Bronx activist Hetty Fox still helping after 45 years

Hetty Fox was honored at Casita Maria last week.
Photo courtesy of Casita Maria

A longtime Bronxite has shown over and over again that she deeply cares about her community and its residents.

Hetty Fox, a longtime Bronx activist has continuously put her community first – holding countless activities and events for her neighborhood to enjoy and learn from for decades.

Born in Harlem in 1937 to Guyanese immigrants George and Ina Fox, Hetty moved to the present day neighborhood of Foxhurst in the Bronx in 1940, formally known as Fort Apache.

She went to Cathedral High School and eventually graduated from Hunter College in 1962 with a BA, majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology and Russian.

After graduating from college, Fox moved to Hollywood, CA to begin a new chapter in her life.

When she was living on the west coast, she received two masters after tenures at California State University Northridge and Casa Loma College in Anaheim. She also taught at Cal State Northridge.

She moved back to New York in 1970, after she had been informed that her sister was expecting her first child and planning to go on a long trip with her husband as members of the Peace Corps.

Fox’s parents were also getting older, so she wanted to stay close and in contact with them as well.

When she moved back to her old street, Lyman Place, she noticed that the neighborhood had changed – for the worst.

It was at that time that Hetty Fox felt an obligation to revive a community and a borough that had gone through so much in the 1960s and 1970s.

“I knew that the Bronx needed help,” said Hetty, who recalls that she couldn’t leave again after seeing the condition of her deteriorated neighborhood.

“The south Bronx became the poorest part of the country, and I had to do things to make the life of my family, friends and neighbors better.”

She began by renovating and rescuing one-family and two-family homes on her block, and eventually turned one of them into a center for arts and education, called the Neo-Presearch Energy Foundation, Inc., located at 1370 Lyman Place.

At this center, those who visit are encouraged to write their own books or create their own art project when taking part in arts and crafts workshops.

Some visitors have even practiced DJing at the center in past years.

Fox is also responsible for starting her very own ‘Play Street’, which she began in 1977.

Play streets are intended to give kids who can’t afford summer camp another option.

For this event, Fox closes down Lyman Avenue from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. so that kids can take part in physical activities that are good for both the mind and the body.

According to Fox, the play street sees 100-150 kids daily in the summer months. She has also planted 21 trees on her block to resurrect the area.

On holidays she holds parties on her street annually, usually the Sunday before Christmas – a tradition that she has continued since 1992.

For the holiday festivities, she gives presents to every kid 12 and under.

Fox will be featured in in an interview in an upcoming documentary, Decade of Fire, which will be directed by Gretchen Hildebran and will show how the south Bronx was decimated in the 1970’s.

“There are so many dynamics in the Bronx – food, culture, music and art to name a few, and this borough as well as the city needs to show the rest of the world what it is about,” said Fox. “It’s apparent that the Bronx has some healing to do, but we must take advantage of the resources and the economic systems in NYC to recover.”

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 742–3384. E-mail him at
Hetty Fox stands on the stoop in front of a building on her street Lyman Place.
Photo courtesy of Gretchen Hildebran

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