White Plains Road needs a recreation center. Baychester needs a rec center. Wakefield needs a rec center. Co-op City needs a rec center. Williambridge needs a rec center.
Thanks to overdevelopment and immigration, the north Bronx is bursting at the seams. It added 20,000 residents between 2000 and 2005, 400 houses between 2005 and 2009.
The north Bronx boasts two Department of Youth and Community Development BEACON youth centers, at P.S. 113 and P.S. 142. But there is no inter-generational hub.
On Monday, August 17, roughly 100 north Bronx residents gathered on White Plains Road to demand a new rec center.
“Lord knows we don’t need houses,” Baychester resident Renee Patterson said.
Alonzo de Castro of the Northeast Bronx Coalition and Elizabeth Gill of the 47th Precinct Council hosted the town hall meeting; Community Board 12 district manager Carmen Rosa answered questions.
The north Bronx has gathered to request a rec center before but never in such numbers, de Castro said. He and Gill badgered a half dozen pols to attend. Councilman Larry Seabrook and Assemblyman Carl Heastie agreed to caucus with Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and promised to get the rec center built, preferably on E. 229th Street.
In 2005, north Bronx residents asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg to build a rec center at 1825 E. Gun Hill Road, an MTA-owned property, or 1250 E. 229th Street, a city-owned property. The mayor didn’t respond, de Castro said.
Heastie, who chairs the Bronx County Democratic Party and represented Diaz Jr. at the meeting, understands. Prior borough presidents ignored the north Bronx, Heastie said.
1825 E. Gun Hill Road and 1250 E. 229th Street are still available. Seabrook suggested that he and Heastie target a Parks Department rec center rather than a YMCA or Boys & Girls Club.
“We need [an operator] with deep pockets,” Seabrook said. “We need the city.”
Seabrook has attempted to establish a rec center in the north Bronx again and again; again and again, no rec center.
“We wanted [1250 E. 229th Street] three decades ago,” Seabrook said.
The property at 1250 E. 229th Street, formerly Baychester Diagnostic, is a 35,325 square foot lot owned and operated by the Administration of Child Services.
“1250 E. 229th Street is underutilized,” de Castro said.
The land is situated at the heart of the north Bronx, close to the BX30 bus, the BX31 bus, the BX16 bus and the 5 train, Patterson said. Adding an inter-generational hub would benefit north Bronx children and adults, she explained.
The rec center would encourage north Bronx residents to exercise, paint and sing. It would allow young professionals in the north Bronx to work out and network in the borough, rather than in Westchester County or Manhattan, a member of the Baychester Quality of Life Council said. It would offer young adults in the north Bronx a quiet spot to hang out, said Jessie Davis-Walls.
The rec center would lodge karate and sports, Allana Beddoe said. It would promote books and music. The north Bronx is in the midst of a crisis, said Michael X. More and more gang members, more and more young adults unemployed.
“You see the boys?” Pauline Wilson said. “Pants down. On the street. No respect.”
Seabrook urged meeting attendees to stop by a renovated track and field at the Edenwald Houses. There won’t be a new rec center soon, he said. Be patient.
But de Castro is optimistic. The residents of the north Bronx are ready to push, he said.
“Now is the time!” Gill boomed. “We can do it if we stick together.”