|Title of Practice:
Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association USA
|City / Town / Village:
|Has this practice been submitted previously?
||Joe Hall - President
863 Prospect Ave.
Bronx, NY 10459
|Name of Contact Person:
|Email of Contact Person:
||The Bronx Center project, a collaborative,community based plan to revitalize a severely deteriorated 300 block section ofthe South Bronx, is unprecedented in method and scope. As a multi-disciplineplan, The Bronx Center encompasses a gamut of different projects such as economicdevelopment, health and human services, education and culture, housing andtransportation.
In method, Bronx Center features an approach to addressing urban problems thatconnects community members, academics, urban development professionals, not-for-profitorganizations, local businesses, cultural and social institutions, and cityofficials/politicians in a problem-solving process that is active andcollaborative. Through hundreds of frequently convened community forums andsmaller working groups, organized with the help of the Bronx Community Forum,participants are discussing and finding solutions to the social, economic andphysical problems of this 300 block neighborhood.
In scope, this community-based participatory planning process involves $2billion in comprehensive revitalization activities over the next five years,including projects aimed at the restoration of architecturally significantbuildings like the Old Bronx Courthouse which we will reopen to the communityafter 25 years as the Bronx Planning Center; the construction of hundreds ofnew low and mid-rise residences in Melrose Commons and the development ofcommunity-based health and human services facilities under the leadership ofNos Quedamos/We Stay; the rehabilitation of existing -and the development ofnew- educational and cultural institutions, such as our newly designed HighSchool for Law, Government and Justice to be housed in a soon to be builtSupreme Court building; the creation of new open space and recreational facilities;and the improvement of transportation systems.
Perhaps most importantly, Bronx Center mandates the creation of jobs and jobtraining programs to enable area residents to increase their earning potentialand to expand their economic opportunities -- as workers, entrepreneurs, andinvestors.
With the Bronx Center plan in place, the project is presently in theimplementation phase. We described the individual projects in greater detail inother questions within this survey. We also are providing you with a report onthe Bronx Center.
|Norminating Organization Details
|Name of Organization:
||The Urban Assembly, New York, New York
|Type of Organization:
|Office of the Bronx Borough President, Bronx NY||811 Courtlandt Street |
|Yolando Garcia, President, Nos Quedams, not provided||Central Government||
|Nos Quedamos/We Stay, Melrose Commons, South Bronx||121 Sixth Avenue, Suite 501 |
|Harry DeRienzo, Parodneck Foundation, not provided||Foundation||
|Bronx Community Forum, Bronx Centre Area||851 Grand Concourse |
|Fernando Ferrer, Borough President, not provided||Local Authority||
TheBronx Center project encompasses a 300 block area in the South Bronx andincludes 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 whichembody the values, desires and hopes of Bronx Center participants in both theplanning and implementation phase of this $2 billion community-based revitalizationprogram:
1. Effective and meaningful planning must be a product of a bottom-up communitybased process. Planning based on this principle holds the most promise forlong-term benefits for all members of the community.
2. Planning must be interdisciplinary, comprehensive and integrated at eveystage. The renewal of the area's physical infrastructure is integrally linkedto the development and delivery of new social, educational, and economicopportunities for Bronx residents. The human agenda must form the basis for anagenda for physical renewal.
3. The economic and social revitalization of this extensive geographical areamust bring benefits to the immediate community, the Bronx, and the city as awhole. As both a process for social and economic advancement and a place forphysical redevelopment, the Bronx Center must become an economic engine for theborough as a service-providing center that will influence an area far beyondits nominal boundaries. It will provide the education, training and access tocapital needed for full participation in the economy of the 21st century, leadin delivering health and human services, and offer far more recreational andcultural opportunities that are now available.
4. As individual projects develop, Bronx Center must continue to be anchored byan ongoing community-driven participatory process that helps to develop civicresponsibility and rebuild civic life.
In each of our program areas, the Bronx Center project has numerous ongoingproject activities. The attached project report, executive summary and projectupdate provides much more detail about these efforts. Summarized elsewhere arespecific accomplishments of the various ongoing projects. In brief, thecommunity's most notable projects currently underway include:
1. creation of a community labor exchange so that Bronx Center residents maysecure jobs -- both permanent and construction -- on new construction projectsin the Bronx;
2. rehabilitation of a landmark courthouse building, which has been unoccupiedfor 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 anurban meeting center;
3. design of a series of community friendly development alternatives to beincluded into the City's proposed Supreme Court Complex building plan, such asthe creation of more retail, day care, a high school, literacy training andadult education opportunities, and a library;
4. development of a community resident's plan for the reuse of the BronxTerminal Market and Yankee Stadium area;
5. preparation of a funding proposal for the creation one of three Bronx Centertheme high schools -- the High School for Law, Government and Justice as a NYCNew Visions School (the two other theme high schools are one focusing oncareers in sports management affiliated with Yankee Stadium and one to operateas part of the proposed NYC Police Academy for social and criminal justicetraining);
6. design and construction of a senior citizens' residence through a $7.5 HUDgrant;
7. funding of a community enhancement program to provide grants and loans tonew homeowners in the Bronx Center area;
8. construction of permanent housing for homeless and low income families underthe City's 85/85 program;
9. submission of an application to the City to renovate several abandoned orpartially occupied apartment buildings in Melrose Commons;
10. redesigning of the Metro North train station within Bronx Center andrenovation 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 organizedby the Bronx Community Forum, so as to keep the community informed, engaged andinvolved in Bronx Center project planning and implementation.
