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Non-Profit Wins Community Grant

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Cultural or recreational activities may be coming to a forlorn section of the Bruckner Expressway underpass thanks to $75,000 grant.

Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, a Bronx non-profit, was named one of six winners of this year’s Neighborhood Challenge initiative - a yearly grant funded by Small Business Servives and NYC Economic Development Corporation.

The grant challenges community-based organizations and business improvement districts to design innovative plans to improve neighborhoods, and YMPJ’s proposal to renovate the underpass at Bronx River Avenue was selected.

The group would like to transform the dark and dingy underpass into a cultural center of some kind.

Exact plans for the use of the space have not yet been decided - the funds will function as seed money to get the area ready for a larger renovation.

But for now, the space will be cleaned up, painted, and lighting will be installed to prepare the area for the next phase.

The rest of the money will go towards figuring out what could thrive in the space - including holding community meetings to see what residents would like to see pop up in their neighborhood.

Current ideas include: an amphitheater, a skateboarding area, a youth activitiy space, a basketball court, a fresh produce market and an outdoor art gallery.

Community Board 9 was instrumental in acquiring the grant, and will be working with the Youth Ministries for Peach and Justice as the project moved forward.

“We need to come up with a game plan,” said William Riveria, district manager of CB9. “We don’t want to put all these resources into say a green market...and then have it only open on weekends,” he cautioned.

Hannah Fleisher, an urban planner with CB9, wrote the grant proposal in conjunction with David Shuffler, the executive director of YMPJ.

She said that renovating this underpass will be a great help to businesses on Westchester Avenue between Bronx River and Bronx River Parkway who have low foot traffic because residents can’t cross the Bruckner to get to Westchester Avenue.

“There are only three areas in a 10-block stretch where residents can cross from south to north,” said Fleisher. “Two of them go over the highway, and one of them is this area underneath.”

With this renovation, the community will be encouraged to walk through the space and access the many things the other side of the highway has to offer, including parks and businesses.

The space is currently the property of the New York State Department of Transportation.

The NYC Department of Transportation is open to the renovations, and has already conducted a feasibility study.

The next issue to tackle now is determining how much it will cost to get the long abandoned area ready for public use.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo origianlly suggested the idea to renovate this vacant space - and has said he is willing to allocate funds to make it happen.

Reach Reporter Madeline Anthony at (718) 260-4591. E-mail her at manthony@cnglocal.com.

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