The Bronx Center project, a collaborative, community based plan to revitalize a
severely deteriorated 300 block section of the South Bronx, is unprecedented in method and
scope. As a multi-discipline plan, The Bronx Center encompasses a gamut of different
projects such as economic development, health and human services, education and culture,
housing and transportation.
In method, Bronx Center features an approach to addressing urban problems that connects
community members, academics, urban development professionals, not-for-profit
organizations, local businesses, cultural and social institutions, and city
officials/politicians in a problem-solving process that is active and collaborative.
Through hundreds of frequently convened community forums and smaller working groups,
organized with the help of the Bronx Community Forum, participants are discussing and
finding solutions to the social, economic and physical problems of this 300 block
In scope, this community-based participatory planning process involves $2 billion in
comprehensive revitalization activities over the next five years, including projects aimed
at the restoration of architecturally significant buildings like the Old Bronx Courthouse
which we will reopen to the community after 25 years as the Bronx Planning Center; the
construction of hundreds of new low and mid-rise residences in Melrose Commons and the
development of community-based health and human services facilities under the leadership
of Nos Quedamos/We Stay; the rehabilitation of existing -and the development of new-
educational and cultural institutions, such as our newly designed High School for Law,
Government and Justice to be housed in a soon to be built Supreme Court building; the
creation of new open space and recreational facilities; and the improvement of
Perhaps most importantly, Bronx Center mandates the creation of jobs and job training
programs to enable area residents to increase their earning potential and to expand their
economic opportunities -- as workers, entrepreneurs, and investors.
With the Bronx Center plan in place, the project is presently in the implementation phase.
We described the individual projects in greater detail in other questions within this
survey. We also are providing you with a report on the Bronx Center.
The Bronx Center project encompasses a 300 block area in the South Bronx and includes
specific revitalization projects in the areas of economic development, health and human
services, education and culture, housing, and transportation. Underlying the specific
projects in these areas are four basic principles which embody the values, desires and
hopes of Bronx Center participants in both the planning and implementation phase of this
$2 billion community-based revitalization program:
1. Effective and meaningful planning must be a product of a bottom-up community based
process. Planning based on this principle holds the most promise for long-term benefits
for all members of the community.
2. Planning must be interdisciplinary, comprehensive and integrated at evey stage. The
renewal of the area's physical infrastructure is integrally linked to the development and
delivery of new social, educational, and economic opportunities for Bronx residents. The
human agenda must form the basis for an agenda for physical renewal.
3. The economic and social revitalization of this extensive geographical area must bring
benefits to the immediate community, the Bronx, and the city as a whole. As both a process
for social and economic advancement and a place for physical redevelopment, the Bronx
Center must become an economic engine for the borough as a service-providing center that
will influence an area far beyond its nominal boundaries. It will provide the education,
training and access to capital needed for full participation in the economy of the 21st
century, lead in delivering health and human services, and offer far more recreational and
cultural opportunities that are now available.
4. As individual projects develop, Bronx Center must continue to be anchored by an ongoing
community-driven participatory process that helps to develop civic responsibility and
rebuild civic life.
In each of our program areas, the Bronx Center project has numerous ongoing project
activities. The attached project report, executive summary and project update provides
much more detail about these efforts. Summarized elsewhere are specific accomplishments of
the various ongoing projects. In brief, the community's most notable projects currently
1. creation of a community labor exchange so that Bronx Center residents may secure jobs
-- both permanent and construction -- on new construction projects in the Bronx;
2. rehabilitation of a landmark courthouse building, which has been unoccupied for more
than 25 years, and conversion of it into a the Bronx Planning Center, a facility to house
community planning workshops, exhibits, and to serve as an urban meeting center;
3. design of a series of community friendly development alternatives to be included into
the City's proposed Supreme Court Complex building plan, such as the creation of more
retail, day care, a high school, literacy training and adult education opportunities, and
4. development of a community resident's plan for the reuse of the Bronx Terminal Market
and Yankee Stadium area;
5. preparation of a funding proposal for the creation one of three Bronx Center theme high
schools -- the High School for Law, Government and Justice as a NYC New Visions School
(the two other theme high schools are one focusing on careers in sports management
affiliated with Yankee Stadium and one to operate as part of the proposed NYC Police
Academy for social and criminal justice training);
6. design and construction of a senior citizens' residence through a $7.5 HUD grant;
7. funding of a community enhancement program to provide grants and loans to new
homeowners in the Bronx Center area;
8. construction of permanent housing for homeless and low income families under the City's
9. submission of an application to the City to renovate several abandoned or partially
occupied apartment buildings in Melrose Commons;
10. redesigning of the Metro North train station within Bronx Center and renovation of the
adjacent Melrose Park;
11. preparation of a safe and active streets and open space proposal; and
12. convening of frequent community meetings and outreach efforts, as organized by the
Bronx Community Forum, so as to keep the community informed, engaged and involved in Bronx
Center project planning and implementation.
