A longtime Bronx River resident continues to be the ‘eyes and ears’ for his section of the community.
James Graham, the Tenant Patrol Program founder at Bronx River Houses, has been patrolling and servicing the housing complex since 1979. 35 years later, he’s still working to continuously improve the cleanliness and safety of his complex.
Originally born on Brook Avenue in Claremont Village in the late 1940s, Graham graduated from James Monroe High School in the late 1960s before moving to Georgia. In the late 1970’s, just as Ed Koch was being elected mayor of New York City, James Graham moved back to the Bronx – this time calling the Bronx River Houses his home.
While living in the Bronx River Houses, a group of nine, 14-story buildings with almost 1,250 apartments that was built in 1950, located on East 174th Street and Harrod Avenue, just off of Bronx River Avenue, Graham founded the Tenant Patrol Program for the housing complex, after seeing unclean and unsafe scenarios take place in the location in which he took a lot of pride in.
As the head of the Tenant Patrol Program, Graham was responsible for increasing safety in the Bronx River Houses by recommending mandatory sign-ins for guests, supporting security cameras for lobbies and elevators and pushing for steel, bulletproof glass windows in the building, while also creating easier ways for the tenants patrol to communicate with police officers in dire situation – all attributes that were not present at the Bronx River Houses before he moved there and started the position.
“Before the 1980s, crime and robberies were at a high, nobody had to sign into these buildings and residents were scared to commute to and from their homes in the area of the (Bronx River) houses,” said Graham. “In present day, I know that residents can tell you from their personal experiences that crime is down in this neighborhood compared to what it once was – and this is a fact.”
By the early 1990s, every building in Bronx River Houses was equipped with bulletproof glass windows and cameras in the lobbies and elevators – NYCHA investments that Graham described as ‘expensive but worth it.’
“Although these items were pricey, the investments were worth it because in this building complex, the residents feel safe – safer than they’ve ever been,” said Graham. “Nowadays, every building in the Bronx wants the cameras and bulletproof windows because they provide safety.”
James Graham is also responsible for the cleanliness of the buildings, which has also improved since his tenure began.
Along with other tenants, Graham swept and mopped, while ridding the hallways of garbage and debris. He also installed new lights in the hallways, eliminating the dark and dreary hallway setting that is typical in many affordable housing complexes.
“Affordable housing, ghetto, projects – those are words I like to steer clear from when referring to the Bronx River Houses, because this housing complex is not that,” said Graham. “The stereotypes of the projects are that there is crime, robbery, use of drugs and violence – this housing complex is something way different.”