match its history. Many of the independent black church-associated CDCs, however, have the necessary nonmaterial resources for their CDCs to follow the path of ADC (Owens forthcoming).

Table 1 identifies four prominent coalition-based black church-associated CDCs and Table 2 identifies five independent CDCs affiliated with notable black churches in New York City.

Table 1: 

Coalition-Based Black Church-Associated Community Development Corporations in New York City



Year  Founded Budget  (1999) Staff  Size Proportion of Staff Residing in Service Area Program Areas and Activities
Association of Brooklyn Clergy for Community Development 1987 $250,000 4 50% >
Economic Development
Health Services
Social Services
Community Organizing
Youth Development
Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corporation 1980 $3,500,000 20 50% >
Community Organizing
Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement  1986 $4,500,000 90 50% >
Economic Development
Health Services
Social Services
Community Organizing
Youth Development
Southeast Queens Clergy for Community Empowerment 1986 $500,000 11 50% >
Social Services
Youth Development


1985 $2,187,500 31 50% > Housing


Table 2: 

Independent Black Church-Associated Community Development Corporations in New York City



Year Founded Budget (1998) Staff  Size Proportion of Staff Residing in the Service Area Program Areas and Activities
Abyssinian Development Corporation 1989 $3,500,000 55 < 50%
Economic Development
Health Services
Social Services
Community Organizing
Youth Development
Allen Neighborhood Preservation and Development Corporation 1986 $550,000 16 50% >
Health Services
Social Services
Senior Citizen Services
Bridge Street Development Corporation 1995 $350,000 6 50% >
Economic Development
Community Organizing
Computer Literacy
Canaan Housing Development Corporation 1980 $5,000,000 35 50% >
Social Services
Senior Citizen Services
Concord Community Development Corporation 1994 $150,000 3 < 50%


1989 $1,910,000 23 50% >

Collectively, the nine black church-associated CDCs tend to be mature. The charter/sponsor churches of seven of the nine black church-associated CDCs incorporated their CDCs before 1990. The mean age of the black church-associated CDCs is 1987. As for their governance, all have boards of directors responsible mainly for advice and fundraising. The average board size is sixteen members. Board membership is composed of mostly individuals who own homes, work, or operate businesses in the organizations' target or service areas. No black church-associated CDC includes clients on their boards of directors. Almost all board members are black, male, and professional. Directors are not necessarily congregants at the churches affiliated with the CDCs. No board is comprised solely of church congregants. A few church members, one to three, serve on the boards of the CDCs. In the case of coalition-based black church-associated CDCs, pastors tend to govern the boards. A few, however, have boards that include prominent lay representation. With the exception of the coalition-based CDC, pastors are not members of the boards of directors of their church-associated CDCs. This is not to say that they do not provide leadership for or influence the actions of the CDCs. In fact, every CDC director acknowledges the important roles that their pastors play in the work of their organizations, with pastoral roles ranging from fund-raiser to lobbyist and negotiator to deal maker. Consider the views of two CDC directors.

Reverend ________, as pastor of the church, is an advocate. He is the founder. He is an advocate. He is a fundraiser. He is an advisor. Those roles are very big.

When it was time to do the project, "Rev" called a meeting with the Borough President, the Department of Highways, the developer, someone from the bank [Chemical/Chase Community Development Corporation], and us. We all met together. It was really good because it helped the project move a lot quicker. We didn't have to get caught up in bureaucratic red tape. It was really good for the community.

As for staff, most live in their organizations' service areas, but their directors (56 percent) tend to not. The number of paid employees, as well as volunteers, of the black church-associated CDCs is modest. The average staff size of the black church-associated CDC ranges between eleven and twenty employees. The median number of staff is sixteen. The majority work full-time schedules. Furthermore, most of the leadership and core staff of the nine CDCs is skilled and trained to do what they do. All of the CDCs' directors possess graduate or professional degrees. In terms of funding, the median annual budget of the black church-associated CDCs in 1999 was $550,000. As for their records of accomplishment, the CDCs generally have extensive ones. It is the older CDCs, however, who have sponsored the most housing, created the most jobs, lured the greatest amounts of private investment, and deliver services to the largest clientele. Still, a few of the younger ones seem more creative in the types of services they deliver. For example, the Bridge Street Development Corporation, which operates a free neighborhood computer lab, is the only black church-associated CDC among the nine to have computer literacy as a primary program area.

Programs and Activities

Black churches intend for associated CDCs to produce goods and services that better the conditions of blacks, individually and collectively. Some black church-associated CDCs sponsor the development of owner-occupied housing, while others favor renter-occupied housing, both its development and management. A few operate businesses, while others may own commercial property and lease the space for profit. One black church-associated CDC may provide social services delivery. Another may place its emphasis on and resources in community organizing. Most try to address the range of physical, commercial, and human capital needs of the people residing in their service areas. No two black church-associated CDCs, however, offer the same mix of services and programs.

The nine black church-associated CDCs in New York City maintain growing program portfolios. Their portfolios range from the single purpose (e.g., housing) to the multipurpose (e.g., housing, social services, employment, community organizing). It is uncommon for black church-associated CDCs to involve themselves solely in one area or activity. The majority has multiple and overlapping program areas and activities. The Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement and the Abyssinian Development Corporation, for instance, cater to nearly all of the possible needs of their clients. Directly or indirectly, they provide service area residents with shelter, jobs, counseling, daycare, and groceries.

In targeting areas like housing, social services, and education, the city's black church-associated CDCs hope to affect positively the physical and commercial infrastructures of their clients. They also hope that their activities will foster upward mobility among the areas' individuals and families. The effects of black church-associated CDCs' activities include increased numbers and quality of housing and jobs in black neighborhoods. The CDCs have also delivered a host of social services and promoted public order and safety. Housing, however, is the primary program area for the black church-associated CDCs in New York City. Together, they have developed approximately 5,000 units of affordable housing. This number includes the production of low- and moderate-income rental housing, as well as moderate- and middle-income owner-occupied units. Table 3 shows most of the black church-associated CDCs are engaged in the same types of housing activities.

Table 3:

Types of Housing Activities by Black Church-Associated Community Development Corporations in New York City


Housing Activity 

Percent of CDCs Engaged In Activity
Home Ownership Counseling 80
Owner-Occupied Housing Development 80
Rental Housing Development 90
Supportive Housing Development 56
Rental Property Ownership and/or Management 68

The roles black church-associated CDCs play in affordable housing production tend to be the same. They are, as the literature suggests (Mares 1994), investors, sponsors, developers, service providers, and property managers. As investors, the black church-based CDCs contribute the financial resources needed to develop housing, from site selection, to construction, to marketing. As sponsors, they assist in raising funds for development and secure support for housing projects among residents. As developers, they are responsible for the entire process of housing development. As supportive service providers, they provide services to the tenants of the new housing following completion of the housing project. As property manager, they bear the responsibility for property and building maintenance.


