The Community Development and Planning Center is committed to developing the leadership of Bronx River residents to have greater power over the redevelopment of their neighborhood. It particularly seeks to engage the creativity and energy of young people and recognize their key role as community stakeholders whose growth is intertwined with the health of their environment. In accordance with the principles of environmental justice, CDAP works to improve the neighborhood’s environment, increase the resources and amenities available to residents, and improve the quality and affordability of the housing stock to ensure that current residents are able to continue to enjoy the improvements they create. CDAP is also working to create healthy, sustainable economic opportunities for residents. CDAP is committed to this community for the long term and recognizes that the most important resources it can build is the leadership of residents and their sense of power and ownership over the neighborhood.
CDAP begins by always working to learn more about the neighborhood: the housing stock, the local economy and the quality of the environment and the changes that are constantly occurring in all of these areas. CDAP is currently involved in several community planning projects and advocacy campaigns:
The BOA: Turning Contaminated and Abandoned Land into Community Assets As the lead partner in a Brownfield Opportunity Area Nomination Study for the Southern Bronx River Waterfront, YMPJ is working with four BOA partner organizations to identify underused land and buildings that have the potential to be transformed into community resources that can benefit neighborhood residents.
The Bronx River Greenway: Fighting for Access to a Healthy Bronx River YMPJ has long fought for the restoration of the Bronx River and improved access for neighborhood residents. YMPJ’s years of work with allies from throughout the Southeast Bronx is now bearing fruit with the construction of the landmark Bronx River Greenway. YMPJ has been particularly involved in the successful struggle to turn the abandoned concrete plant along the Bronx River into a city park where ground was broken in the fall of 2006. In addition, YMPJ has worked to hold Con Edison and the DEC to the highest possible cleanup standards for Starlight Park, to ensure that all the contamination from its former use as a manufactured gas plant will be removed and that it will once again be a safe riverfront park for nearby residents.
The Sheridan Expressway: Transforming a Highway into Housing, Amenities and Access to the River YMPJ is a founding member of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, which has developed a community alternative to the NY State Department of Transportation’s plan to expand the Sheridan Expressway. Instead of pouring millions of dollars into this underused highway that cuts residents off from the Bronx River, YMPJ and its partner organizations in the SBRWA have developed a plan to decommission the Sheridan Expressway and replace it with affordable housing, community facilities and access to the river.
Environmental Health: Green Roofs, Green Streets and a Greener Bronx River: CDAP advocates for and demonstrates design and planning initiatives that improve the local environment, such as green roofs and green streets that reduce runoff and sewage overflow, decrease energy usage and improve air quality. YMPJ is currently working to create a green roof demonstration project on the roof of the St. Joan of Arc Church next to our office.
Community Facilities: A New Home for YMPJ, A New Resource for Bronx River CDAP is currently conducting a feasibility study to prepare for the construction of a new community facility that would house YMPJ and serve as a resource for local youth and residents. CDAP is also researching housing preservation and development strategies to ensure that low-income residents will be able to remain in the neighborhood, even as property values and rents increase.
Along with partners Sustainable South Bronx, The Point CDC, The Pratt Center and The Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, YMPJ was awarded a contract by the NY State DEC and DOS to lead a Brownfield Opportunity Area Nomination Study for the South Bronx River Waterfront, including Hunts Point and both sides of the Bronx River up to the Cross Bronx Expressway. Through the BOA program YMPJ and its partners will be identifying abandoned and contaminated sites within the study area and conducting a community process to determine residents’ priorities for the future development of the neighborhood, particularly with regard to strategic brownfield sites.
The final products of the BOA nomination study will include:
- A comprehensive land use assessment and analysis, including an in-depth assessment of existing land uses, brownfield sites, infrastructure, transportation systems, and natural resources.
- An economic and market trends analysis to understand regional and local market forces and to ensure that the redevelopment of strategic brownfield sites can foster needed local economic development.
- The identification and description of all brownfield sites including attention to those strategic sites that can be catalysts for revitalization.
- Based on the analysis and the community visioning workshops, recommendations for future uses and actions to redevelop strategic sites and revitalize the neighborhood in order to meet local needs and residents priorities.
Links to partner organizations:
Link to DOS and DEC BOA websites:
Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice has advocated intensively for the restoration of the Bronx River and for improved access to the river for local residents. As part of this advocacy, YMPJ is a founding board member and active member of the Bronx River Alliance. Together the organizations in the Bronx River Alliance and its predecessor the Bronx River Working Group succeeded in creating the Bronx River Greenway, which is currently under construction by the NYC Parks Department. To ensure that the Greenway is not just a recreational resource for residents but also an economic one, YMPJ is investigating possibilities for structuring and managing concessions in the park so that they can most effectively benefit local residents.
Link to BxRiverAlliance
Concrete Plant Park
One of the sites included in the Bronx River Greenway is the Concrete Plant Park. When the City was going to sell the abandoned concrete plan to a private developer, YMPJ worked with other local groups to prepare a community supported alternative and fought vigorously to get the city to turn the site into a public park. The city broke ground for the construction of the park in fall of 2006. YMPJ continues to monitor the remediation of the land and the construction of the park. CDAP is also investigating the possibilities of turning the abandoned Cass Gilbert designed railway station at Westchester Avenue into an entrance for the park, and conducted a community visioning workshop to gather proposals from residents in the December of 2005.
