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Contents 01 Introduction 02 Existing Conditions 03 Community Connections 04 Housing 05 Waterfront 06 Port Morris (Industrial District) 07 138th Street 08 Conclusion

Executive Summary T

his report summarizes three months of work created by a studio course at Pratt Institute’s Graduate Center for Preservation and the Environment in fall 2017. The studio’s goal was to assist and support the work of South Bronx Unite, a community-based advocacy organization based in the South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven in New York City. Through an extensive community engagement process with Mott Haven residents and stakeholders, existing conditions research, and interdisciplinary analysis, the recommendations described in this report were formed. The recommendations aim to cohesively recreate a healthy, self-defined Mott Haven, for its long-standing community. The propositions cannot stand in isolation, but must support and amplify one another. Our analysis of recommendations was synthesized by contemplating Mott Haven’s experiences of health, home, and history. Health: A Recap Mott Haven is plagued with some of the city’s worst health issues, affecting both adults and children. To combat this public health crisis, our recommendations call for the creation of extensive parks along the breezy waterfront; the curation of traffic patterns that halve traffic in the neighborhood’s core; the incremental rebranding of 138th Street as a healthy and safe place to socialize, shop, and dine; and, the investment in greenery and green infrastructure equal in scale to the highway and waste transfer infrastructure sited in the area. Nearby Port Morris should serve as an asset to community

health rather than a threat, requiring the reversal of decades-long patterns of industrial contamination and pollution. Home: A Recap Over decades, Mott Haven has become home to many immigrants who aided in creating a neighborhood for those who came with the rightful expectation to have a better life. New zoning and development is on the verge of unleashing powerful gentrification. Plans for growth not only must offset the effects of gentrification with mixed income housing, but it should include housing that meets the real incomes of residents. Cycles of speculation and rising rents have predictable outcomes that require immediate actions, including measures that anticipate and prevent, rather than mitigate, displacement. History: A Recap Finally, this last theme speaks to the neighborhood’s narrative. The South Bronx is an area with a history of being “planned,” “fixed,” and even “triaged” by outside parties who bear little regard for the community that lives there. Meanwhile, Mott Haven’s history has been appropriated and re-told into innumerable versions that tokenize the neighborhood and its community, failing to reflect on the systematic injustices Mott Haven has borne. Many of these recommendations aim to right past planning wrongs, protect community identity, and advocate for community participation in the planning of its future. This starts with the premise of: “what is not planned with us is not for us.”


Introduction Studio Client


outh Bronx Unite (SBU) is an environmental and community justice organization based in Mott Haven. Their most prominent work includes an organized community resistance against the local siting of a new Fresh Direct distribution facility. The campaign highlighted the negative public health impacts the developments have on Mott Haven residents, tying into a long history of local environmental degradation and assaults on the community’s health. This effort guided our scope of work and focus on community health and empowerment. More recently, SBU has worked on public waterfront access and neighborhood connectivity plans, as well as started a Community Land Trust in partnership with the Design Trust for Public Space.

Project Team


ur team was comprised of thirty-two master’s students in Pratt’s Fall 2017 combined Land Use and Urban Design / Historic Preservation studio class, including students of Historic Preservation, Sustainable Environmental Systems, Urban Placemaking, and City and Regional Planning. The studio was led by Graduate Center of Planning and the Environment (GCPE) faculty Elliot Maltby, John Shapiro, Vicki Weiner, and Kevin Wolfe, each of

whom are cross-disciplinary professionals working in the fields of urban design, planning, preservation, and architecture. Urbanists too often operate solely from their primary spheres; the project’s interdisciplinary focus sought to dissolve these barriers. This approach yielded a wide range of problem-solving techniques and recommendations that went beyond SBU’s immediate charge of gathering data and identifying access to the waterfront.

Study Area


ott Haven is located on the southernmost edge of the Bronx in New York City, bordering the Harlem River waterfront. This research defined the study area as encompassing of both Mott Haven and its neighboring industrial district to the east, Port Morris. The East River serves as the study area’s eastern boundary, while the northern boundary falls on 149th Street from one waterfront to the other. Our research considered the study area as a whole and in specific parts. Throughout this report, the term “Mott Haven” will be used in reference to the entire study area. South Mott Haven is defined as the blocks south of the Major Deegan Expressway parallel to the neighborhood’s southernmost stretch of waterfront, extending from the Madison Avenue bridge east to Interstate 278. The “core neighborhood” represents the area’s primary residential area, bound by Third Avenue, 149th Street, 135th Street, and Jackson Avenue. Finally, Port Morris is an industrial district accounting for everything to the east of Bruckner Boulevard, to the East waterfront.


Existing Conditions Research Methods


he recommendations put forward in this report were developed from a comprehensive neighborhood analysis conducted using a mixed-methods approach. Initial research methods employed included physical observation, historical document analysis, quantitative data collection and analysis, examination of the area’s environmental features and its built form, and GIS mapping. In keeping with South Bronx Unite’s (SBU’s) community-driven values, extensive community outreach was conducted to understand the Mott Haven’s community’s unmet needs. This outreach – which included stakeholder interviews, resident and shopper surveys, and a student workshop in Middle School 223 – brought prior research findings to life, giving way to the trichotomous lens with which we approached the recommendations: one of HEALTH, HOME, and HISTORY. These themes address what were found to be Mott Haven’s most pressing issues, respectively: an ongoing public health crisis, vulnerability to displacement in a changing real estate market, and a history of systemic neglect and appropriation.

Health M

ott Haven is experiencing a public health crisis, largely driven by decades of environmental justice. The neighborhood ranks seventh citywide for number of individuals with diabetes (15 percent of adults in Mott Haven and 10 percent in New York City), and second for lack of fruit and vegetable consumption. 33 percent of adults in the neighborhood are obese, compared to New York City’s 24 percent. Finally, and perhaps most drastically, its rates of asthma hospitalizations are first in the city for children and third for adults. Seniors, children, and individuals with chronic health conditions are most affected by asthma, making the most vulnerable of Mott Haven residents even more so. These statistics are driven by poor environmental conditions, including high levels of air pollution, a lack of permeable open space, and limited access to healthy food. Tri-borough vehicle access via the interstate highway system directly above Mott Haven causes the community to suffer from disproportionate exposure to traffic – especially diesel truck traffic. As a result, Mott Haven’s levels of the harmful air pollutant PM2.5 are 10.0 mgs/m3, compared to New York City’s overall 8.60 mgs/m3. Mott Haven is deprived of green spaces; only 18 percent of Mott Haven is permeable, meaning that four-fifths of the neighborhood is covered in concrete and asphalt. A lack of open space not only discourages exercise and lowers activity levels, but contributes to heat vulnerability. Local tree canopy coverage is 7 percent, compared to a citywide standard of 21 percent, and the neighborhood suffers from one of the highest heat vulnerability indices in New York City. The health issues that plague Mott Haven’s community demand immediate policy intervention by the city and state government. The siting of highways and hazardous industrial uses (e.g., the waste management plan along the neighborhood’s southern waterfront) through this predominantly minority, low-income community bear primary responsibility for air pollution in the area; this is only one of many instances of systemically inflicted environmental injustices affecting the community’s health. Government action for the reversal of these toxic and discriminatory patterns is long overdue.

