Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Melrose on July 3 to announce a $10 million award for a swath of Mott Haven, Melrose and Morrisania, for projects to bolster business, the arts and public access to the internet. The governor announced 12 initiatives for a section being dubbed the Bronx Civic Center neighborhood, from E. 144th Street north to E. 165th Street, and from the Harlem River on the west to St. Ann’s Avenue/East on the east, as part of a Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.
The investments are meant to “connect commercial and cultural nodes” within the area, to “create a unified downtown that provides a high quality of life for residents and visitors; supports inclusive economic growth and opportunity, and preserve and promote “the borough’s unique heritage and identity.”
“The Bronx Civic Center neighborhood is the heart of the bustling Bronx and it must be showcased,” said Cuomo from the podium at Boricua College on E. 161 Street on July 3.
The area was one of 10 winners of Downtown Revitalization awards statewide. The 12 initiatives were decided on by a local planning committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders and other stakeholders.
Cuomo emphasized the need for government to counteract social and economic imbalances that have prevailed for decades in the South Bronx.
“Our job is to focus on the places in need,” he said, calling the Bronx “a symbol of the injustice.”
Cuomo touched on disrepair and disinvestment in NYCHA housing, student debt, crumbling transportation infrastructure and failing public schools as signs of those injustices, and took shots at the de Blasio administration as he recounted those injustices. He took particularly pointed aim at the mayor for the city’s transportation headaches.
“We need to fix the subway system because not everybody can afford an Uber every day, and that’s a justice issue,” he said, applauding the State legislature for having “the guts to force New York City to pay half of the costs to fix the subways, because the working men and women in this city are the people who use the subway system.”
Michael Brady, executive director of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District, said the new funding will provide “a significant advantage for an area in dire need of resources.”
The 12 initiatives that will receive funding include:
- $1.7 million to renovate and expand the Andrew Freedman Home Cultural Art Center to accommodate theater, visual arts, music, dance, and other art productions, and space for workforce development and after-school programming, and refurbish and enhance the outdoor areas.
- $2.6 million to convert the 149th Street Bridge into a Public Plaza with an expanded, programmable sidewalk plaza on the 149th Street Bridge that will connect the Lower Concourse to the Hub, and provide space for vendors, art, and other activities.
- $1,040,000 to beautify streetscapes at the Hub.
- $1 million to create a Business Improvement Fund for business and property owners to fund façade and storefront improvements, upper-floor renovations, and development of full-service restaurants and cafés along the area’s major commercial corridors.
- $429,000 to complete an upgrade of the BronxWorks public swimming pool facility on the Grand Concourse.
- $595,000 for the opening of the Bronx Kreate Space Artist-Maker Hub, with gap funding to build a co-working space in Mott Haven, including gallery space, a café, low-cost workspace, artist studios and communal facilities.
- $630,000 to improve three community gardens at Melrose Common, with solar power, enhanced lighting, wi-fi access, and rainwater harvesting.
- $520,000 for two outdoor cafes at Roberto Clemente Plaza in the Hub, with an incubator for local food entrepreneurs.
- $260,000 for construction of a new space for Pregones Theater Space on Walton Avenue, helping convert it into an organizational headquarters and house artist rehearsal, studio, and performance space.
- $437,000 to expand low-cost broadband access in Melrose Commons, with free wi-fi in and around select public spaces, free access to a local resource portal for residents in networked buildings, and low-cost broadband.
- $250,000 to update signs along the Bronx Walk of Fame on the Grand Concourse between 149th Street and 167th Street.
- $227,000 to create an attractive gateway to the Bronx outside the East 161st Street – Yankee Stadium subway station.