I. Local Economic Participation
One of the primary goals of Bronx Center is to ensure that area residents and
businesses gain access to as many jobs, both construction and permanent, and contracting
opportunities as possible.
Bronx Center launched the CLE, a working group consisting of neighborhood residents and
construction workers organized to work more productively toward securing jobs from
construction projects underway in the Bronx.
The CLE has been successful in getting work for Bronx residents during the construction of
the Concourse Plaza Office Building. The CLE also is working with the Turner Construction
Company on the construction of the Montefiore Clinic, and has received a commitment from
Turner for work on Battery Park City. The CLE has also recently begun work with the
Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council on a senior citizen housing construction project.
The CLE meets every Monday night.
II. Melrose Commons
The Melrose Commons community mobilized in response to a City-sponsored housing plan
that would have relocated approximately 250 families from their homes.
Residents of Melrose configured a new redevelopment strategy and organized the Nos
Quedamos/We Stay Committee to design a "livable city." They began meeting with
architects, planners and city agency staff to draft their vision for the neigborhood.
The Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan was approved and signed by the Mayor.
The efforts of Nos Quedamos have led to three funded projects to date within the Melrose
Commons Urban Renewal Area: (1) a senior citizens' residence has received a $7.5 million
commitment from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); (2) a community
enhancement program to provide grants and loans to homeowners in the urban renewal area
received funding from the Bronx Borough President; and (3) Nos Quedamos and Phipps Houses
are proposing to build permanent housing under the NYS/NYC 85/85 program as follow: 51% of
units for homeless families, and the remaining 49% for families earning 60% of the median
In addition, Nos Quedamos has submitted an application to the City to qualify for their
Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) to renovate several abandoned or partially
occupied apartment buildings in the urban renewal area.
Nos Quedamos meets weekly on Tuesdays.
III. Bronx Planning Center
The Bronx Planning Center is a 3,000 square feet community facility within the
abandoned former Bronx Borough Courthouse which will create a foothold in this landmark
structure by opening the door and returning the first floor to civic use.
More than $850,000 has been raised to date from public and private sources to renovate the
On behalf of Bronx Center, The Urban Assembly has been negotiating a lease on the Bronx
Borough Courthouse. Construction is ready to start.
Architectual drawings and construction documents are completed. A building permit
application is in development.
IV. Yankee Stadium Waterfront/Triangle Market
The triangle of land along the Harlem River where Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Terminal
Market are located provides an exciting opportunity for major new development. There is
considerable potential for transforming this strategically located but under-utilized
space into an attractive recreation and business complex.
The Urban Assembly/Bronx Center is undertaking a study of the feasibility of redeveloping
the area now occupied by the Bronx Terminal Market.
After many community meetings, the study evaluated two community-sponsored concepts: 1)
physical improvements to the Bronx Terminal Market area to allow for manufacturing
companies to move in; and 2) a retail center anchored by big box retailers.
The consulting team is also working with residents to respond to the City's master plan
for Yankee Stadium area.
V. Supreme Court Complex
The Supreme Court complex is a proposed 1.2 million square-foot facility from 161st to
In response to interest in this project and concerns from the community, Bronx Center
teamed up with the Mid-Bronx Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) and formed the Supreme
Court Complex Task Force.
The Task Force meets monthly to review the community's programmatic priorities, including
development of local temporary and permanent construction jobs, a new high school for
social justice leading to careers in law, a bilingual library, retail outlet along 161st
Street and facilities to provide literacy training, adult education in preparation for
court-related jobs, day care, social service referrals and public meetings.
In numerous community forums with attendence of more than 300 neighborhood residents at
each one, people expressed concerns about the proposed facility to City representatives.
The Task Force sponsored a Library Workshop in conjuction with Partners for Livable
Communities, Project for Public Spaces and Libraries of the Future to develop a concept
and program for an expanded bilingual library within the court complex.