Further concerning is Mott Haven’s waterfront location and its growing vulnerability to threats of climate change and natural disaster. High incidence of brownfields and contaminated land parcels, especially along the waterfront and in the industrial district of Port Morris, poses the risk of neighborhood contamination by flooding. Sea level rise creates long-term challenges for sustaining any land uses in Mott Haven, and threatens the neighborhood’s future environmental health. A large portion of the study area – including Port Morris – will be in the floodplain by 2050, and by 2100, most of Port Morris is projected to be underwater. Land remediation, flood-proofing, and resiliency infrastructure are thus desperately needed – yet none has been invested so far.

A Home

fter decades of disinvestment, Mott Haven is the object of renewed interest from each the City, private developers, and consumers: middle- and upper-class New Yorkers looking for housing. Gentrification across the Harlem River in East Harlem has priced out many households into the South Bronx. Meanwhile, in an extremely tight housing market citywide, Mott Haven’s accessibility to Manhattan (a 20-minute ride into Midtown) by way of three subway stations, and local affordability comparative to citywide prices, make it an attractive place to live. Development patterns are beginning to shift the neighborhood’s landscape. In 2005, several pieces of South Mott Haven’s then-manufacturing land were rezoned to accommodate residential uses. Multiple high-rise towers accommodating ground-floor retail spaces, below market-rate housing, and market-rate housing have sprung up along the waterfront. These towers diverge greatly from the traditionally historic, industrial aesthetic of the neighborhood. There is a myriad of project proposals from various developers and architects in the works as well, all of a similar vein. The development patterns Mott Haven is seeing are the product of early-stage gentrification. Demographic and housing market trends between 2010 and 2015 found that gentrification is still in a nascent stage. Qualitative research, however, countered this theory with findings of rapidly changing neighborhood conditions on a

timeline that census data cannot track. The residential core currently accommodates around 50,000 people, most of whom are Latino (from Puerto Rico and Mexico), and sizable percentages of whom are Black or foreign-born. Market analysis showed a trend of property flipping, real estate speculation, and marketing techniques often associated with an influx of higher-income, white collar workers. Rapid gentrification has raised concern around indirect resident displacement. As Mott Haven undergoes land use, population, and market change, risk of displacement will excel. The existing Mott Haven community bears many characteristics known to be correlated with displacement: low median household income (MHI), prevalence of minorities, prevalence of renters, and low levels of education. A recent study by the Regional Plan Association found that among New York City residents, Bronx residents are most vulnerable to displacement, due to the combined impacts of very low income and high rent burden. Mott Haven’s MHI is 58 percent lower than the New York City’s at only $22,900. Meanwhile, about half of residents are defined as “rent-burdened,” spending more than 35 percent of their income on housing costs. An outstanding 95 percent of Mott Haven households are renters, more than two-thirds of the community is non-white, and 92 percent of adults have earned less than a college degree. Taken in aggregate, these indicators of vulnerability are all higher than borough-wide and city-wide figures, representing an acute and elevated local vulnerability to displacement. Demographic indicators are not the only cause for concern related to displacement. Mott Haven’s housing stock is an additional risk factor. Many of the neighborhood’s multi-family buildings are likely rent-stabilized (based on building age and size), representing thousands of residents who could suffer tenant harassment as owners seek rental decontrol and market-rate redevelopment. Meanwhile, Mott Haven’s long-standing residents have suffered from years of municipal neglect that left the area with little infrastructure. There is no public waterfront access, and the Major Deegan Expressway acts as a barrier of congestion, pollution, and noise between the residential core and the water. St. Mary’s park in the neighborhood’s northeastern corner, while well-utilized, is the only large

open space in Mott Haven. Small parks and community gardens are scattered throughout the neighborhood to compensate. 138th Street acts as Mott Haven’s main commercial corridor, providing residents with daily shopping needs and a place for social gathering. When surveyed, descriptions of the place included remarks such as “it’s where everybody knows one another,” and “it’s like one big family.” Yet this significant community asset also suffers from dangerous intersections, traffic, and a lack of physical amenities. The juxtaposition of neighborhood conditions in the face of gentrification underscores the urgent nature of protecting Mott Haven’s residents now. Growth as it proceeds will act as a crux in a crucial transition period. Using the lens of home, the recommendations in this report aim to identify and implement interventions that protect neighborhood affordability and create barriers against displacement, while the opportunity still exists.

T History

oday, the value of the South Bronx is viewed by many to be held by its location – just across the Harlem River from Manhattan, the area is prime for both residential and industrial real estate. Unfortunately, this perspective and many of the narratives told about the South Bronx are imposed upon the area’s “history” by outsiders. In tandem, the South Bronx has for decades endured a succession of other people’s plans for their future – plans which don’t meet community needs or honor the area’s true environmental and sociocultural history. Prior to the 17th century, the Bronx was occupied by Native Americans. In 1639, the Dutch West India Company seized the land and sold it to Jonas Bronck (an early Scandinavian settler to whom we owe the county’s name), who in turn sold it to Richard and Lewis Morris. From 1670 to 1828, South Bronx remained a rural area, but its tri-river port access and proximity to railroads spurred industrial development during the Industrial Revolution. In 1828, Jordan L. Mott founded Mott Iron Works in the area we now call Mott Haven. Local industrial growth followed suit over the next several decades with the construction of aqueducts, railroads, and bridges; by 1900, Mott Haven was a thriving industrial center. During this period, Mott Ha-