Philanthropy from the black congregants of their sponsor churches underwrites some of the achievements of black church-associated CDCs in New York City, but not much. The nine black church-associated CDCs receive almost no administrative and programmatic resources from their affiliated churches. Black church-associated CDCs, similar to their sponsoring churches, have "found [and followed] an avenue of funding beyond Sunday collections" (Richardson 1994, 122). This route leads the CDCs outside their neighborhoods to the doorsteps of external sources of funding to develop, support, and expand their capacity. Their patrons, as Table 4 reports, include national foundations (e.g., the Ford Foundation), development intermediaries (e.g., Local Initiatives Support Corporation), and corporations, primarily through the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Table 4:

Sources of Funding for Black Church-Associated Community Development Corporations in New York City


Funding Source

Percent of CDCs Relying On Funding Source
Contracts or Fees for Services 89
Donations 44
Banks 89
Intermediaries (e.g., LISC) 100
Chartering Church(es) Operating Budget 22
Federal Government (e.g., HOME) 78
State Government 89
Local Government 89
Corporations (i.e., LIHTCs) 56
National Philanthropic Foundations 56
Community Philanthropic Foundations 22
Returns on Investments 0

The capital black church-associated CDCs obtain from this funding mix accounts for a large proportion of their programmatic achievements. Nevertheless, the amounts of resources the black church-associated CDCs extract from the private sector are often insufficient to meet their development needs. Moreover, the coffers of corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, often remain sealed unless the black church-associated CDCs come to them bearing pre-existing resources, be it their own or another's. Of the nine CDCs, few independently possess the required type and amount of resources requested by private sector financial elites. The rest must first look for and get public money to encourage or supplement private sector financial support for their development projects.

Black church-associated CDCs, like other religious nonprofit organization, as well as nearly all CDCs (Vidal 1992), rely on public interventions. These interventions include infrastructure upgrades, buildings, and land. Other interventions are tax abatements, mortgage insurance, and loan guarantees. Funding is the chief intervention. Government money is not the prime source of funding for black church-associated CDCs. It is, however, elemental to their work. "City and state funds," as the director of a Queens-based black church-associated CDC comments, "go hand in hand in terms of our programs and projects." In the case of another, New York State funds the administrative part of its operation through the state's Neighborhood Preservation Development Companies program.(8) As of 1996, the CDC had received $822,852 in state funds for administrative expenses (New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal 1998, 63). Aside from New York State, the CDC and its counterparts relies on New York City for funding. Little of the CDCs' public funding is in the form of grants. Much of it is contracts and fees for service, particularly with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Human Resources Administration, and other city agencies. The leadership of black church-associated CDCs does not attempt to conceal their organizations' reliance on public support.(9) They want the world to know that public action benefits them, and that the government must sustain its action if the black church-associated CDCs are to remain effective, especially in the area of affordable housing production. Most directors of the black church-associated CDCs agree with the comments of a Harlem colleague: "We are very quick to acknowledge that public support has to continue for our success." Of the government funds most needed by black church-associated CDCs to do their work, two stand out - HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.(10) Increasingly, however, an important source of funding for the black church-associated CDCs and their projects in New York City is the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program.(11) The LIHTC is introducing new, and sometimes very large, sums of private, corporate dollars into the majority-black neighborhoods of New York City the black church-associated CDCs serve. This mix of private and public funding gives black church-associated CDCs the financial resources needed in their efforts to, in the words of Robert Clemetson and Roger Coates (1992), "restore broken places and rebuild communities."

Black church-associated CDCs in New York work with government, not against it, to produce and distribute collective goods like housing and jobs. Asked to characterize their organizational style in relating to public agencies, 78 percent of the CDCs' directors describe their style as cooperative. (The remainder claims to be equally adversarial and cooperative.) Black church-associated CDCs are coproducers, funded in part by government money, working cooperatively with institutions of public power to determine the quantity and quality of services provided in black neighborhoods. Among the nine CDCs, all but one participates in government programs that channel public resources for neighborhood redevelopment projects. These programs range from New York City's Neighborhood Redevelopment Program to New York State's Neighborhood Preservation Company program. Federal programs they participate in include the U.S. Federal Housing Administration's Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 202 Elderly Housing program.

4. Temporal Politics: Four Forms of Political Action

Through coproduction, black church-associated CDCs forge vertical links between society's institutions of power and the communities they serve. For example, they connect black citizens to city government and city government to black citizens (Owens in press). Specifically, these black-controlled conduits channel substantive resources (e.g., money and property) and symbolic resources (e.g., legitimacy and prestige) from the larger external community to the smaller internal communities of urban blacks (Hunter and Staggenborg 1988). Beyond the politics of coproduction, however, which is common to most CDCs, do black church-associated CDCs in New York City act politically? Do they foster political development? If so, what are their expressions of political participation that assist their communities to influence whom their public officials are and/or the decisions they make while in office?

There are four forms of political action black church-associated CDCs may practice to influence policymakers: electoral action, legislative-regulatory action, protest action, and civic action. Within each form are sets of activities that, when combined, can foster greater political development. What follows is an examination of the use of the four forms of political action by black church-associated CDCs in New York City. The general conclusion is that most of the nine CDCs are not active contestants on behalf of blacks in the political arena, but the actions of some suggest that they are far from apolitical. I conclude that political capacity and political will on the part of their leadership makes a difference in the types of political actions black church-associated CDCs practice and their overall use of political development as a strategy of community development.

Electoral Action

Few black church-associated CDCs directly engage their organizations in electoral politics like registering their clients to vote and mobilizing them on Election Day. Some wish to remain free of the influence of politicians. Others do not see electoral action as the proper role of their organizations. Many of them leave the work up to their chartering or sponsoring churches, which try to increase black electoral power and policy influence in New York City and nationally (Green and Wilson 1992; Owens 1997a; Wilson and Green 1988). Some of the CDCs disengage from politics in order to protect themselves. All understand the importance of electoral actions like voter registration on the types of communities they service. Collectively, however, black church-associated CDCs exert little effort to encourage voting and break down barriers to resident turnout on Election Day.

Black church-associated CDCs tend not step into the arena of electoral politics. Those that do, avoid stepping too far into it. Asked if they involve their CDCs in neighborhood and citywide electoral politics, 78 percent of directors answered that they do not. Part of the explanation for CDC avoidance of electoral politics is section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. The code strictly prohibits partisan political action by charitable nonprofit organizations, which CDCs are. Nonprofits may not endorse candidates or suggest to voters they vote for a particular candidate. Another part of the reason why the CDCs may avoid electoral action is that they confuse or conflate "partisan" with "electoral." During their interviews, the directors often used the terms synonymously. There is, however, a difference between the terms. Partisan describes activities intended to promote the election of a particular candidate or party. Electoral refers to activities that are related to voters and voting. There are at least four nonpartisan electoral actions CDCs may take to influence elections. They include voter registration and mobilization, among others. Unfortunately, few black church-associated CDCs take them (see Table 5).

