South Bronx Unite unveils plans for community center

The proposed site for the H.E.ARTS Center at 349 E. 140 St.
Photo Adrian Childress

A local nonprofit that works to improve the social, environmental and economic future of the Mott Haven and Port Morris sections of the Bronx unveiled plans for a community center last week.

On Nov. 10, Mychal Johnson, co-founder of South Bronx Unite, presented a proposal to the Community Board 1 Housing and Land Use Committee to launch the Health, Education and The Arts (H.E.ARTS) Center at 349 E. 140th St., the former site of the old Lincoln Recovery Center building. The site, which houses a 3-floor building with 23,000 square feet of space, has been vacant for a decade.

According to Johnson, given the myriad challenges faced by residents of Mott Haven and Port Morris — from air pollution to high unemployment rates to lack of public gathering spaces — there should be a community center every few blocks. But there aren’t any currently open to the general public, and none that serve as a multi-purpose, multi-use, multi-organization space where youth, adults and elders can visit for programming.

“We need housing, but we also need quality of life,” Johnson said. “This building has been left to rot. We need your help. We need this project to work.”

Johnson said the center would not solve all of the problems in the community, but the hope would be that it keeps people safe and on the right path. He added that the proposed building is in a good location, near the 40th and 49th precincts.

While still early in the process, Johnson and his colleagues have held community visioning forums, done a feasibility study and had discussions with the city. As part of its feasibility study, they conducted interviews with more than a dozen local community organizations providing services in the areas of health, education and the arts that are in need of affordable office space in perpetuity.

The city recognized the importance of using the building as a community center and the need for significant capital contribution. A Request for Proposal is expected to be released in early 2022.

Reach Jason Cohen at jcohen@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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