ven also came to be known as the epicenter of American piano manufacturing. Meanwhile, the construction of elevated (El) commuter trains created easy worker access between the Bronx and Manhattan, prompting an uptick in Mott Haven’s residential growth. Residential development was comprised mainly of row houses, and spurred local siting of accompanying retail and commercial services, which served a growing neighborhood population. Beginning mid-19th century, Mott Haven and its working-class homes became a place of settlement for Irish and Germans fleeing the slums of Manhattan. Mott Haven’s first community was thus one of working-class European immigrants, most of who worked in the area’s factories. At the turn of the century, the Italians and Jews followed, bringing with them a change in housing style and transforming row-houses into tenements for workers and their families. Relentless change followed the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1989. The Great Depression in the 1920’s and 1930’s was the first great blow to the Bronx. The original European communities moved out to the North and West. At the same time, large groups of Puerto Ricans and Afro-Americans moved in. Already by 1955, the South Bronx was home to the greatest number of Puerto Ricans outside the island. Following World War II, the Latino South Bronx had taken shape with its own political, social, culture, and economic infrastructure. However, national trends of white flight, heavy Redlining, and federal slum clearance threatened this model’s sustainability. The history of disinvestment and decline in the South Bronx began with infrastructural urban renewal mega-projects—many of them planned by Robert Moses—which displaced thousands of residents. The completion of the Major Deegan Expressway in 1956 and Bruckner Expressway in 1973 both scarred Mott Haven, further uprooting families from their homes and cutting straight through the neighborhood. The highways served from there on out as a barrier between the waterfront area and the rest of the neighborhood. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the combination of citywide economic crisis, localized disinvestment, and planned shrinkage resulted

in landlord arson and abandonment in the South Bronx, establishing an oversimplified and mythic notion of the South Bronx as the archetype of urban blight. During this time, despite the systemic nature of the area’s poor conditions, much needed municipal attention was not provided to the South Bronx. Rather the area was viewed as a liability, as exemplified by the decals the City of New York mounted in broken windows along the highway, creating an illusion of happy domestic scenes for commuters to see. A consistent and common thread over the years has been outsiders’ “plans to fix” the South Bronx’s ills. These have ranged from federally administered employment and housing plans during the New Deal to contemporary public-private partnerships and market-driven reinvestment projects. The latter include local siting of chain retail and the continued notion of South Mott Haven and of Port Morris as a place for uninviting industrial uses. FreshDirect’s recent construction of its new distribution headquarters in Mott Haven claimed to bridge the gap between industrial businesses and residents by creating hundreds of new jobs. Most recently, construction of high-density residential buildings along the waterfront has been led by developer re-branding of Mott Haven as the “Piano District,” eliciting the illusion of market-driven “turnaround” in a disinvested neighborhood. This marketing initiative has proven tone-deaf and insulting to the community’s true history. In 2015, a famed artist and party planner, along with a major local developer, added insult to injury with a “Bronx is burning” warehouse rave underneath the Third Avenue bridge, hosting wealthy socialites and fire-themed art such as “burnt out bullet-ridden cars.” The years of being planned upon caused a loss of housing, access, infrastructure, community facilities, people, and culture. Yet in response to imposed change, the South Bronx has embodied continuity, resistance, and resilience. Its ethnically and culturally diverse community – which includes Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Dominicans, and Mexicans, to name a prominent few – built the homes, churches, and businesses that have kept the South Bronx alive and founded in the values and aesthetic of the socio-political and cultural movements born there. These include the “distinct New York Latin

music sound that was labeled salsa in the 1960s;” the expansiveness of hip-hop, a movement based on a true self-economy; the legacy of the Young Lords, who acted as social servants and advocates of their community, against disinvestment and neglect; the Do-It-Yourself ethos of local organizations; and the sweat equity used to bring back buildings and blocks. Almost 40 years after the first community planning efforts in the South Bronx, the community’s mission is inspired by endurance and self-determination. While both the neighborhood and the challenges it faces have evolved since Urban Renewal or the 1980’s, the community’s organizational power has also increased. Today, there are many community groups (including SBU) fighting against issues of environmental injustice, residential displacement, and need for resiliency. The research and recommendations laid out in this report use the lens of history to recognize the South Bronx neighborhood’s complex, community-owned past, by eschewing popular narratives, and by building community capacity.



BU’s current advocacy, organizing, and capacity-building work sustain a legacy of community action and involvement in Mott Haven. From the creation of community gardens from blighted vacant parcels during disinvestment, to the Young Lords’ provision of badly needed social services during a period of municipal neglect, to SBU’s recent campaign to stop yet another truck-based industry from moving into the neighborhood, a common historical theme within the Mott Haven community has been self-determination and do-it-yourself change. Furthering this paradigm fruition is SBU’s recent work towards establishing a Community Land Trust (CLT). The CLT will act as a vehicle for capacity building, collaboration, and ownership, advancing the community’s work towards creating its own success. Our recommendations aim to assist and support SBU’s initiatives by identifying innovative actions to advance their goals. The recommendations are grouped into five categories: Community Connections, Housing, 138th Street, the South Mott Haven Waterfront, and the Industrial District. These are documented in the subsequent five chapters of this report, with a short paragraph describing our approach preceding each set.

03 Community Connections M

ott Haven suffers from decades of disruptive and fragmenting conditions that have diminished its ability to form a cohesive, healthy neighborhood. Despite its strong, multicultural, self-determined identity, the Mott Haven community actively battles with its physical environment, which creates pollution and disease in return for no benefit. The community is separated from its own history, which is commonly appropriated and used against residents for development and speculation purposes. Pending development and market forces threaten Mott Haven’s access to its waterfront – an asset of historical and economic significance.

This set of recommendations addresses these issues by strengthening existing neighborhood assets and fostering physical and social connections. Here, connectivity refers not only to physical accessibility, but also to residents’ access to healthy lives and to connections between the community’s sociohistorical character and built environment. This chapter is thus divided into three sub-sections, addressing community connections to the Waterfront, to Health, and to History. The aims are to rebuild the waterfront as a community-owned and accessible public space, to bolster the battle for environmental justice, and to reclaim an historical narrative that does not misrepresent, exclude, or segregate Mott Haven’s long-standing community. These three sections together seek to recreate a healthy, united, and self-defined Mott Haven in which incumbent community, new popu lation, and pending development amplify and support one another.

Connecting Residents to the Waterfront, Proposal.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS TO THE WATERFRONT Recommendation C1: Bring Residents to the Shoreline


esign interventions along Lincoln, Alexander, St. Ann’s, and Brooks’ avenues are recommended to draw residents from Mott Haven’s neighborhood “core.” If implemented, the changes on these streets, each of which connect directly to the waterfront, will form a cohesive network of connectivity throughout Mott Haven. The network will be comprised of inviting, “green” corridors with active streetscapes and proper infrastructure to promote safe, multi-modal transportation, akin to greenways. In addition to promoting waterfront access and overall movement throughout the neighborhood, this recommendation’s focus on walkability, bike-ability, and green infrastructure will encourage healthy lifestyles and improve quality of life.