As a result of the forums, there were two working groups formed, a youth committee and an
The youth committee was formed because of some concerns expressed by the young people at
the forum that they were not included or well informed on the issues surrounding the
Supreme Court Complex. It also meets to examine the idea of a theme school as part of the
Complex. This group eventually grew to become part of the Bronx Center education
committee, which developed the proposal for the Bronx School for law, government and
The outreach committee works to keep the community informed on the court complex and
focused on organizing the community to participate in the public hearing on the draft
environmental impact statement sponsored by the city.
The outreach committee was successful in getting between 50 and 60 residents to come out
and testify at the hearing on a workday recently.
The Supreme Court Complex Task Force continues to meet monthly.
Education has always been of primary concern to Bronx Center. The original Bronx
Center plan called for the inclusion of three theme high schools, one focusing on careers
in sports management, one to operate as part of the proposed Police Academy and one which
would focus on social and criminal justice.
The Bronx Center Education Committee recently began working with the Supreme Court Complex
Task Force youth and outreach committees to develop a proposal to the Fund for the NYC
Public Education for a theme high school focusing on law, government and justice, the idea
being to create a high school which will eventually function as part of the Supreme Court
The proposal was completed and submitted to the NYC Fund for Public Education.
The Education Committee continues to meet to develop the school concept and prepare for
the RFP interview process. The committee was also recently informed that they were one of
the 50 groups out of the 200 which submitted proposals that would be called back for an
interview. Of these 50 groups, 10 will receive grants.
The Education Committee meets biweekly on Wednesday evenings.
VII. The Bronx Community Forum
From the outset, the critical aspect of the Bronx Center process has been community
outreach and participation by local residents in every aspect of planning and development.
Input from the whole community - not sporadic, but ongoing - empowers residents who have
stayed in neighborhoods during difficult times and restores public trust in government and
the planning process as vehicles for positive change.
The Bronx Forum is the primary vehicle for ongoing public participation and engagement in
Bronx Center policy, planning and development, disseminating socio-economic and political
information and stimulating participation by local residents and youth organizations.
Meetings are held almost daily.
To inform the community of meetings, A calender of events is distributed to several
hundred community residents monthly.
VIII. Metro North Station/Melrose Park
Bronx Center submitted an ISTEA proposal to renovate the Metro North train station and
rehabilitate the adjacent Melrose Park.
A $175,000 ISTEA grant was recently awarded for the project.
IX. Open Space
A proposal was submitted to NEA to fund an open space and safe streets initiative that
would create defensible public spaces in the Bronx Center area. Additionally, a similar
proposal was made to the federal Department of Transportation under its new Livable
From the outset, one of the most critical and unique aspects of the Bronx Center
project has been the unprecendented level of community outreach and participation by local
residents in every aspect of planning, development and implementation. The Bronx Center
project demonstrates that input from the whole community -- not sporadic, but ongoing -
has empowered the residents who have stayed in this 300 block neighborhood during its
difficult times. Perhaps the most important lesson learned from the Bronx Center
experience is that through bottom-up, partipatory and resposive processes, we can restore
public trust in government and the planning process as vehicles for positive change in our
society. One of the most painful experiences learned through past failures is that without
broad and intensive public enthusiasm and support, no development plan can survive the
political hurdles of planning and funding decisions that lie primarily in the hands of
city, state and federal officials. Without wide popular support and a community invested
in the success of a plan, the private sector and community groups will not take the many
future actions needed to translate the plan into actions.
In citing Bronx Center as an emerging national model, Herbert Muschamp, architectural
critic of the New York Times, captured the energy and enthusiasm of the community's
efforts, "People argued with a passion, but this was not a contest. It was an
entrance into their own city. Many people at this meeting had been trapped within the
armor of their grievance...they stood to gain by setting grievance aside...by joining
other who have felt similarly displaced...Experts and politicians have had useful
experiences,too...But, perhaps the most useful asset displayed by Bronx Center volunteer
professionals is their grasp of hierachy. Though their expertise places them at the apex
of the organizational pyramid, they have turned the pyramid upside down. They stand at the
bottom supporting those above."
As Bronx Center moves from planning and development into the implementation stages,
community residents remain stimulated and engaged in all aspects of the project.
The Urban Assembly, New York, New York
Richard A. Kahan, President
1330 Ave. of the Americas, 4th Floor
Office of the Bronx Borough President, Bronx NY
Yolando Garcia, President, Nos Quedams
811 Courtlandt Street
Nos Quedamos/We Stay, Melrose Commons, South Bronx
Harry DeRienzo, Parodneck Foundation
121 Sixth Avenue, Suite 501
Bronx Community Forum, Bronx Center Area
Fernando Ferrer, Borough President
851 Grand Concourse