East New York / Brownsville Native who provided homeownership and community development opportunities in Harrisburg PA thrives after relocating
Courtesy HarrisburgBuzz.com / by Jack Carenza
Native of eastern New York Josh barker is no stranger to ambitious projects. Its growing mindset story begins in East New York, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, also known for its vibrant counterculture and incorrigible crime rate, development potential, and debilitating poverty percentages. According to NYU’s Furman Center: “The median household income in 2019 was $ 46,780, about 34% lower than the city-wide median household income ($ 70,590). The poverty rate in eastern New York / Starrett City was 23.3% in 2019, compared to 16.0% city-wide. These statistics and the actual experience of living within them kindled the brightest type of flame – a flame that was burning with urgency not only to do better for itself, but for the community as a whole.
In many ways Josh has used his time as a business owner on these conflicting streets as a trainer. It all started with a barber shop – Josh wasn’t a barber himself, but already had a keen business sense. Initially, he capitalized on the space by selling clothes, sneakers, and hip-hop mixtapes to local clients, while also building relationships with people from all walks of life. Her good nature and entrepreneurial spirit were magnetic – the store flourished, and with its success, new opportunities were presented to enrich the lives of East New Yorkers. He created local basketball tournaments, opportunities for apprentice barbers to hone their craft, a hub for artists to display their art, both visual and aural. Josh’s hair salon had become more than a place for a haircut and polite conversation. It was a community pillar. At that time, the clientele became a little more decorated. The Brooklyn, AZ rapper, best known for being a close associate and collaborator of hip-hop legend Nas, was a regular. And Josh connected with a young patron named Avery Jones about their mutual love for skateboarding. More on Avery to follow.
Keep in mind that this was a neighborhood in desperate need of a glimmer of possibility. In addition to poverty and crime, drug use, gang activity and limited low-rental housing continued to wreak havoc on Josh’s neighbors. These conditions would have been easy to ignore from his position of modest success, but Josh saw an opportunity to make real and lasting change. Josh started working for a nonprofit in eastern New York City focused on obtaining Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs). A CBA is a contract signed by developers and community organizations (like the one Josh worked for) that guarantees that the developer will provide certain amenities and improvements to the local population and / or neighborhood. The benefits of an ACA can lift large numbers of people out of poverty, generate local support, secure local employment, and directly address gentrification. Josh took this opportunity to work with entrepreneurs, small businesses, and city agencies to help advance eastern New York… And then he set his eyes on Harrisburg, PA.
Five years ago Josh Barker decided to move to Harrisburg, bringing his New York experiences into a toolbox brimming with community development tools. In a recent conversation with Josh, he mentioned how Harrisburg reminded him of his early days in eastern New York,
“I have been in the field since I got here. There are areas with high crime, a lot of drugs and luggage. People in these circumstances do not expect a way out. Rather than telling them how, I’d like to show them.
Harrisburg’s crime rate is certainly concerning – as city-data.com reports, Harrisburg’s crime rate is 1.5 times the US average per capita, higher than 92.3% of US cities. However, for Josh, this is not a new situation. As any good community builder knows, you need to start with a foundation. Josh has done it without hesitation since moving to Harrisburg.
To start his foundation in Harrisburg, Josh found a home for his family in Uptown Harrisburg, which needed work and wasn’t Harrisburg’s most desirable neighborhood, but saw the vision of what it could be. Also, he was only able to pay $ 50,000 for the house, which was nowhere near the $ 700,000 price it would have cost him to buy the building in eastern New York that housed his barbershop. . It’s part of the value he saw in Harrisburg. He renovated the house himself, with the help of a few friends from Brooklyn, and now the house is worth 3 times what he paid for. Where others have seen a house in disrepair, Josh saw a house that could be turned into a gem, in a neighborhood that is sure to get better.
Since moving to Harrisburg, Josh has obtained his contractor’s license and has established a strong relationship with Pastor Joshua Robertson of The Rock Church in Allison Hill. More than anything, Josh understands that the relationship aspect of what he does is most important – change can’t happen without the trust of the right people. As this trust grows, so does its impact;
“We (The Rock Church) opened a learning center for children in the area, within the church. We are currently trying to buy space so that our impact can grow. I am also part of an investment group, which bought a vacant lot that we are looking to develop into quality affordable housing, which is essential in the region.
Understanding Josh’s story in eastern New York should be a beacon of hope for the people of Harrisburg. We know our city has its reminiscent of crime, drugs and poverty, but the potential of this place is huge, and with the right support, the impact Josh can give is limitless.
Oh, and do you remember young Avery Jones from the barbershop days? Avery grew up with a name you may know and recently became the new owner of a small business and real estate in Harrisburg: indie hip-hop icon Kota the Friend. It was the recommendation of an old friend, Josh Barker, that prompted Kota to buy a property in Midtown, Harrisburg on Reily Street, develop a storefront for his streetwear brand fltbys, and host his Flight Night music festival. in this city.
Josh Barker’s vision is to be part of the Harrisburg revitalization. He approached it with experience, compassion and hard work. His efforts have now attracted others like Friend Kota to view Harrisburg as a home away from home. The changes needed to paint a brighter future for ALL people in Harrisburg won’t come easily, but the groundwork is in place to make Josh’s dream come true.