Public space initiative sparks interest

Upbeat NYC band played a blend of salsa and jazz as residents danced and ate at the Power in Place kickoff. Photo: Avery Miles

Locals mingle with planners to determine ways to revive the neighborhood

Last Saturday, local residents danced, ate and socialized at the Metropolitan College of New York on East 149th Street, while celebrating the beginning of a project to bring underused public spaces back to life in the neighborhood.

As the Upbeat NYC band played a lively jazz set, residents exchanged ideas about how the community can benefit from the plan, with representatives of grassroots group South Bronx Unite and the not-for-profit Design Trust for Public Space. Last July Design Trust selected a proposal by South Bronx Unite from a pool of contestants citywide, for its idea of making areas in Mott Haven and Port Morris accessible to the public for recreational and educational purposes. The organization will lend its expertise in helping to make that idea become a reality. 

“This is an answer and a call to the hyper real estate speculation that’s been happening in the neighborhood,” said South Bronx Unite spokesman Mychal Johnson.

In the coming year, architects and activists will map out the community’s needs to help determine how public land can be put to best use for the benefit of those who live and work in the area. The public is encouraged to take part in that planning process, which includes creating a mapping tool to help rally the community around the plan.

“We are not swooping in,” Design Trust Executive Director Susan Chin said. “We’re here to find out what the community needs.”

South Bronx Unite has announced that it hopes to convert a vacant city-owned building on E. 140th Street into the H.E.A.R.T.S Community Center, which stands for health, education and the arts, as a key part of the initiative.