Protesters crash annual award ceremony
City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Rocking the Boat’s founder and executive director Adam Green were honored at SoBRO’s annual gala on Dec. 3, for their years of service to the South Bronx.
Arroyo announced in late November that she will resign from her post on Dec. 31, after 10 years representing Mott Haven and Hunts Point. She explained that she is stepping down two years short of her term limit-mandated 2017 end date in order to spend more time with her daughter, who is returning to civilian life after eight years in the Marine Corps, as well as two grandchildren with disabilities.
“I think I have benefited more from SoBRO’s work than the other way around,” Arroyo told the crowd at the Black and White Benefit Ball at the New York Hilton Midtown.
Though the incumbent has not yet announced her future plans, she told a Herald reporter “I’ll probably join the private sector. I’ve already gotten four offers – it’s nice,” adding her successor should be “someone who has a story like the people from the Bronx, and is committed to the issues that matter.”
Green was honored for his pioneering work teaching South Bronx youth to build boats and participate in numerous projects to study and clean up the Bronx River.
A new face in the community, James Braselton, senior vice president of McInnis Cement, was also honored. The Québec-based company plans to open a new facility on the East River waterfront in Hunts Point. The firm’s officials told Community Board 2 at a meeting earlier this year that the $40 million project will include a state of the art cement storage facility, restoration of wetlands, creation of a pedestrian pathway and jobs for Bronxites.
The awards were given out by developer Steve Smith, who owns the waterfront parcel McInnis will build on and was recently named as the new chair of SoBRO’s board.
The event was interrupted when about a dozen protestors from grassroots groups Take Back the Bronx and Mothers on the Move marched through the venue chanting, “The Bronx is not for Sale!” Although security quickly escorted them out, the protestors left behind flyers accusing SoBRO of betraying the community by teaming with wealthy developers to bring in luxury condos.
After the event, one of the protest organizers, Lisa Ortega, said the per plate charge—$300 for nonprofit alliances, and up—is ample evidence that SoBRO is out of step with residents’ lives.
“SoBRO campaigns itself as a community organization. They’ve become a household name,” said Ortega,. “But back at the ranch they open the doors for developers and gentrification.” She said more residents had considered joining the protest but decided not to in order to avoid causing suspicion at the door.
SoBRO’s president, Phillip Morrow, rejected the accusations, announcing to the crowd once the protesters had left, “I don’t know what they’re talking about, I really don’t.”