Table 5

Electoral Action by Nine Black Church-Associated Community Development Corporations in New York City



Percent of CDCs Reporting They Engage(d) in Action
Register Neighborhood Residents to Vote 33
"Get Out the Vote" on Election Day 11
Hold Candidate Forums 22
Publicize Public Officials' Voting Records 11
Distribute Voter Guides 100

Two electoral actions nonprofits may take are to publicize the voting records of incumbents and distribute voter guides. One CDC claims to have done the former, while all report that they do the latter. With the exception of the lone CDC that has done it "Oh, once or twice," black church-associated CDCs do not follow the voting records of their communities' representatives and circulate them throughout their neighborhoods. Nevertheless, all of the black church-associated, while they may not research candidates and their issues and produce their own guides, consistently pass along the voter guides of other organizations to their community residents. The CDCs often receive such guides from public agencies such as the New York City Voter Assistance Commission or public interest groups like the League of Women Voters or the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Registering voters is an uncommon electoral action of black church-associated CDCs in New York City. Six of the nine CDCs do not do it. The offices of black church-associated CDCs seldom stock voter registration forms. Few have placards inside or outside their offices extolling voting as either a civic duty or group necessity. Staff does not go into the community and register new voters. There are exceptions. Some CDCs recognize the important role they can play in increasing the size of the black electorate in a city where black policy influence is low, and they act on it. A director of a CDC that fosters voter registration explains:

We routinely encourage people to vote and collaborate with [other neighborhood organizations] to spur voter registration because that is a part of community activism. We teach people how you get change in a community yourself without relying on anybody, us or anybody else. We let the folk know that numbers and votes matter. They can change a neighborhood.

Still, it is rare for a black church-associated CDC to commit itself to fostering a larger black voting bloc citywide or bringing more nonvoters in their neighborhoods on to the voter registration rolls.

Along with voter registration, nonprofits may mobilize voters during election cycles. Mobilization activities may include encouraging residents to work for candidates that impress them, the provision of printed and electronic reminders to vote, free transportation to the polls, and the recruitment of poll monitors. Mobilization like registration, however, is an unusual electoral action of black church-associated CDCs. Only one of the nine CDCs reports it conducts voter mobilization during primaries and/or general elections. As a means of educating registered voters about candidates, and indirectly fostering voter turnout, nonprofits may sponsor candidate forums. The intent of such events is to present political incumbents and challengers to residents for public scrutiny. Two CDCs routinely hold forums that allow community residents to meet candidates, and to learn of and comment on their qualifications for office and political agendas. The general attitude the duo's directors expressed in their interviews is that "no one else in the community was doing it, so we did it." There is no indication that the forums will be a regular event for the CDCs during future election cycles.

Protest Action

The leadership, namely, the executive directors, of the CDCs claim not to be silent on pressing issues affecting their communities. In response to the question, do you express publicly your views on social and political issues, 67 percent answered affirmatively. They also generally contend that they would not limit their advocacy because they seek resources from government and other institutions, or that observers should construe their dependence and receipt of external resources as cooptation. The comments of a Queens-based CDC director is representative:

I don't think [the mayor or other public officials] should stop a person from speaking their conscience while doing development. The whole mission of CDCs, especially faith-based ones, should be that we are the ones who stand up for our communities. We should not be afraid of anything because, I mean, really, injustice is something we need more people to speak out against. But, when we are partners [with government], we are not being bought [by government]; we are being given what we deserve to have."

Yet, while CDC directors speak against injustice, their organizations do not protest against institutions of power.

Protest actions are unusual for black church-associated CDCs in New York City (see Table 6). For example, just three CDCs have confronted publicly the lending practices or absence of commercial lenders in their neighborhoods. Most of their directors contend they favor such action and do so themselves. However, they stipulate that they choose not to do it publicly. A Brooklyn-based CDC director put it this way: "We have raised the issue of redlining with some banks, but we did it behind the scenes so as not to embarrass them or ourselves if our advocacy failed to influence them." The same three black church-associated CDCs are the only ones to endorse publicly any political cause or events. In 1999, public demonstrations flared over the police killing of an innocent black West African immigrant. Two directors marched to support an investigation of the wrongful death and changes in the enforcement practices of the New York Police Department in black communities. None, however, used the resources of their organizations, namely, their collective voice and organizational skills, to organize independent protest demonstrations.

Table 6

Protest Action by Nine Black Church-Associated Community Development Corporations in New York City


Percent of CDCs Reporting They Engage(d) in Action
Challenge Publicly Bank Lending Patterns 33
Endorse Publicly Political Causes and Events (e.g., demonstrations/ boycotts) 33
Organize Political Protests 0

Why do black church-associated CDCs do little in the area of protest? Interviews with the pastors of the black churches that organized the nine CDCs did not reveal the need for protest organizations as cause for chartering black church-associated CDCs. We know that many CDCs in American cities, especially the oldest ones, began as protest organizations (Vidal 1992). Yet, while other CDCs may have grown out of conflict, black church-associated CDCs in New York City did not. Conflict has never been a chief means of these CDCs for reforming conditions in the city's black neighborhoods. It probably never will be. A limiting factor is that black elites in the city lack confidence in protest. Half of the pastors believe protest is the least effective means of bettering the conditions of poor black New Yorkers and their neighborhoods. Only 20 percent contend it is the most effective form of political participation. Black elected officials are less sanguine about protest than black pastors: 70 percent identified protest as ineffective political participation and social uplift. It is no surprise then that the black church-associated CDCs avoid conflict. Cooperation and collaboration are their standard operating practices. A Harlem-based CDC director is clear:

I don't think that we have ever taken a straight-up confrontational position with city officials. That's not to say they haven't taken confrontational positions with us . . . But ours was not confrontational back; it was just survival. How do we cooperate? We do whatever is necessary to cooperate.

As long as cooperation and collaboration continue to provide them with the resources they need and avoid reprisals from politicians, black church-associated CDCs will probably continue to avoid protest actions.

Legislative-Regulatory Action

Voting and elections happen infrequently, every four years, every two years. Protest often depends on the presence of infrequent focusing events. CDCs could do much to promote political development in their neighborhoods in off election years and in the interim between social crises. CDCs can do things that supplement what electoral politics may provide. They can identify and acquire resources for development, but they can also monitor, recommend, and influence policy decisions by elected and appointed public officials. In short, beyond electoral and protest actions, CDCs may take a different set of political actions - legislative-regulatory actions. These acts involve efforts to influence the decisions of public officials in the policymaking process. According to a leader of a Queens-based black church-associated CDC, it does "no electoral activism, but political action is taken. For example, giving testimony, lobbying government officials, or participating in associations, oriented toward increasing benefits or reforming the development process or serving on public commissions." The legislative-regulatory actions Allen NPDC routinely engages in, Table 7 shows, are common to the other black church-associated CDCs.

