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Youth want Old Fordham Library

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First stop Kingsbridge Armory. Next stop Old Fordham Library.

Mere days removed from a City Council snub of The Related Companies’ redevelopment plan for the armory, a snub engineered in part by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, some 50 members of NWBCCC’s youth group, Sistas and Brothas United, rallied for community-minded redevelopment at the Old Fordham Library. SBU member Manny De La Cruz, 16, asked that the city listen to Bronx teens.

“Development must be done right in the Bronx,” De La Cruz said on Saturday, December 19.

Councilman Joel Rivera, whose district includes the Old Fordham Library, and his father, Assemblyman Jose Rivera attended the rally. Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilwoman Annabel Palma and Councilman-elect Fernando Cabrera were invited, SBU coordinator Mustafa Sullivan said. Councilman Rivera promised to assign capital monies to an Old Fordham Library community center, provided that the city Health Department agrees. Meanwhile, the Health Department was granted leave to appeal a significant legal decree.

When the library closed its doors in 2005, SBU and Community Board 7 pushed for a community center. The three-story building on Bainbridge Avenue sits near Fordham Road, a popular teen hangout. There were rallies in 2007; some 10,000 people signed a petition.

In 2008 the Department of Citywide Administrative Services transferred the building from the Public Library to the Health Department. Bound by a city law signed in 2000 to operate a 24/7 animal shelter in each borough – the Bronx has none, the Health Department prepared to open one at the Old Fordham Library. When SBU and CB7 balked, the Health Department suggested that it build an animal spay and neuter center instead, that it share the building with a community center. Rivera promised to back a City Council bid to repeal the 24/7 animal shelter law.

But in September a Manhattan judge, in response to a suit filed by an animal rights group, ordered the Health Department to comply with the law as soon as possible. The Health Department was granted leave to appeal the order in mid-December, city Law Department spokeswoman Connie Pankratz said.

If the appeal succeeds and the Health Department builds a spay and neuter center at the Old Fordham Library, there would be room for a community center. If not, SBU could push for an expansion of the building, Sullivan said. The Old Fordham Library property is contaminated, SBU has charged. On December 19, SBU members dressed for the holidays and sang remixed Christmas carols to convey the group’s Old Fordham Library demands, 16-year old Adolfo Abreu of Kingsbridge Heights said. Abreu wants to see the building house teen programs on art, technology and more.

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3393 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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