Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization

“Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world –indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

This past month has been eventful. On December 4, Ken Kearns, Community Board 10 district manager, following up on some comments from the CCGD meeting in November, arranged for a meeting between representatives from the CCGD, Westchester Square Merchants’ Association (represented by Joe Regina), Westchester Square Branch Library (who is their immediate neighbor) and community members and the management of Soundview Throggs Neck Community Mental Health Center. Despite the rain that night, there was a good turnout; Dr Betzler, the executive director, was most accommodating and a pleasure to meet with. He also had the heads of every department turn out.

Several community members expressed gratitude for treatment that they or a relative or friend had there, and praised it as a great healthcare resource.

However, there were some less positive issues raised as well: graffiti on the property, the staff taking up valuable parking spaces needed by the residents of the block, and littering and loitering of the outpatients. After some discussion, Dr Betzler assured us that he would do all he can to ameliorate these negative issues. In fact, there has been some success, with less loitering noted by residents. He vowed to stay on top of the graffiti issue and try to work out something with the parking. We also have his contact information, and he asked us to reach out to him with any issues that arise. I left the meeting with a very good feeling, that we had opened a very constructive, cordial dialogue that will be ongoing. In fact, as a token of good will, Dr Betzler attended a holiday party for Westchester Square community members and merchants at Owen Dolen Center, and had the opportunity to meet more members of the CCGD, which is a great segue to the next topic.

Last week there was a holiday party at Owen Dolen Center to celebrate the alliance of the three groups that hope to orchestrate the revitalization of the center as a community, cultural, and arts center and a focal point for commercial, community, and artistic activity: The Merchants and Professionals of Westchester Square, Bronx Council on the Arts, and WSZIO.  There was a large turnout, with each group well represented by its members and attendees. Bill Aguado, executive director of BCA, gave Councilman James Vacca and Margaret Arrighi of the Bronx Business Alliance special gifts of original artwork in appreciation for all they are doing to further all our shared goals.  John Bonizio, a third of the Tria juncta in uno (three joined in one) spoke most eloquently about the bright future of the Square, the progress on the proposed BID, and all the people who were helping to make that happen. It was a very good night for Westchester Square. The momentum is building, and I have no doubt that this coming year will see wonderful, positive changes, (starting with the complete renovation of Pearly Gates Playground and Owen Dolen Park, thanks to Councilman Vacca), ones that we could only have dreamt of in the past.

Lastly, we held our holiday card workshop at the Westchester Square Library this past Saturday. Despite the terrible weather, we had a turnout of 61 kids. We also had a visit by Assemblyman Mike Benedetto, who sponsored this month’s class. He walked around and spoke with the kids and met Ms Garcia, the Head Librarian. He was impressed by what a well-behaved group it was. The kids are always great. Thank you Assemblyman!

Thank you to Ken Kearns for working on a solution to the parking crisis in the Square caused by NYPD Traffic Enforcement vehicles using up all the parking spaces.

If you have been in the Square lately, you will see the lovely holiday lights put up by the Merchants’ Association. As I walked through the Square on my way to the meeting at STNCMH, I couldn’t stop smiling. It made my night. Symbolic acts, sometimes relatively small ones, can make all the difference in the world. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. That’s why it’s so important that the Square merchant community is united behind the association, and we and the association form a unified front. Only together can we move ahead and  accomplish our goals. Yes we can.

Happy holidays and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2009! Wishing you warmth, safety, health, prosperity, joy, and love in a new year of miracles.


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