MOTT HAVEN — The effort to turn a former South Bronx rehab center into a community center just got a $40,000 boost.
Members of South Bronx Unite have been pushing to turn the vacant building at 349 E. 140th St. into a community center, and the New York Foundation — a group that aims to support community organizing and advocacy — recently awarded them a grant for $40,000 to help realize this goal and cover the costs of developing a proposal for the site.
"I think the real piece of it that we felt was the most important was that this group, South Bronx Unite, was committed to supporting local organizations who were collectively organizing and serving thousands of young people and their families and community residents every year," said Kevin Ryan, program director at the New York Foundation.
South Bronx Unite views the building as a place that community groups, including themselves, could use as a permanent home, a goal that Ryan described as particularly important given the wave of new real estate development arriving in the borough.
"Three years ago, we saw the property values skyrocket in East New York, and then we recognized that almost any community was vulnerable," he said, "but we were thinking that in terms of in Brooklyn, that this was just going to continue into Brownsville and Ocean Hill and other neighborhoods. I don't think we expected that—even though the Jerome Avenue rezoning is a huge rezoning project—that there would be so much movement as quickly in the South Bronx."
The building is currently owned by New York City Health + Hospitals, and the agency said in a statement that it is committed to turning the building into a space that the community can use.
Mychal Johnson, a co-founder of South Bronx Unite, said the grant would be extremely helpful in terms of turning the group's idea for the building into a more concrete plan and could also help them receive additional funding going forward for renovations and operations.
"It’s definitely a major step towards realizing our goal of...making this a realistic endeavor," he said.