With nearly 40% of Mott Haven living in poverty and a household median income of $26,000, Arline Parks, a leader in the community, hopes the next mayor fixes the neighborhood.
Parks, CEO of Diego Beekman Mutual Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing complex in Mott Haven that is home to more than 1,200 units, spoke with the Bronx Times about what Mott Haven and the south Bronx need going forward.
She recently launched a new website for the Diego Beekman Community Plan, which describes how residents in Mott Haven are concerned about safety, job opportunities, social services, youth programs, better retail, education and quality of life.
“I’m hopeful we can begin having discussions with the next mayor that reimagines policies for the south Bronx to build better communities,” Parks said.
While charter schools are popping up throughout Mott Haven, public schools must improve as well, she noted.
COVID-19 showed the digital divide that exists, which has hampered the education of many, whether they lack a laptop or Wi-Fi at home. Parks explained that some kids travel an hour to go school because those in their district don’t function.
“There should be a better solution to make sure children no matter what are getting the education they need in order to succeed,” she explained.
With Lincoln Hospital being the only hospital in the south Bronx, Parks is calling for the city to invest more in the facility and create a network of health care providers that can service people.
“You have to make sure Lincoln Hospital has all the resources it needs,” she stressed.
Another problem is the inaccessibility to quality healthy food. She questioned why there are nice grocery stores in the northeast Bronx or Riverdale, but expensive places or numerous bodegas in the south Bronx.
Making matters worse is the south Bronx has of the highest diabetes rate in the city and is double the national average.
Parks would love to see a ShopRite in the community or a farmer’s market that offers fresh produce. Instead, people often wait on long lines at food pantries.
Many in Mott Haven and the south Bronx stay poor because of the lack of banks and check cashing institutes, which are predatory. Parks stressed that more banks must come to the community in order for people to build wealth.
Parks pointed out that if someone is receiving welfare benefits they may not be allowed to have a bank account. However, people should not have to walk 10 blocks or go to the Third Ave. Hub to access a bank.
“We need to have banking policies that work for all communities,” Parks stated.
Quality of life and housing
According to Parks, people in the community want more affordable housing and less bodegas and liquor stores, but it seems the city wants to gentrify Mott Haven. Bankside, a $950 million mega development will open by the end of the year along the waterfront and a 27- story apartment building is being built nearby.
She understands developers cannot be stopped from buying properties, but questioned why they can’t construct affordable housing, schools or supermarkets.
“In this election cycle we need elected officials to keep a good analysis of the needs of the City of New York in every area and make good investments to make communities whole,” Parks said.