Table 7

Legislative-Regulatory Action by Nine Black Church-Associated Community Development Corporations in New York City



Percent of CDCs Reporting They Engage(d) in Action
Testify at Legislative and Regulatory Hearings 89
Encourage Residents to Lobby Public Officials 56
"Educate" Public Officials on Legislation and Regulations 78
Member of Formal Policy Advocacy Coalition(s) 67
Independently Track and Monitor Legislation and Regulation 22

Just two black church-associated CDCs try to independently track and monitor potential and actual policy changes on the part of the city council or within the public bureaucracy. Generally, the CDCs lack the expertise or manpower to follow new legislation and rules through complex policymaking processes. Rather than remain ignorant of policies and processes, however, black church-associated CDCs have sought the assistance of others. Hence, a widely used legislative-regulatory action by black church-associated CDCs is to join a policy advocacy coalition. There is no citywide coalition of black church-associated CDCs in New York City, yet. Perhaps one will form as the number of black church-associated CDCs increase. This appears to be the case for CDCs generally (Goetz 1993). In the meantime, in order to affect policy issues, most (67 percent) black church-associated CDCs are members of existing, formal policy coalitions, namely, the Association for Neighborhood Housing Development (ANHD) and the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition of New York State (NPC). Both organizations advocate for progressive housing policies and greater involvement of nonprofit housing organizations in the administration of public affordable housing programs. They also provide technical assistance services to their membership. ANHD is a citywide nonprofit, membership organization of 83 community-based housing developers. As of 1999, five of the nine CDCs were active members of ANHD. NPC is a statewide, nonprofit, membership organization of 250 community-based organizations and housing advocates. One of the black church-associated CDCs, Allen NPDC, is a member. The participation of black church-associated CDCs in the collective actions of policy advocacy coalitions allows them to safely lobby for policy change and insinuate themselves in policy-making processes.

The leadership of black church-associated CDCs knows that understanding the policy process is important if they want to achieve their goals for their neighborhoods. Consider the thoughts of a CDC director in central Brooklyn:

I think public policy is major. I think that we are reeling and staggering as a community because we've not been diligent in the creation of policy proposals and the impact of public policy. It has really continuously put us in a position of [being reactive] and we remain in a position of being reactive and in crisis. The Black Church is one of the first or is at the front gate of the crisis. A family goes in crisis, whether or not they are a member the Church, they go to the Church. You're hungry, you to the Church. You need money, you go to the Church. You're family is sick you go the Church. You need advocacy, you go to the Church. But, then you go the Church and the Church has no idea how the policies that are affecting the community work. So, the food lines are longer and they can't raise the money to cover the needs anymore. They don't understand what 'charitable choice' is. They don't understand how everything that goes on in City Hall, the Council's meetings, and in Washington affects their lives. So, yes, I think [policy] is major. . . .That's where my head is. It is oriented toward policy and making changes in it.

Those CDCs with a politicized leadership do not waste opportunities to impact public policymaking when they arise. Independently or in cooperation their policy advocacy coalitions, when a chance avails itself to them, officers of the CDCs will make direct contact with political elites. Two actions common to nonprofits interested in affecting public policy are common to most black church-associated CDCs, as Table 7 reports.

First, the leadership, both board members and officers, give testimonies at public hearings and male other contacts with public officials. "We write letters, at least I do, on policy issues," a Brooklyn-based CDC director notes. "We want to do more of that," they continue, "for I think that advocacy is a key component to policy success. I don't believe, personally, that CDCs or other black groups do enough of it." The purpose of letter writing and testifying is often to affirm or dispute the potential benefits and costs of particular decisions by policymakers. They also may promote the need for policy changes or foster better oversight of the implementation of public policies.

Second, the leadership of black church-associated CDCs "educate" -- a euphemism for advocacy, even lobbying -- elected and appointed officials.

We have a good working relationship with all of our elected officials. Depending on what we are doing determines how closely we work with. But, they are apprised of our projects. We have a great relationship where we can turn to them if we need any legislation or rules pushed through or there are instances where we need liens waived on houses in order to make a project work. We are able to get them top help us when we need things done.

Black church-associated CDCs may recruit academic researchers who serve on their boards of directors or researchers not affiliated with the CDCs to conduct economic or impact analyses and share the results with city council members or agency commissioners. The leadership of the CDCs also may try to call in debts political elites owe them or work ask their public or private sector allies to contact high-ranking or influential government officials on their behalf.

Another legislative-regulatory action of black church-associated CDCs in New York City is to encourage residents to lobby public officials. More than half of the CDCs mentions that they ask community residents to contact local officials. Often the requests the CDCs make of residents, primarily those in CDC-developed housing, is to urge their representatives to support the requests of the CDCs for public resources. Other times the CDCs ask their residents to encourage public officials to consider particular policy alternatives or pass a specific piece of legislation or a rule that could improve neighborhood conditions or address pressing public problems.

Civic Action

Civic action or community organizing encourages the formation of social consciousness and promotes a public spirit among citizens disengaged from trying to solve local problems or restricted from influencing public policymaking. The organizing acts of CDCs and other neighborhood-based institutions tend to include publishing community newsletters, owning and managing rental buildings, developing sustainable leadership among youth, and sponsoring community-wide events that mix social recreation with social activism, among other activities. All of these civic actions promote face-to-face interactions among citizens and/or provide them with important problem-solving information. In its various forms, civic action allows institutions like nonprofit organizations to identify and publicize the political values and needs of citizens. It also may enable them to politicize citizens who will then act independently or collectively to redistribute authority and control over public decisions affecting their communities. Collectively and over time, civic action can make a difference in the socioeconomic conditions and political characters of urban neighborhoods. Encouragement and maintenance of face-to-face participation and education of citizens, when channeled into community-based political actions, may change the balance of power in neighborhoods and influence the policy decisions at the city level (Berry, Portney, and Thomson 1993, 286).

A minority (33 percent) of the directors of the black church-associated CDCs in New York City reports their organizations "organize community stakeholders." Although most of the CDCs say they do not do organizing, much of what some of them do is civic action. For a few, it is a stated goal. A brochure of one CDC claims that a fundamental goal of the institution is as follows:

To develop, among the population we serve, an empowered citizenry, capable of constructively organizing and governing themselves, and requiring that institutions vested with the public trust (i.e., city agencies, community boards, school boards, landlords, etc.), fulfill their legal and moral obligations to the community.

Table 8 identifies nine civic acts that black church-associated CDCs, or other CDCs, may undertake to yield greater social consciousness and deepen the public spirit among the residents and other stakeholders of their target areas. Some of them are more common to the black church-associated CDCs than other actions, with a majority of the CDCs engaged in four civic actions consistently.


Table 8

Civic Action by Nine Black Church-Associated

Community Development Corporations in New York City


Action Percent of CDCs Reporting They Engage(d) in Action
Hold Community-wide Policy Forums 56
Foster Neighborhood Associations 67
Provide Political Organizations Free Meeting Space 67
Maintain Web Site w/ Political/Policy Information 0
Publish Newspaper Highlighting Policy Issues 44
Poll Residents re: Community Problems 11
Poll Residents re: CDC Activities and Programs 0
Hire Community Organizers 22
Contact Media to Publicize Opinions or Events 50

 Chief among the civic actions of the black church-associated CDCs is the creation of block groups and resident and neighborhood associations. Some organize only the residents of their housing. For example, a Harlem-based black church-associated CDC has been organizing welfare recipients in its rental buildings around welfare reform and the U.S. census of population and housing. One of its activities has been the publication and circulation of quarterly welfare reform alerts. Others cooperate with groups like the Citizens Committee of New York to organize a critical mass of residents, local entrepreneurs, and property owners to train stakeholders in consensus organizing and collaborative problem neighborhood solving. Issues they have worked on include reclaiming community playgrounds from the drug dealers and the demimonde to fostering small business development and introducing franchises in their neighborhood. Two of the CDCs involved in building resident-led organizations rely on paid, professional, full-time community organizers.(12) These CDCs devote time and other resources to the mission of organizing neighborhood residents. Their activities include: forming tenant patrols to assist the police department in enforcing laws; sponsoring workshops on resident enforcement of the city's building code, training residents in mediation and conflict resolution; and organizing meetings of property owners to discuss problems with abandoned and litter-strewn buildings; and hosting social gatherings to bring residents together to form friendships and promote collective concern and action on future neighborhood problems. A director describes their CDC's civic work:

Well, we have a whole unit dedicated facilitating that type of involvement. We have fifteen block associations that we work with and primarily to get them to be participants in the redevelopment of their areas. So that is the primary way we do that, encourage resident participation and education.

