The Westchester Square Business Improvement District was among Bronx communities receiving grants last week from the NYC Department of Small Business Services to spotlight culture and attract shoppers.
The Avenue NYC program targets business attraction and retention, façade improvements, merchant organizing, placemaking, and organizational development, according to SBS spokeswoman Catherine Tenuta.
Grants in the amount of $30,000 will be awarded to 34 community-based development organizations citywide, including eight in the Bronx.
“Small businesses are an essential part of building vibrant neighborhoods, and the grants we are awarding today will help meet tailored, local needs,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
BID president Lisa Sorin said the SBS has been the most supportive city agency for the district in terms of funding, and said a grant last year helped brand the district in efforts to educate residents about the square’s cultural heritage.
“The goal with these types of grants that SBS provides is getting people to stop and enjoy the area,” Sorin said.
Programs last year included an event at Huntington Library and Reading Room that celebrated the Jazz Age of the 1920s.
The BID is also working to put historic markers in the district detailing the area’s role in the Revolutionary War, such as the Battle of Westchester Creek that took place October 12, 1776.
Sorin said she hopes to create a small park that celebrates that history in the area.
This year’s goal is make Westchester Square into a historic, cultural corridor, Sorin said.
“This grant will go towards tours, bringing artists to the area, and really branding it as a place to come for the arts, and bringing in little stores that compliment that theme,” Sorin said.
Huntington Free Library and Reading Room president Tom Casey said the Battle of Westchester Creek played a pivotal role in allowing Washington’s escape to Pennsylvania from British forces that had landed near Throggs Neck, thus saving the General’s forces (and likely the revolution itself) early in the campaign. The stories from that battle could help draw history buffs, he said.
“There is a monument over by White Castle that mentions the battle, but we’re looking to do a little more to (document) where the cannons were placed, where the troops landed, where exactly was the bridge…those sort of things,” Casey said.
SBS funding has already allowed the BID to hire an actor to dress as a Revolutionary War soldier character that interact with young people for the Fair on the Square, and possibly a tour of the historic St. Peter’s Episcopal Church cemetery on Halloween.
The Bronx Council on the Arts assisted Sorin in procuring the grant by writing a recommendation, said director Barbara Prete.
The council sees the Westchester Square area as an up and coming community with a lot of cultural potential, and will soon be the home to a new headquarters at 2700 East Tremont Avenue at the former site of a former Chase Morgan bank.