From the outset, one of the most critical and unique aspects of the BronxCenter project has been the unprecendented level of community outreach andparticipation by local residents in every aspect of planning, development andimplementation. The Bronx Center project demonstrates that input from the wholecommunity -- not sporadic, but ongoing - has empowered the residents who havestayed in this 300 block neighborhood during its difficult times. Perhaps themost important lesson learned from the Bronx Center experience is that throughbottom-up, partipatory and resposive processes, we can restore public trust ingovernment and the planning process as vehicles for positive change in our society.One of the most painful experiences learned through past failures is thatwithout broad and intensive public enthusiasm and support, no development plancan survive the political hurdles of planning and funding decisions that lieprimarily in the hands of city, state and federal officials. Without widepopular support and a community invested in the success of a plan, the privatesector and community groups will not take the many future actions needed totranslate 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 enthusiasmof the community's efforts, "People argued with a passion, but this wasnot a contest. It was an entrance into their own city. Many people at thismeeting had been trapped within the armor of their grievance...they stood togain by setting grievance aside...by joining other who have felt similarlydisplaced...Experts and politicians have had useful experiences,too...But,perhaps the most useful asset displayed by Bronx Center volunteer professionalsis their grasp of hierachy. Though their expertise places them at the apex ofthe organizational pyramid, they have turned the pyramid upside down. Theystand at the bottom supporting those above."
As Bronx Center moves from planning and development into the implementationstages, community residents remain stimulated and engaged in all aspects of theproject.
I. Local Economic Participation
One of the primary goals of Bronx Center is to ensure that area residents andbusinesses gain access to as many jobs, both construction and permanent, andcontracting opportunities as possible.
Bronx Center launched the CLE, a working group consisting of neighborhoodresidents and construction workers organized to work more productively towardsecuring jobs from construction projects underway in the Bronx.
The CLE has been successful in getting work for Bronx residents during theconstruction of the Concourse Plaza Office Building. The CLE also is workingwith the Turner Construction Company on the construction of the MontefioreClinic, and has received a commitment from Turner for work on Battery ParkCity. The CLE has also recently begun work with the Mid-Bronx Senior CitizensCouncil 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 housingplan that would have relocated approximately 250 families from their homes.
Residents of Melrose configured a new redevelopment strategy and organized theNos Quedamos/We Stay Committee to design a "livable city." They beganmeeting with architects, planners and city agency staff to draft their visionfor 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 withinthe Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area: (1) a senior citizens' residence hasreceived a $7.5 million commitment from the Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment (HUD); (2) a community enhancement program to provide grants andloans to homeowners in the urban renewal area received funding from the BronxBorough President; and (3) Nos Quedamos and Phipps Houses are proposing tobuild permanent housing under the NYS/NYC 85/85 program as follow: 51% of unitsfor homeless families, and the remaining 49% for families earning 60% of themedian income.
In addition, Nos Quedamos has submitted an application to the City to qualifyfor their Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) to renovate severalabandoned 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 theabandoned former Bronx Borough Courthouse which will create a foothold in thislandmark structure by opening the door and returning the first floor to civicuse.
More than $850,000 has been raised to date from public and private sources torenovate the facility.
On behalf of Bronx Center, The Urban Assembly has been negotiating a lease onthe Bronx Borough Courthouse. Construction is ready to start.
Architectual drawings and construction documents are completed. A buildingpermit application is in development.
IV. Yankee Stadium Waterfront/Triangle Market
The triangle of land along the Harlem River where Yankee Stadium and the BronxTerminal Market are located provides an exciting opportunity for major newdevelopment. There is considerable potential for transforming thisstrategically located but under-utilized space into an attractive recreationand business complex.
The Urban Assembly/Bronx Center is undertaking a study of the feasibility ofredeveloping the area now occupied by the Bronx Terminal Market.
After many community meetings, the study evaluated two community-sponsoredconcepts: 1) physical improvements to the Bronx Terminal Market area to allow formanufacturing companies to move in; and 2) a retail center anchored by big boxretailers.
The consulting team is also working with residents to respond to the City'smaster plan for Yankee Stadium area.
V. Supreme Court Complex
The Supreme Court complex is a proposed 1.2 million square-foot facility from161st to 163rd Streets.
In response to interest in this project and concerns from the community, BronxCenter teamed up with the Mid-Bronx Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) andformed 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 newhigh 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 servicereferrals and public meetings.
In numerous community forums with attendence of more than 300 neighborhoodresidents at each one, people expressed concerns about the proposed facility toCity representatives.
The Task Force sponsored a Library Workshop in conjuction with Partners forLivable Communities, Project for Public Spaces and Libraries of the Future todevelop a concept and program for an expanded bilingual library within thecourt complex.