The philosophical approach behind the activities of this particular CDC is characteristic of other neighborhood-based organizations, especially those affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation:

Organizing has been, as [we] see it in the past, where community groups says what is good for the people and then organizes them to support their position. Ours is more to give people the tools with which to make their voice heard and to support them in doing so, but not to be their voice.

An officer of another black church-associated CDC that organizes stakeholders reflects on community organizing in light of its mission and in relation to general community building efforts:

Our mission around organizing? It goes back to how do we describe what we do in terms of getting the people in the community active, not only what we're doing in their building, but just in their own lives. That's clearly what [the organizer] is doing. Having people to think more responsively about taking care of themselves or in, say, 'organizing' a building. I always shy away from that because it's not so much for us to say 'We've decided what's good for you. Okay. We want all of you to rally around it and get this done.' It's is more 'You gotta take an active role in determining what your building looks like.' Organizing has been 'Okay, let's get together to fight the landlord' or things like that.' But, to say 'What we want you to do is to realize that there are landlord responsibilities and tenant responsibilities. If you go around and you're trashing the hall, then to say that it wasn't clean is not the only solution to it. That you have some responsibility for living in a building that you call your home.' So, some of that is that we're trying to really define that and have that be, you know, to use an over-used word 'empowerment', but just to get people prepared more and more is as well a part of what we do in terms of, you know, uh -- Community building is to have the people in the community be a part of that.

An additional civic action most of black church-associated CDCs take in their communities is holding community-wide policy forums to identify neighborhood problems and policies/programs that may be effective at solving or at least managing them. The director of a black church-associated CDC in Bedford-Stuyvesant remarks that the purpose of such forums is to "keep public issues in the forefront of residents' minds." Sometimes the black church-associated CDCs sponsor their own forums. Their leadership, however, recognize the value of connecting political elites to their grassroots citizens and the need of citizens to feel their representatives are cooperative and accountable. Consequently, the CDCs will often collaborate with elected officials to sponsor a community forum.

There is a supplemental civic action most black church-associated CDCs practice that provides a key resource for civic action by other groups - meeting space. Various advocacy and nonpartisan political organizations receive free meeting space for conducting strategy meetings, organizing political events, and bringing together their membership for informational and training sessions. Examples of groups that black church-associated CDCs have subsidized with space range from local chapters of the National Association for Colored People to the Working Families Party.

Media organs can be useful in civic action, especially when oriented toward minority groups (Herbst 1994). Some black church-associated CDC directors understand this. Half have either written letters to the editors of mainstream newspapers or called television or radio stations to voice their opinions or advertise an event. Yet, most black church-associated CDCs do not publish community newspapers or newsletters. Those that do try to include policy and political coverage. An issue of Phoenix, the quarterly newspaper the Abyssinian Development Corporation publishes, covered the influence of the decennial census on political representation and the distribution of public resources, the effects of block and tenant associations on their participants, and the policy impact of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. It also included a full-page directory of public and nongovernmental resources available to the community's residents who need assistance. Another medium for transmitting information to the residents of a neighborhood is the Internet. Three black church-associated CDCs have web sites. Neither, however, takes advantage of the Internet to promote political development. They do not use their web sites to educate residents regarding policy and nonpartisan political matters. They do not encourage residents to practice other forms of political action such as electoral or legislative-regulatory action. Instead, their web sites are promotional tools for advertising the physical, economic, and human development programs and accomplishments of the CDCs.

The CDC is supposed to be "a democratic firm designed to be accountable to all residents of the community" (Bruyn 1987, 16). A way a CDC may remain accountable is to know and act on the expressed concerns and aspirations of their communities. According to convention, CDCs, generally, actively identify the interests, needs, and opinions of residents in their service areas. This is not true of the black church-associated CDCs in New York City. Just one CDC has surveyed a sample of residents in their service area to learn residents' perceptions of pressing problems. More striking, not a single black church-associated CDC has polled their communities to gauge resident support for CDC programs and activities or to learn how residents believe CDC activities could be enhanced to provide a better mix of neighborhood-based services.

5. Reflection, Inference and Conclusion

There are opportunities for black church-associated CDCs to formulate and implement political development projects. Few take advantage of them. For example, black church-associated CDCs do not effectively publicize policy issues and identify community interests for their organizers to agitate people. Black church-associated CDCs also are not as involved in registering and mobilizing voters as they could. Reflection offers a few plausible explanations for the limited use of political action by black church-associated CDCs in New York City.

First, the leadership of black church-associated CDCs accepts and follows a narrow definition of political action, which proscribes their political behaviors. Asked if their organizations are political institutions, in contrast to electoral institutions, most (67 percent) of the directors of black church-associated CDCs stated that they were not.

By default -- being initiated by the church, our association with the church, puts us in the line of fire, politically. But, no, we are not a political institution. I think on our own what we do is not particularly political. I mean I don't see any of the roles that we have that are [political]; we are affected by politics. But in and of itself we are not a political institution. As I define political. I would say a organization whose goal it is to have people elected or change the system of electoral politics. And I don't think the advocacy stuff we say or do is focused on that.

I believe that we are subject to [politics]. We operate in a political environment, but we don't see ourselves as a political organization, and I don't know if their is a distinction there. We are forced to negotiate that political terrain. 

The leaders of black church-associated CDCs are not disingenuous. The directives of their governing boards do not emphasize political action. Pastors of their associated black churches are the chief political advocates of the CDCs and the communities they serve. When they state their organizations are not political institutions, they believe it and they mean it. They honestly do not see their missions as overtly political. In many ways, then, the activities of black church-associated CDCs are similar to "secular" CDCs and other nonprofits. Their actions fitting the category of political are incidental, which seems to be the case with the majority of nonprofit organizations. As Elizabeth Reid (1999, 316) of the Urban Institute observes, "Most 501(c)(3) organizations are politically active only when their organizational mission requires them to be." Unless they expand their definition of the political and accept the inherent political nature of their work as community developers, black church-associated CDCs will continue to practice a politics of incidentalism rather than a politics of purposiveness.