YMPJ commenced its advocacy for the renovation of Starlight Park with clean up activities and plantings in 1999. Under the impetus of commitments by public officials and agencies, YMPJ began, a community visioning and planning process for the design of the park. The community design was adopted by the Parks Department and NYSDOT. The design calls for the removal of most the current paved areas (50% of current site) and the creation of new soccer and baseball fields. The design also sets aside land for the development of a new boathouse and community center on the shore of the river. Congressman Jose Serrano has appropriated funds for the boathouse construction. During the initial excavations of the park before renovation, the remains of a former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) were found. Con Edison was identified as the responsible party for the MGP site, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is the regulatory agency charged with oversight. YMPJ along with 200-300 members and community residents pushed Con Edison officials to commit the removal of all of the waste materials from the site, as opposed to simply covering them over. A team of YMPJ staff and legal and environmental professionals reviewed and commented on the Focused Remedial Investigation (FRI) work plan, the Proposed Remedial Approach (PRA), the proposed Remedial Action Work Plan (RAWP) and other remedial planning documents. As a result of YMPJ’s continued advocacy the preliminary remedial design reviewed in fall 2004 reflected an attention to all of YMPJ’s concerns.
- Spring 2006: RAWP completed and contractor selected for remediation work.
- Summer 2006:First meeting of the Starlight Park Community Advisory Council (CAC) Parks Department, DEC, YMPJ and Con Ed.
- Fall 2006:Contractor announcement that remediation work has beginning.
Along with YMPJ’s partners in the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance (SBRWA), YMPJ works to improve the health of the southern Bronx River watershed environment, including creating a dynamic local economy and enabling the surrounding community to reap the benefits of the river as a rich natural resource. At the center of the SBRWA’s work is the creation of a community plan for the decommissioning of the Sheridan Expressway. Robert Moses began construction of the Sheridan Expressway in 1958, evicting local residents and cutting the neighborhood off from the Bronx River. He planned for the highway to continue north through the Bronx Zoo, but local residents and the Zoo’s benefactors stopped the highway after only 1.25 miles of it had been built. It now exists as a redundant, underused expressway that isolates residents from access to the river and contributes to the shortage of green space and perhaps the high incidences of asthma in the neighborhood.
In 1997, the NY State Department of Transportation proposed spending $420 million to refurbish and expand the expressway. In response YMPJ, Mothers on the Move, Nos Quedamos, Sustainable South Bronx, the Pratt Center, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance worked together as the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance to conduct public visioning processes and create a community alternative. The community plan proposes the decommissioning of the 28 acres of expressway and the creation of parks along the waterfront along with affordable housing and community facilities in its place. It also proposes constructing new from the Bruckner expressway to make it easier for trucks to access the Hunts Point Market and elevating the expressway where it crosses the Bronx River to ease congestion currently caused by its merge with Bruckner Boulevard.
The community plan is currently under consideration by the State DOT.
Link to SBRWA
Planning and Design for Environmental Health
As a demonstration project to improve the local environment, YMPJ is currently working to create a green roof demonstration project on the roof of the St. Joan of Arc Church next to our office. The green roof is expected to reduce pollution and save energy in multiple ways, beginning with the plants’ absorption of airborne carbon dioxide and waterborne nitrates. The soil and plants would reduce the peak runoff flow during a storm and therefore reduce the likelihood of a combined sewer overflow to the Bronx River, which currently receives 681 million gallons of combined sewer discharge each year. The garden would also reduce the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling the building. Green roofs reduce roof temperatures (that currently reach up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit) by half or more and dramatically decrease the need for summer air conditioning. In the winter, green roofs help insulate the building and these year-round energy savings translate into widespread environmental benefits as they help to reduce the demands at power plants.
The Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice Rooftop Wellness Garden will:
- Act as a model of community based environmental improvement for education of neighborhood residents, local organizations and businesses, and local government decision makers;
- Provide gardening and environmental education space for youth in our Wellness Program, which will produce healthy foods and medicinal plants;
- Reduce the volume of water going to the combined sewer system during rain storms;
- Reduce pollution levels in our air and in stormwater runoff;
- Reduce the amount of energy consumed by the St. Joan of Arc Church.
After 12 years of developing the capabilities of South Bronx youth and organizing for environmental justice, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) has outgrown its offices and is planning to build a new, innovative and environmentally sustainable community center in Soundview. Our experience partnering with young people in our community to rebuild the neighborhoods of Bronx River and Soundview/Bruckner has strengthened our resolve to create a community center that physically shows our youth the respect they deserve and that gives them a space to grow into the leaders the South Bronx needs.
The triangle between the Bruckner, Cross Bronx and Sheridan expressways that YMPJ serves is home to more than 22,000 young people between the ages of 5 and 24, and YMPJ’s new building will be the first and only youth center in the neighborhood. The community center is projected to be a 30,000 square foot state of the art green building, containing classrooms, offices, a computer lab, a gym and a dance studio.
In conjunction with its work on a new facility, CDAP is currently investigating the possibility of creating a community land trust and the possibility of developing affordable rental and homeownership housing.