Train station tracks history of Bronx music

An open-air sound booth has jazzed up the space under the Freeman Street and Southern Boulevard subway tracks.
Photo by Alex Belisle

Southern Boulevard has got its groove back.

Locals who use the Freeman Street No.2 / No.5 train station or the bus line on the south Bronx strip — where musicians once roamed from one music club to another — can now hang out at an open-air sound booth under the train tracks that plays music from Bronx musicians all day and all night.

The project, called the “Boogie-Down Booth,” was unveiled on Wednesday, July 23 — and its organizers say it combines a practical purpose with an artistic one.

“People are intrigued by the booth, while at the same time seeing it as an opportunity to rest while waiting for the bus,” said Kerry McClean, director of community development at the Woman’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation, or “Whedco.”

Bronx-based jams

Visitors can enjoy an 18-track playlist — chosen by the nearby Bronx Music Heritage Center — from artists with roots in the Bronx, including Willie Rodriguez, Bobby Sanabria and Circa’ 95. The names of other Bronxite musicians, including DJ Kool Herc, Thelonius Monk and Eddie Palmieri, are etched onto the side of the bright blue booth.

The booth also features solar-powered lights at its top that brighten up what can become a bleak stretch at nighttime.

“This whole project was built in response to community need,” said McClean, of Whedco, the neighborhood housing developer. “We see it as a chance to build on the work we’ve already done to bring improvement to the strip.”

Groups working in harmony

Whedco teamed up with a slew of agencies and organizations to make the sound booth happen. The community group netted a $50,000 grant from the city Department of Small Business Services, and partnered with the Department of Transportation.

The booth is also part of the “Under the Elevated” program from the Design Trust for Public Space, a group that relies mostly on donations for funding. The “Under the Elevated” initiative aims to convert under-utilized space underneath train lines and highways into vibrant places for locals to enjoy.

More booths music to locals’ ears

Southern Boulevard and Freeman Street’s booth will close in mid-September, but McClean said that Whedco would be setting up similar booths elsewhere on the main strip afterward.

Yet another version of the “boogie-down booth” is slated for Melrose, she said, where Whedco is building a low and mid-income housing development, and where the Bronx Music Heritage Center will soon relocate.

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.
Jessica Cruz, Christian Cardona, and JayMarie Silva enjoyied their snacks while listening to the tunes.
Photo by Alex Belisle

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