Encourage active pedestrian and biking streetscapes Murals and Art wall along these greenway streets

The suggested design interventions include: • Plant new trees to address heat index and air quality issues. • Install foliage, pedestrian walkways, street furniture, lighting, pavement design, and signage in unique combinations and forms to distinguish streets in character. This initiative could be conducted in tandem with the Port Morris School of Craft and Design (see Recommendation P2). • Expand the sidewalk network and install new protected bike lanes to encourage active modes of transportation. Tactical urbanism methods such as lane control signs and flexible lane barriers can achieve a similar goal on a shorter and less costly time frame. • Connect sidewalk paths to open spaces on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) campuses and to local community gardens, encouraging pedestrian mobility throughout the neighborhood. • Promote arts and culture within the streetscape, building on the existing, historic murals and public artwork that display Mott Haven’s sociocultural character. This activity opens doors to collaborations with peer organizations and local schools through community and youth engagement events and mural painting sessions.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS TO HEALTH Recommendation C2: Establish a Community Justice Center for Mott Haven


ott Haven, along with Melrose – its neighbor to the north, makes up the New York City Police Department’s 40th Precinct. The area suffers from both high crime rates and issues with the criminal justice system. In 2016, as crime rates declined citywide, violent crime and all other categories, excepting car theft, swelled in Mott Haven and Melrose. Even in this condition, residents report that local crime today cannot compare that of the 1990’s, speaking to the area’s historical struggle with the issue. Reflecting trends in low-income, minority neighborhoods nationwide, the relationship between law enforcement and residents in Mott Haven is crucially problematic. Unjust police practices are a major concern in the area, especially for young Black and Latino males. The 40th Precinct has “long been considered the front lines of the stop and frisk fight,” logging 18,000 stops in 2011 alone. In 2013 in a widely contentious and publicized case, the Federal District Court ruled one of the 40th Precinct’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional.1

1. Wall, Patrick. “Top Cops in South Bronx Defend Stop-and-Frisk.” February 15, 2013. dna info. Retrieved from

Recommendation C3: Carry Out a Young Lords Community Mural and Teach-in Project

Based on case study research of the Community Justice Centers of East Harlem and Red Hook as well as similar programs in New York City, the recommended Community Justice Center would seek to reduce arrests and instances of stop and frisk in the neighborhood, and to protect community members from becoming incarcerated. The Justice Center’s primary activities would include: peer-to-peer facilitation of sustainability-focused community service projects for young people who have committed a crime at a “Youth Court;” community education about legal rights, the justice system, and internship opportunities; and provision of awareness and services related to drug rehabilitation. The Center could be in the historic 40th Police Precinct building, after the construction of the precinct’s new headquarters is complete. A central component of the Justice Center concept is youth engagement through collaboration with local organizations and programs of a similar focus. Cultural programs may be hosted at the Center in partnership with local schools and community groups, especially those which focus on offering positive opportunities as alternatives to incarceration, such as Ray Figueroa’s Friends of Brook Park program. Potential partners for capacity building include the Community Justice Center of Harlem, Finca Del Sur, New York Restoration Project SOS South Bronx, and Sustainable South Bronx.


purpose of this recommendation is to educate local youth about the Young Lords movement and its historical significance, to instill young people with awareness of their community’s past and to inspire self-confidence in their ability to impact the future. In collaboration with community arts groups, the client, a peer organization, or the Community Justice Center (see Recommendation C2) would conduct a course on the Young Lords’ involvement in the South Bronx, including their free breakfast and day-care programs, and door-to-door lead poisoning and tuberculosis testing. Special attention will be brought to their 1970 takeover of Lincoln Hospital (located in the northwest corner of Mott Haven) in reaction to the underfunded and mismanaged conditions under which patients were treated. Students would also learn about the relationship between the Young Lords and the criminal justice system, including an examination of information unearthed by historic Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. Interested students would be offered trainings on how to submit their own FOIL requests and how to safely navigate being part of radical and/or liberation-style groups today.

Recommendation C4: Launch a Health and Environmental Master Plan


he Health and Environmental Master Plan recommendations are designed to cohesively address Mott Haven’s environmental health crisis using infrastructural upgrades, which remediate the relationship between the built environment and public health. Some of these South Bronx Unite (SBU) could implement through community partnerships for little cost, while others while require concerted intervention efforts by the City and State. Many of the Master Plan elements build on existing programs that could be targeted towards Mott Haven, as one of the region’s crisis neighborhoods in terms of health. In addition to the health benefits the Plan provides, it will also create jobs and local employment opportunity. Combined with prior recommendations that also address social health issues, the Health and Environmental Master Plan will help create a sustainable and healthy community. Infrastructural projects to improve community health and the environment include: • C4a. White Roofs – Painting expansive and large roofs in the area white can mitigate the lack of tree canopy and reduce local heat vulnerability. White roofing is low-cost and easy to implement, yet its effects are great. All 157 building roofs in the industrial district of Port Morris, roofs of public buildings, and roofs of NYCHA properties should be painted first, while white roofing on private, non-industrial buildings may ensue. The project will include an awareness component, to educate local property owners on the benefits of white roofs, and a capacity and funding aspect, involving partnerships with NYC Cool Roofs and job training for residents.

• C4b. Green Roofs – Green roofs can improve air quality by adding vegetation, reduce the heating and cooling costs of building, act as storm-water management infrastructure, mitigate heat island effect, and expand recreational space available to local community. The priority should be on building green roofs on the 25 publicly-owned community facility buildings in Mott Haven. Given the neighborhood’s health crisis, it should be prioritized for a pilot program involving public subsidies or other incentives for private owners to install green roofs on their properties. Funding can be provided by New York City Department of Building’s Green Roof Tax Abatement and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

• C4c. Parking Lot Conversions – To add pervious space surface to a neighborhood that is 83 percent impervious, it is recommended that City-owned parked lots be “greened” into pervious spaces. There are 170 parking lots amounting to 37 acres in Mott haven currently; seven of those acres are City-owned and available for conversion. Privately-owned parking lots need not be converted, yet should be retrofitted to meet New York City’s design standards using addition of trees, installation of bio-swales, perimeter screening, and interior use of plants and vegetation.