Second, misinterpretation of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code by the leadership of black church-associated CDCs, and their counsels, limits political action by their institutions. A common utterance of the directors of black church-associated CDCs is that, as nonprofits, particularly 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, they cannot be political or engage in politics, which they generally equate with partisan electoral activity. The directors believe their organizations must be what nonprofit advocacy scholar Judith Saidel (1993) calls "bystanders" of policy and electoral processes. This is incorrect. All charitable organizations can participate in issue advocacy or educational legislative-regulatory actions including lobbying, as long as no more than approximately 20 percent of their tax-exempt contributions pay for it (Alliance for Justice 1999; Arons 1999; Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York 1998; Reid 1999). They also may put more than a toe or two in electoral waters. Charitable organizations may practice electoral actions such as nonpartisan voter registration, voter education, and voter mobilization. Some nonprofits may engage in more political action than a 501(c)(3) charity. Specifically, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization can participate in any activity the IRS permits of 501(c)(3) organizations. Additionally, charitable organizations may participate in any activities that serve public purposes such as lobbying and advocacy in the public interest. It may also engage in a substantial amount of nonpartisan electioneering, if it is not its primary activity. One black church-associated CDC, the Southeast Queens Clergy for Community Empowerment (SQCCE), had the vision and knowledge to address the issue by chartering a nonprofit 527 political action committee (PAC).

We are still involved in electoral politics. However, what we did, because of our 501(c)(3) status, we created another corporation. It is a political awareness group. So, any politics is done through that group -- Southeast Queens Clergy for Political Awareness. It was created in 1995. It has its own chairman. All the political activities are executed through that organization. We don't want our politics to affect our nonprofit status.

As a PAC, the Southeast Queens Clergy for Political Awareness may engage in unlimited partisan political activities. It can spend money to recruit candidates, fund their campaigns, and air negative ad campaigns against a political incumbent or challenger. Most directors of black church-associated CDCs s are aware of the 501(c)(4) and 527 options for engaging in political action more directly. Few mention the possibility of pursuing them.

A third explanation for suboptimum political action by black church-associated CDCs is the nature of their work as mostly developers limits the amount of time they, like other community organizations, spend on policy issues (Gittell 1980, 242). No directors of black church-associated CDC consider physical, economic, and human development activities diversions that prevent community residents from pressuring city government to do more to reform their neighborhoods. Furthermore, all of directors of the CDCs dispute the idea that CDCs cannot be effective developers and community advocates. Evidently, nonpolitical development does divert black church-associated CDCs' attention from exerting too much pressure on government and depresses their ability, or will, to act equally as community developers and political actors.

The current forms and levels of political action by black church-associated CDCs are deficient for transforming city politics, let alone neighborhood politics. The directors acknowledge it. The majority (68 percent) of directors characterizes their access to public officials as limited and 78 percent of them characterizes their influence with political elites to be limited or nonexistent. Perhaps the political access and influence of black church-associated CDCs would be greater if they increased their political development. Holding elected officials accountable, for example, through electoral action such as publicizing voting records might make a difference. Some directors express that they would like to see their black church-associated CDCs and others do more political development than they do. A director in Brooklyn, a former organizer of Harlem Initiatives Together, the Harlem-based Industrial Areas Foundation group, makes the most coherent statement of this perspective.

Community development corporations can play roles in providing space for [political] training to take place, to help identify those persons in their communities that's been working with them and who should be trained for office, and community development corporation cam come together as a whole, because we can't do it separately, to develop some kind of training institute, whether it's structured or unstructured, that will go to all of the houses of worship and to our civic organizations and to our nonprofit organizations and say 'Show me your brightest and best.' Then let's train them to run for office and put together coalitions to support them as they run. I mean, there are things we can do to start teaching our people what the electoral process is, without telling them who to vote for. But, we can at least tell them what is going on. We can at least start some kind of institutional structure, whether that's formal or informal, that identifies folk, that brings them along, and begins the training process. We're gonna get hit between the eyes and we're not ready.

Other directors of black church-associated CDCs seem unwilling to go as far as establishing political recruitment and training organizations. Still, most agree that their institutions could do a better job informing community residents and other stakeholders about the policymaking process and the need to track the decisions of their elected and appointed representatives.

We need to reengage the black community into public policy. We need to not only involve ourselves in public policy but educate our people in relationship to how public policy is developed and implemented, how it impacts our communities, and how we can impact public policy. I'm not as interested in elected officials as I am in helping our community understand the dynamics of accountability of their elected [and appointed] officials."

The opinions and attitudes of the directors allow one to infer that it is possible for black church-associated CDCs to be stronger, effective institutions in policymaking. The potential or capacity for action and the will for it, however, influence the realization of the possible in the political sphere.

Many, perhaps most, CDCs in urban black neighborhoods have a limited potential to be politically efficacious, whether at the neighborhood or city levels. Still, some CDCs have the political potential to exert power in public policymaking processes. Their political capacity is mortgaged to a set of three fundamental and interdependent elements: legitimacy, incorporation, and influence (Glickman and Servon 1998; Owens 1999). CDCs that consistently involve residents in its activities and effectively represent their neighborhoods to outside institutions of power and authority gain legitimacy (i.e., the right to speak or act on another's behalf). Legitimacy can foster incorporation, which corresponds to participation in city governance and responsiveness from city government. Together, legitimacy and incorporation can produce influence for a CDC, which it can develop by continuously broadening and deepening its relationships with public and private sector elites who have power or can help gain it. A CDC may then use its influence to solidify its legitimacy and expand its incorporation. Black church-associated CDCs in New York City tend to possess all three elements of political capacity. Yet, in the absence of a will to translate political potential into conscious and deliberate political action their usefulness as agents of urban black political development is limited. Perhaps they could involve themselves in electoral politics more through education, registration, and mobilization. Maybe they could form nonprofit advocacy subsidiaries and push forcefully and routinely for progressive public policies. Unless they make the choice, however, they never will be as efficacious as their indices of potential suggest they could be at affecting policymaking processes to the advantage of their communities.


New York City's black church-associated CDCs are not regular contestants on behalf of blacks in public policymaking arenas. Yet, they are not apolitical institutions. Through coproduction, they acquire discretion over public programs and wield some authority over the use of public resources (Owens in press). Aside from their involvement in the politics of public program implementation, black church-associated CDCs engage in political action. They confine it, however, to a modest set of forms. Through activities like distributing voter guides, holding policy forums, testifying at public hearings, and organizing individuals and families for action, black church-associated CDCs advance black influence in urban governance by small steps. In doing so, they address a need of urban black communities for advocates that represent their collective values and defend their interests before public and private political elites. This is insufficient.

If there is one lesson to be drawn from the last quarter century of politics urban politics, it is that political [action] is a precondition to any meaningful approach to the problems of the urban poor. The most politically active groups of the last few decades have consistently done better, in terms of political power and distribution of public goods and services, than groups who were simply the targets of government programs. (Howard, Lipsky, and Marshall 1994, 189)

By not taking bigger steps toward black citizen inclusion and influence in urban governance via more political action, black church-associated neglect a need by urban black communities for institutions that seek, directly and indirectly, to make public and private political elites serve the values and interests of urban blacks. This undercuts the historic pursuit by urban blacks for greater representation in government and more responsiveness from it.


Alliance for Justice. 1999. "Worry-Free Lobbying for Nonprofits: How to use the 501(h) Election to Maximize Effectiveness." Washington, DC: Alliance for Justice.

Arons, David F. 1999. "Nonprofit Management and Advocacy: Examining Barriers to Democracy." Paper presented at the Meeting of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Washington, DC, November 4-6.

Bratt, Rachel G. 1989. Rebuilding a Low-Income Housing Policy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Briggs, Xavier de Souza and Elizabeth J. Mueller. 1997. From Neighborhood to Community: Evidence on the Social Effects of Community Development. New York: Community Development Research Center, Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, New School for Social Research.

