A group spearheaded by Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Pastor Robert and retired chemist Anne Schout is taking the initiative to fix problems in the Duffyfield neighborhood of New Bern.
The group is called Duffyfield Phoenix Project, and it plans to lead a wide range of projects in Duffyfield, including:
- Assessment of Duffyfield’s properties, their conditions and their owners. Determine which properties need upgrade or repair, whether owners want or need assistance, and which properties could be razed.
- Obtain grants for infrastructure and housing improvements.
- Improve the appearance of two cemeteries and apply for a grant to pay for a brick entrance to Evergreen Cemetery.
- Reinter 13 African Americans whose remains were moved from Cedar Grove Cemetery to Evergreen Cemetery in 1913.
- Education workshops for GED, basic finances, money management, credit repair, etc.
- Establish a Farmers Market in Duffyfield.
- Start and sponsor regular Duffyfield Clean Up events.
- Request the city install public trash receptacles.
- List all properties that are subject to flooding, and work with the city to find permanent solutions.
- Clean up and enlarge the Duffyfield Canal to stop erosion and improve drainage.
- Identify which streets in Duffyfield need repair or paving.
- Work with the city to strengthen and enforce housing ordinances to encourage property owners to fix their properties.
- Establish transportation, partnering with the city and county, to grocery stores, doctors and pharmacies.
- Develop a program for housing subsidies for police, firefighters, and teachers to live in Duffyfield.
The group also wants to develop a plan for vacant, buildable lots by enlarging the scope of the Duffyfield Phoenix Project to include a community housing development organization that will focus on revitalization of Duffyfield and the surrounding area. The group hopes this would encourage new home construction.
Johnson and Schout met when Schout was running for Ward 1 alderman in the 2017 municipal elections. Schout noticed a huge need in the Duffyfield area while she was knocking on doors campaigning for office, while Johnson has worked on behalf of the poor and homeless in New Bern since 1980.
“When anyone walks the streets of Duffyfield, they see an area that is forgotten, neglected and in serious need of attention. What was once a thriving, vibrant community is suffering the effects of years of decline,” according to a presentation by the group.
Schout and Johnson formed the Phoenix Group and started recruiting board members in November 2017. The group is operating as a 501(c)3) under the aegis of the James City Historical Society.
On the board, Johnson is chairman and Schout is vice chairman and secretary.
Other members are Coleman “Sully” Sullivan (treasurer) and board members Robert Benjamin, Elijah Brown, Sharon Bryant, Grace Hudson, the Rev. Ethel Sampson, Jim Schout, Ben Watford, and John Young.
The group has already made a presentation to Duffyfield area residents. Anyone interested in learning more about the group can contact Anne Schout to schedule a presentation. Email her here.