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Mott Haven residents look for new community center

Community raises pulse for H.E.Arts center

Members of the Mott Haven-Port Morris Land Trust are looking to turn the old Lincoln Recovery Center into the H.E.Arts Community Center.
Bronx Times
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Members of the Mott Haven-Port Morris Land Trust will host an evening with dinner and music to garner community support for a potential H.E.Arts Community Center in Mott Haven.

The event will take place on Saturday, April 1 at the Metropolitan College of New York from 4 to 7 p.m.

The land trust has been planning since June 2016 ways in which they can turn the former Lincoln Recovery Center, at 349 E. 140th Street, into a useful building for residents in the Mott Haven and Port Morris neighborhoods.

The recovery center, which treated many former prisoners referred by the city and state for substance abuse, closed in 2012.

Now the building sits vacant and local community members see an opportunity.

The land trust includes South Bronx Unite, Upbeat NYC, Friends of Brook Park, Mothers on the Move, South Bronx Farmer’s Market and SUNY Attain Lab.

According to Mychal Johnson, president of South Bronx Unite, the land trust formed as a way to identify publicly owned property in the community that was being underutilized.

The question the groups ask themselves is, “How can we help to provide answers that our community needs?,” he said.

He also said the land trust scouts places where better health, good education and a greater appreciation of the arts can be fostered.

According to Johnson, a former Community Board 1 member, the Mott Haven and Port Morris community does not have many places to enrich culture.

He added students in School District 7 - which has some of the worst performing schools in the Bronx - need more places where they can continue learning outside of school.

Johnson also pointed out that many current organizations serving the community don’t have permanent homes.

Liza Austria of Upbeat NYC - a local non-profit organization that teaches music to students ages 5 to 21 - has to move around the Bronx to hold classes.

The organization currently holds classes at Tercera Iglesia Baptista, St. Jerome School and the Mott Haven Library.

Austria, the group’s director, said when they started in 2008 the instructors only served a few students.

However, now the group teaches as many as 150 students and some of the spaces they use are struggling to accommodate them.

“Imagine how much more can be done with a space that felt like our own home,” said Austria.

The music director said Upbeat’s story is like many other organizations in the south Bronx.

In addition, she said these organizations need stability at a time when many south Bronxites are facing instability in their own living situations.

“So many south Bronx organizations really need permanent secure spaces to efficiently deliver our services as the community faces the very real prospect of displacement and gentrifica­tion,” said Austria.

According to Johnson, the upcoming dinner is the next step for the land trust.

The land trust previously requested that students at City College come up with ideas on the old buildings repurposing as a new community center.

At the dinner, the community will hear the engineering students’ suggestions.

Johnson said he does not expect city funding for the community center but hopes that elected officials come out to hear what the land trust has to say.

Johnson believes if the center is to become a reality, the land trust will have to figure out ways of fundraising.

Reach Reporter Robert Christie at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at rchristie@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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