Clarke, Susan E. 1998. Remarks given during the colloquy "The Political Role of Nonprofits in Urban Politics" at the Meeting of the Urban Affairs Association, Fort Worth. Cassette in author's possession.

Clarke, Susan E., Lynn Staeheli, and Laura Brunell. 1995. "Women Redefining Local Politics." In Theories of Urban Politics, edited by David Judge, Gerry Stoker, and Harold Wolman. London: Sage.

Clavel, Pierre and Wim Wiewel (eds.). 1991. Harold Washington and the Neighborhoods: Progressive City Government in Chicago, 1983-1987. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Clavel, Pierre, Jessica Pitt, and Jordan Yin. 1997. "The Community Option in Urban Policy." Urban Affairs Review 32:435-458.

Clemetson, Robert and Roger Coates (eds.). 1992. Restoring Broken Places and Rebuilding Communities: A Casebook on African-American Church Involvement in Community Economic Development. Washington, D.C.: National Congress for Community Economic Development.

Cowan, Spencer M., William Rohe, and Esmail Baku. 1999. "Factors Influencing the Performance of Community Development Corporations." Journal of Urban Affairs 21:325-340.

Dreier, Peter. 1996. "Community Empowerment Strategies: The Limits and Potential of Community Organizing in Urban Neighborhoods." Cityscape 2 (May):121-159.

__________. 1999. "Comment." In Urban Problems and Community Development, edited by Ronald F. Ferguson and William T. Dickens. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Fainstein, Norman I. and Susan S. Fainstein. 1976. "The Future of Community Control." American Political Science Review 70:905-23.

Ferman, Barbara. 1996. Challenging the Growth Machine: Neighborhood Politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Gilliam, Reginald Earl. 1975. Black Political Development: An Advocacy Analysis. Port Washington, NY: Dunellen Publishing.

Gittell, Marilyn. 1980. Limits to Citizen Participation: The Decline of Community Organizations. Beverly Hills: Sage.

Gittell, Marilyn, Kathe Newman, Janice Bockmeyer, and Robert Lindsay. 1998. "Expanding Civic Opportunity: Urban Empowerment Zones." Urban Affairs Review 33:530-558.

Gittell, Ross J. and Margaret Wilder. 1999. "Community Development Corporations: Critical Factors that Influence Success." Journal of Urban Affairs 21:341-362.

Gittell, Ross J. and Avis Vidal. 1998. Community Organizing: Building Social Capital As a Development Strategy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Glickman, Norm and Lisa Servon. 1998. "More Than Bricks and Sticks: Five Components of Community Development Corporation Capacity." Housing Policy Debate 9:497-540.

Goetz, Edward. 1993. Shelter Burden: Local Politics and Progressive Housing Policy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Green, Charles and Basil Wilson. 1992. The Struggle for Black Empowerment in New York City: Beyond the Politics of Pigmentation. New York: McGraw Hill.

Herbst, Susan. 1994. Politics at the Margin: Historical Studies of Public Expression Outside the Mainstream. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Howard, Christopher, Michael Lipsky, and Dale Rogers Marshall. 1994. "Citizen Participation in Urban Politics: Rise and Routinization." In Big City Politics, Governance, and Fiscal Constraints, ed. George E. Peterson. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.

Hula, Richard, Cynthia Jackson, and Marion Orr. 1997. "Urban Politics, Governing Nonprofits, and Community Revitalization." Urban Affairs Review 32:459-489.

Imbroscio, David L. 1997. Reconstructing City Politics: Alternative Economic Development and Urban Regimes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jennings, James. 1992. The Politics of Black Empowerment: The Transformation of Black Activism in Urban America. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Judd, Dennis R. and Todd Swanstrom. 1998. City Politics: Private Power and Public Policy. New York: Longman.

Keating, Dennis W., Norman Krumholz, and John Metzger. 1995. "Postpopulist Public-Private Partnerships." In Cleveland: A Metropolitan Reader, edited by W. Dennis Keating, Norman Krumholz, and David C. Perry. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press.

Koschinsky, Julia and Todd Swanstrom. 1999. "Community Development and Equality: The Political Construction of Policy Subregimes." Paper presented at the Meeting of the Urban Affairs Association, Louisville, Kentucky, April 15-17.

Mares, Alvin S. 1994. "Housing and the Church." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 23:139-157.

McDougall, Harold A. 1993. Black Baltimore: A New Theory of Community. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Medoff, Peter and Holly Sklar. 1994. Streets of Hope. The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood. Boston: South End Press.

Metzger, John T. 1998. "Remaking the Growth Coalition: The Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development." Economic Development Quarterly 21:12-29.

Mier, Robert. 1993. Social Justice and Local Economic Development Policy. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Mollenkopf, John Hull. 1986. "New York: The Great Anomaly." PS 19:591-597.

__________. 1994. A Phoenix in the Ashes: The Rise and Fall of the Koch Coalition in New York City Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

__________. 1995. "New York: The Great Anomaly." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago.

National Congress for Community Economic Development. 1999. Community-Based Development Organizations. Washington, DC: National Congress for Community Economic Development.

Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York. 1998. "Advocacy without Fear." New York: Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York.

Owens, Michael Leo. 1997a. "Local Party Failure and Alternative, Black Church-based Nonparty Organizations." Western Journal of Black Studies 21:162-172.

__________. 1997b. "Renewal in a Working-Class Black Neighborhood." Journal of Urban Affairs 19:183-206.

__________. 1998. "Black Church-Based Community Development Corporations and Urban Housing Policy: A Re-Consideration of Black Representation and Incorporation in Cities." Paper presented at the Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, September 3-6.

__________. 1999. "The Political Potential of Black Church-Affiliated Community Development Organizations." Paper presented at the Meeting of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Washington, DC, November 4-6.

__________. In Press. Black Church-Affiliated Community Development Corporations and the Coproduction of Affordable Housing in New York City. In Emerging Roles for Nonprofits, edited by Richard Hula and Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore. New York, NY: Quorum Press.

__________. Forthcoming. Pulpits and Policy: The Politics of Black Church-Based Community Development in New York City. Ph.D. dissertation, State University of New York at Albany.

Reid, Elizabeth J. 1999. "Nonprofit Advocacy and Political Participation." In Nonprofits and Government: Collaboration and Conflict, edited by Elizabeth T. Boris and C. Eugene Steuerle. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.

Saidel, Judith R. 1993. "The Board Role in Relation to Government: Alternative Models." In Governing, Leading and Managing Nonprofit Organizations, edited by Dennis Young, Robert M. Hollister, and Virginia Hodgkinson. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stoecker, Randy. 1994. Defending Community: The Struggle for Alternative Redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Stoecker, Randy. 1997. "The CDC Model of Urban Development: A Critique and Alternative." Journal of Urban Affairs 19:1-22.

Stoutland, Sara E. 1999. "Community Development Corporations: Mission, Strategy, and Accomplishments." In Urban Problems and Community Development, edited by Ronald F. Ferguson and William T. Dickens. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

Sullivan, Mercer. 1993. More Than Housing: How Community Development Corporations Go About Changing Lives and Neighborhoods. New York: Community Development Research Center, New School for Social Research.

