Sistas, Brothas demand youth center

Department of Health rep Chris Manning (l) spoke to the northwest Bronx youth group Sistas and Brothas United on Wednesday, May 27. Miguel Rodriguez, 18, listened. Photo by Daniel Beekman

Sistas and Brothas United thanked Chris Manning for attending its 10th Anniversary Celebration. Then SBU gave the Department of Health assistant commissioner an earful.

“We need a community center,” Miguel Rodriguez, 18, said.

Tell it to the City Council, Manning replied.

SBU is a feisty youth group affiliated with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Council. It has campaigned for a community center at the Old Fordham Library since 2004. There is no community center in Fordham, Kingsbridge and Bedford Park. In 2008, DOH acquired the 27,400 square foot library building announced plans to build an animal shelter on site. DOH is required by law to operate shelter in every borough; there is no shelter in the Bronx. SBU, Community Board 7, Councilman Joel Rivera struck back. SBU held a rally. CB7 and Rivera threatened to block the project.

On Wednesday, May 27, at the SBU celebration, a potential compromise emerged. If the City Council repeals the shelter mandate, DOH could open a spay and neuter clinic at the Old Fordham Library instead. According to Manning, DOH would need 25,000 square feet to operate an animal shelter but only 3,000 square feet to open a spay and neuter clinic.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Manning said. “We want to open a spay and neuter clinic. It would save the agency money and would allow the city to build a community center. Unfortunately, there is the law. Our hands our tied.”

CB7 has suggested an alternative animal shelter site – a vacant lot on Webster Avenue. But DOH would rather not build from scratch, Manning said. The agency has been hunting for a Bronx shelter site for years. Animal advocates won the shelter mandate in 2000; now many argue that spay and neuter clinics are better. If the city limits the number of cats and dogs born, it won’t need so many shelters. A resolution to repeal the shelter mandate has kicked around Rivera’s health committee for a year and a half. Rivera will push the resolution in July, after the City Council has knocked out a budget, he said.

On May 27, Rivera promised SBU member Adolfo Abreu, 16, that he would set aside funds for an Old Fordham Library community center. Abreu invited SBU members to tell Rivera and Manning what kids in Fordham, Kingsbridge and Bedford Park need. Rodriguez asked for a filmmaking workshop. Manny De La Cuz asked for a music studio. Yorman Nunez, 20, a former SBU member and current candidate for City Council, asked for green job training. Larry Slade, 13, asked for a basketball court. Rodriguez and Abreu seem hopeful. Manning failed to convince Laura Olivero, 17.

“He didn’t promise anything,” Olivero said.

Manning will meet with SBU members soon.

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