• C4d. Vacant Lot Conversions – Vacant lots can also be converted to pervious land; these green spaces can also serve to increase accessible public open space. Mott Haven contains 17 City-owned vacant lots, each of which represents opportunities for conversion into parks and/or community gardens. Any converted vacant lots should be designed by the community through charrettes and workshops. This effort will mitigate the neighborhood’s egregious heat island effect, improve the availability of publicly accessible open space, provide more vegetation to the area, and provide residents with extra programming opportunities. Conversions may qualify for funding through the NYC Million Trees Program or green infrastructure grants available through New York City Department of Environmental Protection and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

• C4e. NYCHA Greenway and Open Space Activation – This recommendation focuses on Mott Haven’s large sub-community of public housing residents and strives to create equitable access to amenities and open space throughout the neighborhood. Currently, six acres of open space are inaccessible to NYCHA tenants and neighbors. These spaces should be activated with new programs and design tactics conceived of by tenants in a community reimagining process. A NYCHA property greenway could then be created to connect the spaces, expanding open space access for tenants and fostering connectivity between NYCHA campuses, the waterfront, and Mott Haven’s other community assets.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS TO HISTORY Recommendation C5: Reinterpret Recognized Historic Sites


he designation of historic places and buildings in Mott Haven paint a selective and incomplete picture of the neighborhood’s history. Especially during the mid-twentieth century, arguably some of Mott Haven’s most influential years, the formal protection of many important sites was overlooked. While a handful of prominent figures were commemorated through the naming of streets, such as Linda Ballou Way after a neighborhood advocate who started a food pantry and a college prep program, others of equal influence were forgotten. To provoke the community’s own portrayal of its heritage, generate awareness about historic buildings and their role in Mott Haven’s past, and foster a new relationship between the community and its built environment, we recommend a handful of buildings are activated as community canvases. Images and scenes would be projected on these buildings to tell stories and start conversations, connecting the community’s past and present in a tangible way. Prospective buildings for use as canvases include: • The Haffen Building • The Major Deegan Monument • Fire Hook and Company 17 • The Bronx Grit Chamber • Community selected-buildings in the Historic Districts Another way to protect and enhance the meaning of historically significant buildings is their nomination for listing on the State/National Register of Historic Places. Listing facilitates public awareness of their value, and provides tax credits to offset the construction costs associated with approved renovations and restorations. Community programming of these distinctive structures would bolster public appreciation of neighborhood heritage and the programs, alike. Map shows potential nomination sites.

Recommendation C6: Celebrate the Neighborhood’s Complex Heritage


n addition to lack of awareness about historic structures, significant events and narratives have also been lost over time. These include the famous shipwreck of a British vessel, an underground railroad station in the home of J.L. Mott’s lawyer, the music that once activated the neighborhood’s streets, and the concept of the “Subway Circuit.” Lost over time with Depression-era decline of the entertainment industry, the Subway Circuit ran along 138th Street and Third Avenue to “The Hub,”—the South Bronx’s central business district. This corridor and was widely celebrated by Theatre District culture.

Christopher Karl Germania Park

HMS Hussar Shipwreck

Mott Haven Station

St. Joseph,St. Francis, and Lincoln Hospital

Underground Railroad Station


A contemporary “Subway Circuit” could be visually recreated by installing historic images and installations in the tunnels of today’s subways. This cultural trail would showcase a forgotten heritage, providing visitors and residents alike with new insight into Mott Haven’s history. In turn, the neighborhood’s complex culture and identity would be underscored through an intersection between transit and art.

Recommendation C7: Clarify Distorted Heritage


n the wake of gentrification and a changing neighborhood populous, resident voices and histories are vulnerable to distortion or elimination. In the recent past, developers have thrown a highly publicized “Bronx is Burning” party, implying that their new buildings are the phoenixes emerging from the ashes; and branded the Mott Haven waterfront as the Piano District, thus disengaging it from Mott Haven. To affirm the history and cultural heritage of Mott Haven’s long-standing community within its built fabric, community-led visual storytelling should be facilitated through temporary art installations. The rebirth of the South Bronx following public and corporate disinvestment during the 1970s was due to the efforts of grassroots community development and immigration. The so called Piano District—which was really several blocks to the east—is where the neighborhood originated, as the juncture of the Mott Iron Works and a safe harbor for boats. Public art installations should protect these stories from becoming distorted and retold and speak to the real legacy of the neighborhood as a source of pride, if not protest, rather than to the efforts to rebrand the neighborhood’s most valuable real estate to promote gentrification.

Recommendation C8: Build on the Legacy of the Local Community Garden Movement


art of the legacy to be celebrated and propelled includes the community garden movement ignited during the 1970’s in response to the acres of vacancy created in the South Bronx by blight clearance. The community claimed ownership of vacant parcels through installation of community gardens, defying environmental injustice and displacement in the face of powerful methods for urban renewal. These gardens, many of which are still active today, tell a compelling story of survival and empowerment through self-determination and volunteerism. They are a mainstay of social life in the community and should be supported so their positive effects are magnified. The potential impacts are demonstrated by Ray Figueroa’s grassroots group Community Concerns, which manages urban farming and gardens with youth as an alternative to incarceration. Several strategies that could expand the reach of community gardens include: • Youth education programs on the histories of individual sites and their roles in the greater garden movement • Extension of existing public programs, such as the Bronx Trolley and walking tours of the South Bronx Cultural Trail • Creation of education and participation after-school programs serving local students • Listing gardens on the State / National Register of Historic Places and/or designation as landmarks by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission • Acquisition of gardens by SBU’s proposed Community Land Trust.



Recommundation H1: Carry Out an Anti-Displacement Policy Package


ott Haven residents are extremely vulnerable to displacement, yet the neighborhood is still in early stages of gentrification, suggesting that policy interventions as protective measures are necessary, while the opportunity still exists. Looking specifically through the “Home� portion of the research lens, this set of recommendations aims to address displacement vulnerability, maintain housing affordability, and preserve existing housing and tenants. We recommend that South Bronx Unite (SBU) engage with its constituents in advocating for the implementation of the policies, programs, and tools discussed below. This set of recommendations thus explores the possibility of safely reimagining industrial uses in Port Morris by transforming the area into a green industrial sanctuary zone that serves as a source of jobs for neighborhood residents while offsetting any negative environmental and health impacts. SBU may incorporate some of these recommendations into their existing initiative for community land ownership, while collaborating with businesses to enact others


he community should advocate that the City of New York carry out a combination of policies designed to mitigate displacement and place protections on vulnerable existing residents. The City should carry out a package of measures to counter-act the unintended consequences of ongoing, incremental yet cumulative rezoning of the neighborhood’s waterfront. These measures should be applied on a neighborhood-wide basis. Some of these measures are already established; have been proposed by others; and some are original. Their packaging provides the opportunity for the City to pilot rather than unleash neighborhood change.