Swanstrom, Todd. 1999. "The Nonprofitization of United States Housing Policy: Dilemmas of Community Development." Community Development Journal 34:28-37.

Taub, Richard P. 1990. Nuance and Meaning in Community Development: Finding Community and Development. New York: Community Development Research Center, Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, New School for Social Research.

Thomas, June Manning and Reynard N. Blake, Jr. 1996. "Faith-based Community Development and African-American Neighborhoods." In Revitalizing Urban Neighborhoods, edited by W. Dennis Keating, Norman Krumholz, and Philip Star. Lawrence KS: University Press of Kansas.

Twelvetrees, Alan. 1989. Organizing for Neighborhood Development. Brookfield, VT: Averbury.

Verba, Sidney and Norman Nie. 1972. Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality. New York: Harper & Row.

Vidal, Avis C. 1992. Rebuilding Communities: A National Study of Urban Community Development Corporations. New York: Community Development Research Center, New School for Social Research.

__________. 1995. "Reintegrating Disadvantaged Communities into the Fabric of Urban Life: The Role of Community Development." Housing Policy Debate 6:169-230.

__________. 1996. "CDCs as Agents of Neighborhood Change: The State of the Art." In Revitalizing Urban Neighborhoods, edited by W. Dennis Keating, Norman Krumholz, and Philip Star. Lawrence KS: University Press of Kansas.

Weir, Margaret. 1999. "Power, Money, and Politics in Community Development." In Urban Problems and Community Development, edited by Ronald F. Ferguson and William T. Dickens. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Weiss, Marc A. and John T. Metzger. 1989. "Planning for Chicago: The Changing Politics of Metropolitan Growth and Neighborhood Development." In Atop the Urban Hierarchy, edited by Robert Beauregard. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield.

Wilson, Basil and Charles Green. 1988. "The Black Church and the Struggle for Political Empowerment in New York City." Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, (January): 51-79.


1 The National Congress for Community and Economic Development (NCCED) monitors the growth of CDCs in the United States. Its most recent census of CDCs suggests that the population is approximately 3,600. Of this number, 52 percent service urban areas and 26 percent serve rural areas. The remainder (22 percent) service mixed urban-rural areas (NCCED 1999, 5). (back to text)

2 Historically black religious denominations are administratively independent of predominantly white denominations. There are eight denominations: African Methodist Episcopal; African Methodist Episcopal Zion; Christian Methodist Episcopal; National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.; National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; and Church of God in Christ. CDCs affiliated with a church or coalitions of churches that belong to white-led denominations such as Roman Catholic, Episcopal, or Presbyterian are not black church-associated CDCs. (back to text)

3 Afforded nonprofit tax status, black church-associated CDCs may receive tax-deductible contributions; there is no federal gift tax on contributions to them. (back to text)

4 No national statistics exist on the number of black church-associated CDCs operating in American cities. As I have remarked elsewhere (Owens 1998, 1999), researchers can expect the number will increase. Five factors will be the cause. One, commercial financial institutions such as Chase Manhattan Bank and Fleet Bank are heavily invested in faith-associated lending, both for sanctuary construction and community-based development projects. Two, technical assistance providers like the Faith Center for Community Development, Inc. and the National Congress for Community Economic Development are experiencing a growth in the number of black churches seeking them out to incorporate CDCs. Three, national philanthropies like the Ford Foundation, as well as community foundations, are increasing their financial commitments black church-associated community development. Four, courses on faith-associated community development are becoming standard at universities, colleges, and seminaries like Harvard University, Michigan State University, New Hampshire College, New School for Social Research, University of Michigan, Yale University, Union Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Five, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development established a Center for Community and Interfaith Partnerships that promotes faith-based community development via public resources. (back to text)

5 The ten churches are Abyssinian Baptist Church; Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church; Bethany Baptist Church; Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church; Bridge Street African Methodist Episcopal Church; Canaan Baptist Church of Christ; Concord Baptist Church of Christ; Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church; Memorial Baptist Church; and Saint Paul Community Baptist Church. (back to text)

6 Nearly all of the research on the CDC examines it with closed eyes toward politics. It tends to look at CDCs solely through the lenses of physical changes and economic outputs. For example, researchers focus on the number of housing units built and the number of jobs created or retained in a community (Vidal 1992). Some address the efficiency and effectiveness of the CDC as a vehicle for delivering community services (Cowan, Rohe, and Baku 1999). Others seek out its social effects on individuals and neighborhoods (Sullivan 1993). Many focus on the technical difficulties CDCs experience in their physical and economic activities (Bratt 1989; Clay 1990). (back to text)

7 Mercer Sullivan (1993, 104) notes that CDCs may be equally likely to have full-time community organizers, as they do full-time housing developers and social workers. This is the case with Boston's Urban Edge Corporation, whose staff includes full-time organizers that, not only organize the tenants of the CDC's housing, but also practice community-wide organizing (Briggs and Mueller 1997). (back to text)

8 The New York State legislature created the Neighborhood Preservation Development Companies program in 1977. Its purpose is to preserve and build low- and moderate-income housing throughout New York State. It pursues this purpose by providing planning and administrative funds to community-based nonprofit housing corporations. (back to text)

9 The use of public dollars (along with other government resources) black church-associated CDCs may surprise some. The rhetoric of black church-led community development is conservative in tone, expressing the notion that urban black church-associated CDCs can and do compete against government. A sober review of black church-associated community development, especially the political philosophy behind its organizations, along with its sources of governmental funding, belies its conservative nature. Despite what conservative commentators (e.g., Woodson 1998) may think or say about them, black church-associated CDCs are more progressive in character and action than not. Black churches do not intend their affiliated CDCs to replace urban municipal government as the provider of public goods in urban black neighborhoods. Even if they did, the financial barrier is too high for black church-associated CDCs to overcome. A director of a Harlem-based CDC clarifies:

Our success gives or allows some public agencies to think that, 'O.K. then they can do more.' But, ours is never to replace government . . . As much as we are seen as a model and a leading [CDC] we are barely surviving and that is just the operational costs. The needs and demands of a faith-based development corporation are, maybe not greater [than a secular one], but its something that -- the resources to support it are not equal to the demand and the level of services that are required by the people in the neighborhoods we serve. (back to text)

10 The HOME and CDBG programs provide flexible grants from the federal government to state and local governments for housing construction and rehabilitation. HOME mandates that municipalities allocate a minimum of 15 percent of their HOME funds to housing developed, sponsored, or owned by nonprofit housing organizations such as black church-associated CDCs. Both CDBG and HOME give wide discretion to local governments in formulating their responses to housing problems. (back to text)

11 The LIHTC program gives private investors who provide equity capital for new construction or the cost of substantially rehabilitated affordable housing units an annual federal income tax credit of 9 percent for ten years. Tax credits solely go toward the proportion of units occupied by low-income households, as defined by the federal government. (back to text)

12 Funding for the organizers comes from external grants. The case of a Harlem-based black church-associated CDC: "We got a Community Trusts grant, from the New York Community Trust, to look at the impact and mobilize the people who are our residents to be able to deal with and get information sharing, education about welfare-to-work, and what their responses are to it." The same CDC also received a grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. (back to text)