The Bronx is proud that one of its own has become a Supreme Court Justice, and now the borough will show its pride in a prominent way, thanks to some outspoke tenants that lobbied hard. Bronxdale Houses in Soundview, along with the Bronxdale Community Center, will now be renamed for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Hispanic-American. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) made the news official this past Friday, May 21.
The re-naming began as a petition effort conducted by several residents of Bronxdale Houses, along with workers from Councilmember Annabel Palma’s office, a representative from NYCHA said. Local resident Carlos Ramos Jr., who had petitioned for Bill Thompson for mayor in the past, was also instrumental in writing letters and calling community boards, urging them to consider the renaming idea.
Sotomayor has a rich heritage in the area. She lived in the Bronxdale Houses from 1957 to 1970, moving away just two years before she graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School as valedictorian.
“We are making history,” noted NYCHA commissioner Margarita Lopez. She and other officials were thrilled to announce the news, which comes less than a year after Sotomayor was appointed to the court, nominated by President Barack Obama, on August 8, 2009. Since the recent nomination of Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens, Sotomayor has been given a rest from the harsh spotlight she was under following her own appointment. Yet Bronxites have not forgotten her, and clearly their admiration and respect for this local product has never wavered.
“The Justice has shown that growing up in public housing does not limit one’s possibilities,” said NYCHA chairman John Rhea. Bronxdale Houses has 28 seven-story buildings and includes a grand total of 1,497 apartments. The complex was completed in 1955 and today is home to an impressive 3,479 people.
This will mark the first time that a NYCHA development or community center is named in honor of Sotomayor. A formal renaming ceremony is expected to take place next month in Soundview, and she is expected to attend.
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Additional reporting by Max Mitchell.