When Colin Powell returns to his home neighborhood in the south Bronx, a community rallies in excitement.
Powell came to 715 Fox Street, by Leggett Avenue, on Thursday, September 9 for the ribbon-cutting of the General Colin L. Powell Apartments, a 50-unit, Platinum-LEED certified apartment complex bearing his name.
The building represents the first new multi-family complex to open in Community Board 2 in 30 years, and also the first time that Habitat for Humanity has partnered with a private organization to construct affordable housing.
Les Bluestone, of Blue Sea Development, emceed the event and the first speakers were HPD commissioner Rafael Cestero, HDC president Marc Jahr, and ‘nyhomes’ president Brian Lawlor, which collectively Bluestone called “New York’s housing triumvirate.”
“It’s a great day in the Bronx,” said Cestero. “This remarkable building is a testament to the Bronx, which is booming, not burning.”
Jahr, in his remarks, gave out some hard numbers that raised eyebrows, reminding the audience that the Powell Apartments is part of a larger city plan to build 165,000 affordable houses. So far, 108,000 have been completed.
“Building after building, block after block, this community is being revived,” said Jahr, who mentioned that the point of the building’s naming is for young people to be inspired by, and emulate, the example that Powell has set.
Also on hand for the ribbon-cutting were Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Congressman Jose Serrano, and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who told the crowd he and his wife had lived nearby, at 753 Fox Street, when they had their first child in 1992.
Diaz said that the Bronx has transformed “from ugly caterpillar to beautiful butterfly,” and that the borough is becoming number one in the city and state of New York for green, affordable housing.
“Welcome back home,” he told Powell. “You’ve had many titles, but the title we want to thank you for is being a great ambassador of the borough of the Bronx.”
Diaz presented Powell with a special blanket stitched with images of Bronx neighborhoods, and Powell became emotional as he held it up for all to see. Finally, he took the podium.
“I left the Bronx some 55 years ago, but the Bronx never left me,” said Powell to cheers and applause. Powell’s first home was at 980 Fox Street, and then he moved to 952 Kelly Street. Both addresses are mere blocks from the new apartment building.
“I watched the tragedy of the Bronx,” Powell told. “I’ll never forget the day I drove through with my young children and pointed to an empty lot and said that was where I grew up. And then this community began to come back.”
Powell was grateful for the honor of the apartment building’s name, and said that he hoped his name would come to represent not necessarily his record or accomplishments, but simply that a kid from the Bronx came to be a general.
“We need to keep creating new generations of youngsters who believe in themselves,” he said.
“This neighborhood prepared me for the road ahead.”