• H1a. Certificate of No Harassment - Property owners would be required to obtain this certificate prior to the Department of Building’s issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy for renovations or demolition. Certificates would be limited to those landlords and developers who demonstrate that they have not engaged in tenant harassment. This type of legislation has been approved by the City Council in several other community districts with similar vulnerabilities. The process of certification acquisition would mirror the process used in other New York City neighborhoods. Building owners who apply for certification would need to submit a legally binding application form inquiring into their actions, the building, and its tenants over the past 36 months. Upon application, building tenants, community organizations, the community board, and local elected officials would be notified. In some cases, the Housing Preservation and Development department will perform a qualitative investigation using tenant interviews to confirm or deny incidence of harassment. • H1b. Cease and Desist Zone – This zone could be modeled off the Cease and Desist Zone in Bayside, Queens, which bars real estate solicitation at any participating buildings. Establishment of such a zone in Mott Haven would help protect tenants and businesses from speculation and harassment. Penalties for violating the terms of the cease and desist registry should include fines and suspension of licenses. • H1c. Flip Tax – This tax could be applied to any transfer of properties within two years of the previous transfer of the same property. Establishing a flip tax would discourage property owners from engaging in speculative property flipping. In San Francisco in 2014, activists lobbied to pass a ballot measure that would impose a flip tax on the sale of residential properties containing between two and thirty units, within five years of purchase. The additional transfer tax would reach up to 24% of the value of the applicable property. The legislation faced massive oppositional campaigning by real estate interests and was defeated, although an amended version is

expected to return to the ballot sometime in the near future.7 • H1d. Landlord Grading and Limits on Public Benefits – Under this program, landlords would be “graded” on their number of open housing code violations issued by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), number of building code violations received from New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), and unpaid municipal debt. Based on their grades, landlords would be limited from accessing public benefits such as acquiring city-owned land, receiving gap financing from HPD, and utilizing tax benefits. • H1e. A “No Net Loss” Affordable Unit Program – This type of program requires that any renovation, demolition, or new construction in an area that results in the loss of rent-regulated units require a one-for-one replacement at an equivalent affordability level to the lost unit(s). The program is designed to preserve affordability in areas undergoing real estate change and development booms. While such a program would likely prove most feasible citywide, it’s suggested that South Bronx Unite (SBU) advocate for Mott Haven to be the test neighborhood for the policy.

7 - Gladstone, Brett M. “Recent Local Anti-Speculation Tax – Although Defeated Last November, the Proposed Law Is Expected to Return In a Form More Likely to Pass.” Land Use. January 7, 2015. Hanson Bridgett. Retrieved from

Flip Tax + PILOTs

Anti Displacement Fund

Example Organizations to Facilitate Fund Purposes

NWBCC (Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition)

Recommundation H2:

CASA (Community Action for Safe Apartments)

Endow an Anti-Displacement Fund

• H1f. Improved Open Data Access – To improve transparency and the ability of residents, community organizations, planners, and more to continue working against displacement, the City of New York should make available the following data sets as part of their continued open data initiative: -- DOB/HPD building inspection data -- -311 complaints -- A comprehensive list of evictions -- Any Certificates of No Harassment issues, and applications for certificates that were denied -- Inventory of local rent-stabilized units registered with New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) -- Inventory of buildings in the neighborhood identified by HPD as “distressed” -- Multi-family building management information. While these measures work best as a package, as they each address different aspects of how gentrification turns into displacement, they can be implemented individually if that means that any might be implemented on a fast track. For example, those that exist in New York City already (such as the first two) can be put into action very quickly, while those that are original (such as the third) will require a lengthier and more complex process.


his dedicated fund aims to capitalize from the recommended policy package. Collection of fees from both the Flip Tax and Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) within a given catchment area would kick-start the fund’s establishment. The fund would ideally be managed by a community organization in the South Bronx with the capacity to aid its peer organizations in technical assistance, affordable housing, and tenant harassment work, strengthening both individual organizations and collaborative efforts. This could be SBU or, more broadly, SBU’s Community Land Trust.

Recommundation H3:

Enact Protective Zones for Preservation


his recommendation is comprised of two regulatory tools to address displacement vulnerability: Contextual Zoning and nomination of an historic Tenement District. These strategies chip away at the ability of developers to redevelop existing affordable housing stock, which could lead to displacement. These two regulatory tools might be applied separately or together on many blocks in the neighborhood. The immediate prime candidate is along 138th Street, from XX to XX. • H2a. Contextual Zoning – This tool can be used to control the building envelope of new developments by limiting base height and setbacks, thus reducing the overall size of permitted developments. Contextual zoning may help preserve built character in the neighborhood, help slow development, and discourage developers from buying up buildings, deregulating its units, and then constructing larger, market-rate buildings in their place. The historic tenements on 138th Street are rent-stabilized; contextual zoning thus not only protects against displacement, but acts as an historic preservation technique.

Tenements in Mott Haven

• H2b. Tenement National Register Historic District – One of the many benefits available to Tenement Districts listed on the State/National Register of Historic Places is the creation of Preservation Easements, which provide tax credits to property owners in exchange for the donation of building facades. The tenements on 138th Street are over fifty years old and associated with a significant period in New York City’s history, and thus eligible for nomination to the State/National Register. Nomination of the district and use of Preservation Easements would use an historic preservation tool typically associated with structural protections to mitigate displacement, while helping to maintain the neighborhood’s history as it exists in the built environment.

The map demarcates the Tenement District and Zoning patterns in the immediate neighbrhood surrounding it


South Waterfront H

istorically an industrial area, the South Mott Haven waterfront is undergoing significant transformation. Recently, the City re-zoned underutilized several manufacturing blocks to mixed-use, spurring the reuse of multi-story industrial buildings into loft-style housing, and construction of several market-rate towers. Newly proposed development sites contain some of the few waterfront access points for all of Mott Haven, threatening chances for meaningful and flood-resilient public access. Furthermore, a misappropriation of history has accompanied speculation, as exemplified by the holding of a “Bronx is Burning” gala and efforts to brand Mott Haven as the “Piano District.” Given these trends and their implications for Mott Haven’s affordability, public waterfront access, and community identity, this set of recommendations aims to ensure that new and existing development at the waterfront does not create barriers to the existing community, but rather creates destinations in service to it. SBU may partner with design and development organizations to highlight existing and proposing new community-serving uses.

