Eliezer Rodriguez, Esq.
Association Executive Officer, Bronx Manhattan North Association of REALTORS® (BMNAR)
NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant could not have come at a better time. Last September, Kathy Zamechansky was sworn in as the 57th President to lead BMNAR’s Board of Governors. At her first Executive Board meeting, Kathy emphasized working more with the community and building on the Borough President’s theme of “The New Bronx” by taking something old and making it new.
Hearing Kathy talk about the borough we both love, The Bronx, gave me the motivation I needed to pursue an NAR Placemaking Micro-grant. And I was supported by Kathy: “REALTORS® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them. Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities. It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better. This grant will allow us to address areas in our community that are in need of improvement or redevelopment and create a place where friends and neighbors can come together.”
It was now time to put a placemaking project plan into motion and start making a list of strong community stakeholders who might be interested in working with us. As timing would have it, I happened to read an article that William Rivera was elected as the new Chairman of Bronx Community Board 9. I remember thinking: “I found my first stakeholder.”
I had the pleasure of meeting William several years ago when he was the campaign manager in a successful race to elect Luis R. Sepulveda to the New York State Assembly. Assemblyman Sepulveda is now serving his second term representing the 87th Assembly District in The Bronx. William and I have had numerous conversations about the condition of certain areas in the communities he represents and how he wanted to upgrade those conditions if funding was available. My conversations with William convinced me that I have a friend who is willing to help transform BMNAR into a stronger voice and presence throughout the communities we serve.
I got on the phone and called William to congratulate him and he immediately reminded me that his community needs help. Within two weeks of our call, an area was selected and a plan was put into action. BMNAR then applied for NAR’s Placemaking Micro-Grant to create a community mural adjacent to the new Morrison Avenue Plaza Project. This Plaza will be the first of its kind in The Bronx. This type of plaza, mostly only seen in Manhattan, transforms underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces that promote community engagement, cultural activities, and economic vibrancy.
Site of the new Morrison Avenue Plaza Project.
The mural, which will give people visiting the plaza a touch of local art, will be painted on the side of a building across the street from the plaza. A famous artist from the neighborhood will lead the project and the mural will reflect the culture and history of the Soundview neighborhood. As soon as the weather gets better, the artists will go to work and the transformation will begin.
Building representing the canvas for the mural project.
William also introduced our plan to Bronx Community Board 9 and they voted to become stakeholders. Without hesitation, William pitched the grant to others and added to the list of stakeholders to include: Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.; Bronx Community Board 9; Youth Ministries of Peace & Justice; NYC DOT Plaza Program; Councilmember Annabel Palma; Assemblyman Marcos Crespo; Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.; and Congressman Jose Serrano.
BMNAR has now begun forming new partnerships with these groups and individuals to turn something old into something new. My message to those in our community who see themselves as a recognized leader in bringing about improvements to your community is that you need to have my information on speed dial.
And…you have not heard the last of William and me as he has other unmet needs in our community. $2,200– not bad, huh? Hip, hip…!