For most New Yorkers, the name Hunts Point conjures up a picture of bustling food markets, but the vibrant community Hunts Point is far more than that. In addition to the city’s Food Distribution Center, which provides almost five billion pounds of food to restaurants, supermarkets, and bodegas, Hunts Point is home to 12,000 residents. Many of them work in essential industries helping the city respond to and recover from COVID-19. It is also a peninsula at high risk from sea level rise and more severe storms. Because of the unique importance of Hunts Point, in 2004, the city and the community developed the Hunts Point Vision Plan through a joint planning process. The plan focused on improving the quality of life and overall community safety, and subsequently brought hundreds of new jobs and opportunities to residents.
Over 40 acres of new waterfront parks allow community members to enjoy open space with their families. Reconfigured traffic intersections divert truck traffic, making the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike. Prohibiting new waste facilities within the residential part of the neighborhood also supports environmental justice for residents of the peninsula. The Hunts Point Vision Plan also created a roadmap for economic development. We are very proud of the results. Together, we created thousands of well-paying industrial jobs with low barriers to entry, and brought new workforce resources to community members, including connections to new jobs for 4,000 residents of the neighborhood. This is substantial progress, but there is more to be done and new challenges to address head-on.
For example, Hunts Point still faces the challenges of climate change, and continues to have higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and negative health outcomes than many other parts of the city. The reality is the Bronx felt the health and economic blows of COVID-19 more deeply than other boroughs. This past summer, Bronx Community Districts 1 and 2 consistently had the 10th highest death rates in the city with positive test rates were well above the average. In June, unemployment projections neared 30%, again well above the city average of 20% unemployment. Critical gaps in access to broadband internet, childcare and other quarantine realities have made this difficult year even harder for Hunts Point’s residents.
These inequities have highlighted the imperative to revisit the needs of the community. Together we are facilitating engagement to guide future investments in Hunts Point. Building on the successes of 2004 Vision Plan, the city will work with local community members to create an updated plan, with specific recommendations for new projects we can advance together. This vision will guide the city’s investment in Hunts Point for the next 20 years, include clear implementation plans, and bring many other city agencies to the table.
We want to hear all the voices of Hunts Point. Starting this spring, we will begin listening to the Hunts Point community about their goals for their neighborhood’s future. We will engage with small business owners, seniors, students, community organizations, first-generation New Yorkers–all the groups that make the neighborhood unique. We feel strongly this effort must be led by the community. To that end, the Pratt Center for Community Development will lead our engagement efforts, to place the community’s voice at the center of planning process. Pratt has worked in the South Bronx for over 30 years and is joined by Barretto Bay Strategies and Mainland Media, both Bronx-based firms, as well as the Hunts Point & Longwood Community Coalition, a group of community-based organizations focused on improving the lives of people in the South Bronx. We could not be more excited to work with this team.
We are holding the first remote public workshop about the planning effort on Thursday, March 4 at 6:30 pm. We urge residents to take part in the meeting so we hear what you love about your community, what your vision is for its future, and how we can work together to make that vision a reality. We have accomplished a great deal together in the past several years. We have torn down the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, removing a longstanding blight on Hunts Point, and replaced it with affordable housing, nonprofit space, and much more. We have centered community listening and visioning in all our work, building a partnership with residents where they drive change and hold us accountable. Through close partnership among our offices, the consultants and stakeholders that are part of the process, and most importantly, with the community, we can make serious progress toward our goal of equitable recovery and a better future for Hunts Point.
James Patchett is the President and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation. Rafael Salamanca Jr. is the Council Member for the 17th District of the New York City Council, representing the South Bronx and serves as Chair of the Land Use Committee.