The Vulnerability of South Mott Haven to Gentrification

Recent research by Alan Mallach of the Brookings Institute unearthed new findings on the characteristics of gentrification – patterns that suggest that the Mott Haven waterfront is highly susceptible to rapid gentrification and associated community displacement. First, Mallach found that gentrification typically spreads, and rarely “leapfrogs,” meaning that it is more common to occur in neighborhoods directly adjacent to already gentrified/gentrifying areas. East Harlem, just across the Harlem River, has undergone major neighborhood change in the past few years, and the new housing development on the waterfront will represent a beachhead for further neighborhood change in Mott Haven. Second, waterfronts are particularly susceptible to gentrification, especially those that are disconnected – either physically or in terms of use – from their surrounding communities. The Mott Haven community at present is cut off physically and psychologically from the waterfront. Turning it into a gentrified residential district without remedying these barriers will worsen that condition.

Ziwei Wang, PennDesign Bronx Biolab Studio 2016’s proposal for the Harlem River Yards Parcel

Recommendation W1: Build a Park at the Harlem River Yards Site


ne development site that would have dramatic impact on the waterfront, yet the future of which is unknown, is the New York State-owned, 13-acre Harlem River Yards parcel at the base of the Third Avenue Bridge. The New York State Department of Transportation issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for this site in November 2016, encouraging designs that maintain yard operations by constructing a platform over the yards upon which to develop. The site has been the subject of many design studios, including one from the PennDesign Bronx Biolab (see Figure XX). While not what the RFEI is looking for, the optimal scenario from a community perspective would be a large park that incorporates green infrastructure, providing public green space, public waterfront access, and protection from storm surge and flooding. A full realization of this recommendation would require the difficult aligning of many moving parts, including rerouting of FedEx and waste management facility trucks, and preempting the Request for Proposals (RFP) process. There may be opportunities to build alliances with Bruckner Boulevard Merchants Association, who would likely prefer to see a reduction in the number of trucks traversing their district, as well as the presence of a green space that acts as a magnet for visitors and potential shoppers. The Bruckner Boulevard Merchants Association also has a working relationship with area developers who may see similar benefits from such a plan.

Ziwei Wang, PennDesign Bronx Biolab Studio 2016’s proposal for the Harlem River Yards Parcel A conceptual Model for Public Housing.

Recommendation W2: Build a New Model for Public Housing


n alternative scenario for the RFEI parcel sees the site used for side-by-side mixed-income and deeply affordable housing towers, fused with a meaningful park. The larger tower would meet the City’s current standards for mixed-income housing, accommodating 500 units, along with ground-floor community or cultural uses to draw residents from the north. The shorter tower would include 300 new units of energy-efficient, cost-reducing modular New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing. Capital financing for these units could be partially derived from reduced utility costs in 600 existing NYCHA units across Mott Haven’s campuses, which would accrue savings following their “green” renovation. The new units would use energy efficient infrastructure to cut ongoing operations costs, the savings from which would help fund deep subsidies keyed to the $22,000 median income of Mott Haven residents. If managed by NYCHA, this development may establish precedent for what public housing of the future could look like. This recommendation thus represents a rare opportunity to address the environmental, health, economic, and housing needs of the South Bronx. Both buildings would sit beside a ten-acre elevated park, complete with playfields, food vendors, and entertainment. Activating the park space would transform the site into a public destination, in the style of Red Hook Park. The park would increase quality of life for tenants of the new housing, and provide many of the same benefits as a dedicated green space, including a way to engage the North Mott Haven community and a place to install green infrastructure and resiliency measures.

Recommendation W3:

Activate the Greenway


he concept of creating a publicly welcoming and accessible waterfront destination is far from limited to the Harlem River Yards site, and can easily apply to all South Mott Haven. Residents of the greater part of Mott Haven currently have little reason to visit the waterfront, and are likely deterred from doing so by having to cross underneath a loud, busy highway. To provide the community with a welcoming, accessible, and well-utilized waterfront, it will be necessary to create a critical mass of activities that residents will trouble to go to. Even if a beautiful promenade connects the neighborhood to the length of the waterfront, a lack of activation risks losing investment to a space that goes unused. Taking SBU’s own Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan as inspiration, we recommend activation through design, including: • W3a. Boating – Floating pedestrian decks at the end of Lincoln Ave and along the Harlem River Yards site would provide water access for boats and rafting.

Riverfront edge revival proposal at Harlem RIver Yards

• W3b. Repurposing—The unused yard space behind the waste management facility as a performance space, with open gallery seating (although odor mitigation is a recognized challenge in this case). The soft shoreline here could be weeded for further access. • W3c. Promenade—Dedicated pedestrian and bicycle routes along the remainder of the waterfront, treating its narrow edge conditions as eco-terraces and creating informal seating spaces. • W3d. Connection to Randall’s Island—An additional, pedestrian-only connector to Randall’s Island would afford residents the opportunity to get to this regional recreational resource, without traversing 20 minutes out of the way through an industrial district. We recommend that South Bronx Unite (SBU) incorporate these design interventions into their own waterfront plan, potentially with the assistance of an urban design-based partner organization, and advocate for the plan’s incorporation as improvements to the City’s Special Harlem River Waterfront District (SHRWD). While SHRWD addresses zoning and built form, it lacks comprehensive plans for waterfront amenities. Nor does it account for flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise. The recommendations included in this section would round out the SHRWD to address these critically significant issues.

Riverfront edge revival proposal at Waste Management Site Recommendation W4: Partner with Food Fest Depot to Activate an Expanded Pulaski Park


ulaski Park is one of the few open and recreational spaces for public use in Mott Haven, yet it is also unwelcoming, underutilized, and lacking in permeability. To improve community health and neighborhood connectivity, and to bolster the effects of waterfront improvements, Pulaski Park should be activated simultaneously, using three strategies: • W4a. Park Expansion—The City should acquire the underutilized lot south of the Willis Avenue bridge off-ramp from the New York State Department of Transportation and annex the

Food Fest flanking 132nd Street’s initiatives

Existing conditions of NYS DOT Property

space into Pulaski Park. If the state is not willing to dispose of the site directly, an incremental method of acquisition is New York State’s adopt-a-highway program. Community leaders of the Maria Sola Community Garden employed this technique to gain ownership of the garden parcel nearby, setting precedent for the feasibility of annexation. • W4b. Park Partnership—Park managers and/or advocates should partner with the Food Fest Depot to provide programming focused on community health and healthy lifestyles, similar to what was recommended for Plaza Salud in Chapter 3. Food Fest (located adjacent to Pulaski Park) is an under-recognized, neighborhood-serving grocery retailer. Many Mott Haven residents do their grocery shopping at Food Fest, making it a perfect partner for bringing awareness and convenient programming opportunities to the park.

