Residents of public housing all over the borough can look to the U.S. Supreme Court with pride thanks to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who lived in the Bronxdale Houses when she was growing up and has called public housing a formative experience on her life. Now, the NYCHA development she lived in as a child will bear her name, as the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses.
Sotomayor was the guest of honor at a ceremony held at the gleaming community center to celebrate the renaming on Friday, June 4. Sotomayor lived in the Bronxdale Houses from 1957 to 1969.
Joined by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and New York City Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea, Sotomayor shed a few tears at points during the ceremony that renamed the development comprising 1,497 apartments that house nearly 3,500 residents. The community center will likewise be called the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Community Center.
“I am deeply humbled and touched that these houses will now bear my name and I am so grateful for all they have given me in my life,” Sotomayor said. “It was the people who lived here who transformed these buildings into a community. The members of that community sustained each other and helped the next generation to grow. It is important for the broader community to remain committed to assisting the residents of this place so that other little Sonias will reach their dreams.”
In her remarks Sotomayor thanked her mother Celina who raised her and called the renaming of the housing project in her honor an unbelievable thing. Sotomayor recalled moving into the houses when she was three, and taking up residence on the 7th floor of 1825 Bruckner Boulevard. It was there that she spent her formative years.
She recalled early childhood memories of her father looking out the window of their apartment at vacant lots surrounding the development. He would tell her that some day they would be filled with homes and stores. She also described hamburger-eating contests with her cousins at the White Castle restaurant on the outskirts of the development. She recalled peering out her apartment’s window in 1968 to catch a glimpse of Robert Kennedy, who had visited the houses during a campaign stop in his run for the presidency.
A sign bearing the new name was unveiled inside of the commmunity center. Mayor Bloomberg presented Sotomayor with a plaque telling of her story in public housing and beyond.
“Justice Sotomayor’s story is unique, but it began like many, in a public housing development with a single mother whose first language was not English and who worked hard to put food on the table,” Bloomberg said. “Her achievements are an inspiration to millions of New Yorkers, especially our NYCHA residents young and old, who can look to her story to get a glimpse of the possibilities that await anyone who has the courage and determination to follow a dream.”
Children from Cardinal Spellman High School’s chorus performed for Justice Sotomayor, and after the ceremony she posed for pictures with them. Cardinal Spellman president Father Trevor Nicholls read an invocation during the ceremony.
“We acknowledge and welcome renaming Bronxdale in Justice Sotomayor’s honor because this occasion also honors all Bronxdale residents, and all public housing residents,” said Tenants Association president Regina Howell. “It will serve as a statement of hope for future generations of public housing residents that we can follow Justice Sotomayor’s example and reach even greater heights.”
Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or procchio@c
©2010 Community News Group