This Monday at The Bronx Museum, The Historic District Council will hold an important summer mixer to gather Bronx preservationists and lovers of our beautiful borough under one roof (make sure to RSVP)!
This is a chance to mingle and meet other Bronxites concerned about the future of our borough and the issues we face. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Riverdale, The South Bronx, Morris Park, Soundview, Throggs Neck, Kingsbridge or anywhere in The Bronx—this is an event for ALL of our residents.
We are at a critical juncture in our borough’s history.
101 years ago, when The Bronx was born as the 62nd and last county of New York State in Melrose at The Old Bronx Borough Courthouse, there began a frenzy and expansion into our borough that forever changed our landscape.
Open land and farms gave way to tenements and apartment buildings. The Old villages and towns that dotted what was once then Westchester County until annexation with New York City ceased to exist except as neighborhoods of a newly merged NYC in the late 19th century.
Today we are facing a second gold rush so to speak as we are considered the last frontier in real estate development in New York City—a city that is no longer recognizable to us with the loss of many neighborhoods that have succumbed to the white washing of gentrification and “progress” littered with the same chain store after chain store.
We have lost landmarks like PS 31 on The Grand Concourse; dozens of mom and pop shops in Parkchester are being evicted to make way for a new development—shops that have been an integral part of many Bronxites lives like Harmony Records.
The Jerome Avenue Study Area—a behemoth 70 block zone—is in danger of being rezoned as New York City and the Department of Planning looks at the best possible way to accommodate the projected continued population boom for the borough and the rest of New York City.
Irresponsibly, this study area was named Cromwell-Jerome Study Area originally which prompted legitimate fears that the neighborhood was being rebranded creating a new one over the 5 neighborhoods which the study covers.
Can you blame The Bronx to be so on guard? We’ve had the luck of being that forgotten borough while Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens have had their neighborhoods transformed with rezonings that led to gentrification and displacement of thousands of families, many low and moderate working class families. The very people that keep this giant metropolis running.
Developers want to CHANGE our history by renaming parts of Port Morris and Mott Haven to the Piano District (these areas in our borough were once the epicenter of our nation’s piano manufacturing industry) to appeal to outsiders because those names have a stigma attached to them, a stigma we embrace because we lives through the fires while others fled and we were left behind to rebuild on our own.
And let’s not talk about our own Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr’s rebranding campaign of ‘The New Bronx‘.
We don’t need a name change to celebrate our history.
Those fires gave birth to so many leaders like Dr Richard Izquierdo, founder of Urban Health Plan, one of the best health centers our borough has.
After the shuttering of hospitals across the South Bronx along with all the disinvestment, Dr Izquierdo, or Doc as he’s affectionately known, once was arrested for civil disobedience when protesting the closing of one such hospital in his Hunts Point community.
Subsequently, he founded what would become Urban Health Plan—a network of high quality clinics scattered throughout the South Bronx to address the needs of the local community who now had to rely on little to no service in their immediate areas.
More recently, he founded a health sciences charter school where all students, upon graduating from high school, will do so with a certificate allowing them to become EMTs enabling them to make living wages and continue their studies in the industry and thus creating more homegrown medical professionals.
“United Bronx Parents (UBP) is another such group. It was founded in 1965 (under the name United Friends and Neighbors of the Bronx) and incorporated the following year. The founders were Dr. Evelina Lopez Antonetty, who migrated from Puerto Rico in 1933, and her daughter Lorraine Montenegro, a Bronx native. The new organization’s first address was 645 Union Ave. An activist, Lopez Antonetty founded the group to fight for better education for Latino and African-American students. The city’s public schools were failing miserably to educate students of color. UBP and a number of other groups around the city mounted an extensive campaign to secure educational reform and train parents to take leadership roles in local education. People called Lopez Antonetty the “Hell Lady of the Bronx” because she was so outspoken, particularly when it came to letting politicians know what issues were important to her fellow community members. She did not restrict her efforts to the Bronx, and like-minded groups throughout the city respected her work.
UBP sought a comprehensive approach to reform in the Bronx. In addition to its educational work, it started a bilingual day care center, adult education program, youth leadership program, summer lunch program, and an AIDS outreach and education program. In 1990, UBP opened La Casita–a residential treatment program for homeless substance-abusing women. What made La Casita unique was that the patients could bring their children with them, helping families to stay intact while the mothers sought treatment. Other centers in New York and elsewhere have looked to La Casita as a model.”
Mott Haven, Port Morris, Melrose, The Lower Concourse and many parts of the South Bronx are being flooded by speculative purchases thus inflating values to levels that are neither accurate nor within reach of the average Bronx resident or entrepreneur.
NYCHA developments are being targeted for development by taking away open spaces that belong to these people who live there in order to create affordable housing that is not affordable to the vast majority of people in those districts.
Will we then be truly creating a Tale of Two Cities within our communities?
For these and many reasons, Welcome2TheBronx, invites you to join us at this important event.
Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of HDC sent out this invitation calling on Bronxites to attend:
Dear Bronx Friends,
On Monday, July 27th at 6pm at The Bronx Museum of the Arts: 1040 Grand Concourse at 165th Street, the Historic Districts Council is hosting a Public Meeting and Mixer to talk about preservation concerns in the Bronx.
This is an opportunity for the people of the Bronx community to speak out and meet other community activists who care about the borough. People say that Staten Island is the forgotten borough but The Bronx is equally ignored by the city in its planning and preservation efforts – as evidenced by the recent demolition of the landmark PS 31 on the Grand Concourse. We need to be more vocal and involved in decisions happening in our neighborhoods.
Please come to the meeting at 6pm on Monday, July 27 at the Bronx Museum. Food and refreshment will be provided! Bring your friends!!!!
Look forward to seeing you in The Bronx!
Historic Districts Council
Hope to see you there!