As a result of the forums, there were two working groups formed, a youthcommittee and an outreach committee.
The youth committee was formed because of some concerns expressed by the youngpeople at the forum that they were not included or well informed on the issuessurrounding the Supreme Court Complex. It also meets to examine the idea of atheme school as part of the Complex. This group eventually grew to become partof the Bronx Center education committee, which developed the proposal for theBronx School for law, government and justice.
The outreach committee works to keep the community informed on the courtcomplex and focused on organizing the community to participate in the publichearing on the draft environmental impact statement sponsored by the city.
The outreach committee was successful in getting between 50 and 60 residents tocome 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 originalBronx Center plan called for the inclusion of three theme high schools, onefocusing on careers in sports management, one to operate as part of theproposed Police Academy and one which would focus on social and criminaljustice.
The Bronx Center Education Committee recently began working with the SupremeCourt Complex Task Force youth and outreach committees to develop a proposal tothe 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 willeventually function as part of the Supreme Court Complex.
The proposal was completed and submitted to the NYC Fund for Public Education.
The Education Committee continues to meet to develop the school concept andprepare for the RFP interview process. The committee was also recently informedthat they were one of the 50 groups out of the 200 which submitted proposalsthat would be called back for an interview. Of these 50 groups, 10 will receivegrants.
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 beencommunity outreach and participation by local residents in every aspect ofplanning and development. Input from the whole community - not sporadic, butongoing - empowers residents who have stayed in neighborhoods during difficulttimes and restores public trust in government and the planning process asvehicles for positive change.
The Bronx Forum is the primary vehicle for ongoing public participation andengagement in Bronx Center policy, planning and development, disseminatingsocio-economic and political information and stimulating participation by localresidents and youth organizations.
Meetings are held almost daily.
To inform the community of meetings, A calender of events is distributed toseveral hundred community residents monthly.
VIII. Metro North Station/Melrose Park
Bronx Center submitted an ISTEA proposal to renovate the Metro North trainstation 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 streetsinitiative that would create defensible public spaces in the Bronx Center area.Additionally, a similar proposal was made to the federal Department ofTransportation under its new Livable Communities program.
Overthe last two years we have focused on cross-sectoral practices and outcomeswhich embrace and appreciate inclusion. While we have continued to work withmany of our long time partners, we have also developed new relationships andcollaborative ventures with businesses and community develop organizations tobuild our community and create a functional knowledge base of effective methodsof social change.
Banana Kelly's major achievements since 1996 include the following:
Â· Partnering with the government and private organisations to establish a modeNew Visions High School which incorporates an experiential method of learning.Students use their skills and learn through participation in hands-on communitydevelopment projects, earning a high school diploma as they contribute to, andparticipate in, the redevelopment of their neighbourhood.
Â· Developing the Bronx Community Paper Company (BCPC) anenvironmentally-sound, state-of-the-art paper recycling facility that willprovide 1,000 permanent jobs in the South Bronx. This half-billion dollarindustry will provide recycling services to all of New York City. Banana Kellysuccessfully negotiated with the city of New York to include thelabour-intensive component of materials sorting the project plan in order to beable to offer more jobs to local residents.
Â· Partnering with the South Bronx Human Development Organization to use anassets based approach to provide responsive and dynamic services to formerlyhomeless individuals with AIDS or the HIV virus. HANDS is a participant drivenprogram which fosters the acquisition of life skills through experientiallearning opportunities.
Â· Bringing 25 highly regarded artisans from Mexico to provide 40 students atthe Banana Kelly High School with an interactive training in a variety ofMexican art techniques. The exchange culminated in a large art opening at alocal college in the community. Our continued partnership will bring a group ofSouth Bronx youth to rehabilitate a house in Mexico City and the MexicanArtisans back to new York on an annual basis.
Â· Developing a Six month internship in the South Bronx in assets basedcommunity development for German students from Fachhochschule Hamburg furSozialpadogogik.
One major obstacle we have grappled with has been collaborating with otherorganizations and foundations which are not used to an assets based approach.Many foundations and governmental agencies are not familiar with the focus onbuilding on that which is already working and going well in our communities. Wehave overcome this obstacle through developing long-term relationships with ourpartners and by demonstrating the powerful, positive impact which appreciativeinquiry and strength-based approaches have on community development.
Another challenge we have faced has been finding venues and resources toconvene our global partners together. We are working to convene communitygroups at employ an assets based approach to focus on developing communityyouth leadership skills, youth opportunities and increased youth involvement insocial change.
Overthe last several years Banana Kelly employees and volunteers have learned tobetter focus on assets and capacities. We have learned that first step in anyproject is to ask local residents, what do we want to do and how can we makeour dreams a reality. We then look to our community assets and individual capacitiesto realize our goals. Finally, we examine what partnerships are needed to getthe job done.
We have incorporated an appreciative inquiry and capacity building intoeverything we do. We have continued to shape the attitudes and belief systemsof staff and local residents. We have shifted the focus away from deficits andneeds to a more empowering focus on assets and abilities. This shift has enablethe community to achieve significant results in its many redevelopment efforts.
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