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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

The amazing resurgence of the South Bronx

Kaid Benfield

Posted October 28, 2011

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  Charlotte St, South Bronx, around 1980 (by: John Fekner, Wikimedia Commons)  Melrose Commons and street named for Nos Quedamos founder (via The Campaign for Community-Based Planning)

New York City's South Bronx is making an astounding comeback.  Not that long ago, the neighborhood was perhaps the country's most villified, a setting for all that had gone wrong in urban America:  abandonment, decay, arson, street gangs, violent crime, slumlords, drug dealers, and hopelessness. 

Today, the neighborhood has turned around.  Ford Foundation president and former South Bronx resident Luis Ubinas spoke last year:

"Last month, I walked with a friend from 138th Street in Mott Haven to Yankee Stadium. It's about two miles. There were no burned out buildings or vacant lots strewn with trash. No syringes on the sidewalk. No acrid smell from the previous night's fires. What we saw was a place where hard working people send their kids to decent local schools, shop at neighborhood stores, and even tend their gardens.

Today the South Bronx is everything it wasn't in 1980—a sustainable, low-income community."

Two weeks ago, I was pleased to write a profile of Via Verde, an ambitious and very green affordable housing and garden development in the South Bronx.  Two years ago, I profiled a large, neighboring green project, Melrose Commons, covering some 30 city blocks and led by a Bronx-based citizens'-organization-turned-community-developer, Nos Quedamos.  Translated as "we stay" in Spanish, Nos Quedamos has from the beginning followed the principle that revitalization should transform the community for the benefit of the community, with no resident involuntarily displaced by rebuilding.  It's an inspiring story.

Both projects, and many others, make an appearance in this highly informative video produced by The New York Times and featuring New York City planning director Amanda Burden, accompanied by Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman.  It shows an amazing display of accomplishment in transforming one of America's worst neighborhoods into one of its most exciting and hopeful.  Watch and learn:

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page

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Jim NoonanOct 28 2011 10:29 PM

Great post and video. I hear so often that things in this place or that place are so bad that nothing can be done except to knock things down and plant trees. While there is nothing wrong with trees, if this can be done in the South Bronx, it can be done anywhere...

Kaid @ NRDCOct 29 2011 03:34 PM

I couldn't agree more, Jim.

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