06 Port Morris

(Industrial District)


ott Haven’s neighboring district of Port Morris has historically been a manufacturing district that relied on rail and water-borne freight. Today it is largely comprised of warehousing and distribution uses that rely on interstate highway access. At present, Port Morris is viewed unfavorably by South Bronx Unite (SBU) and many community activists, as its uses are associated with the excessive diesel truck traffic and land contamination that plague Mott Haven’s health. Port Morris offers limited community benefits, since its employment opportunities are low and many workers live outside the area1. Yet getting rid of all industry in Port Morris does not necessarily remediate the community’s concerns about pollution, and changes in land use won’t necessarily benefit the community. Amidst citywide trends (see side box), abolishing industry in Port Morris may mean disposing of an existing city asset—and a potential neighborhood asset, as well.

The Case for Industrial Retention in Port Morris

Industrial jobs and businesses are vital to the citywide economy and to neighborhood affordability. Yet retaining industry doesn’t necessitate retaining the pollution it has caused. Technology and knowledge to improve environmental performance have expanded greatly since many industries located in Port Morris, enabling the district to improve community health and safety. Manufacturing is making a comeback nationwide, and the renewable energy and clean utility sectors are becoming increasingly prominent. New York City should be at the forefront of this progress; Port Morris represents an opportunity to begin. Along with Hunts Point, Port Morris is one of five designated Significant Maritime Industrial Areas (SMIAs) in New York City, distinguishing industrial retention in the district as a City goal. The recommendations in this chapter, if implemented, could make the South Bronx SMIA the first green, coastally resilient SMIA, setting precedent for the city’s other industrial areas, many of which are similarly situated near environmental justice community. Finally, although it currently does not, Port Morris could play a major role in employing the local community. Manufacturing tends to be skills-based in nature and creates opportunities for workers to gain specialized skills. Manufacturing jobs are also higher paying and offer more opportunity for advancement than other sectors accessible to a similar education level. What Mott Haven/Port Morris needs is not a loss of industry, but rather industrial transformation.

This set of recommendations thus explores the possibility of safely reimagining industrial uses in Port Morris by transforming the area into a green industrial sanctuary zone that serves as a source of jobs for neighborhood residents while offsetting any negative environmental and health impacts. SBU may incorporate some of these recommendations into their existing initiative for community land ownership, while collaborating with businesses to enact others

Recommendation P1:

Launch a Green Industrial Management Organization

Case Study: The Brooklyn Navy Yard


o ensure retention of a “core” amount of industrial space and to curate the district to accommodate mainly clean utility and manufacturing companies, a not-for-profit ownership and management entity is required. Ownership is essential because it will protect space from a possible rezoning, which is increasingly likely in current market conditions. Responsibility for the district’s existing Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) should also be passed from its current management entity, SoBro. SoBro fulfills many services in the South Bronx community, including affordable housing development; an IBZ manager concerned solely with industry would have more capacity to help the IBZ reach its potential. We recommend this Green Industrial Management Organization (GIMO) be a subsidiary of SBU’s existing Community Land Trust, and potentially partner with other organizations to build capacity. Using the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) for inspiration, GIMO could start by acquisition of a superblock building, where it could site its headquarter offices and divide the remaining space into small, affordable incubation/manufacturing spaces available for 99-year lease. 1- Only 4,018 primary jobs were documented for Mott Haven’s industrial area in 2015, inclusive of both Port Morris and the industrial blocks of the South Mott Haven waterfront. Of these, 2,830 positions were occupied by workers living less than ten miles away, and the highest concentrations of workers came from other Bronx neighborhoods North of Mott Haven. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, OnTheMap Application and LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics [Beginning of Quarter Employment, 2nd Quarter of 2002-2015].)

As organizational capacity builds, we recommend that GIMO serve the following purposes: • Acquire property to be leased back to tenants long-term, while phasing out warehousing and distribution uses in favor of manufacturing and clean utility companies • Exercise environmental requirements on its tenants, such as prohibiting the use of diesel trucks • Assist existing businesses accessing environmental land remediation and ultra-low sulfur truck replacement programs • Install green and white infrastructure on properties and assist other businesses to do the same. Recommendation P2:

Consider “Green” Tolls on Trucks

Ariel view of FedEx facility’s Truck Yard Recommendation P3:

Create a Port Morris School of Craft and Design

Potential non-profit headquarters at 720 E 132nd St.


BU should advocate for the installation of carbon tolls for trucks entering the Port Morris industrial district. Electric trucks would not be fined; while diesel trucks would be fined the most. London has, for instance, used congestion pricing tools to make such differentiations. More ambitiously, this tool could be extended to the Willis Avenue and Third Avenue bridges. The resulting revenue should fund the “greening” of business operations, including the conversion of diesel trucks used by Port Morris businesses, in addition to land remediation and green infrastructure in the district. Ideally, The GIMO would be the manager of such a program.


IMO owned and run space also creates opportunity for industrial Port Morris to give back to a community it has long harmed. Within its organizational structure, we recommend GIMO found the Port Morris School of Craft and Design, a pipeline program to funnel Mott Haven residents straight from high school or college into local jobs. If industry is to be retained in Port Morris, Mott Haven’s community must see direct benefits. There is a negative sentiment among Mott Haven residents about industry’s lack of local employment in the area, while their community is severely underemployed. The School of Craft and Design would collaborate with local middle and high schools to arrange for students’ post-graduation entry into manufacturing, fabrication, and trade skills training programs, which would in turn funnel students into new local green industrial businesses.

Recommendation P4:

Community Energy Microgrid

Industrial Microgrid in Gowanus, Brooklyn

Recommendation P5: Shoreline Resiliency Interventions and Performative Open Spaces


nother long-term project for the industrial district and its industrial businesses might be a district-wide community microgrid. Agreements would be accrued on an individual property basis for green, distributive energy. Photovoltaic panels would be installed on flat rooftops of industrial buildings across the district, which would converge into a utility-integrated microgrid and energy solar storage project. The microgrid would allow businesses in the district to collectively derive, store, and distribute renewable energy, bolstering long-term resiliency against power outages and resource limitations, as well as cutting spending on energy district-wide. The savings created could be contribute to funding for GIMO, PMSCD, or installation of green infrastructure and land remediation. This recommendation also poses opportunity for job creation through installation and operation, and for historic preservation, if historic buildings were targeted to receive upgrades. One active funding opportunity for this project is the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which offers grants for up to $250,000 for such projects.


egardless of its land use status, Port Morris must be prepped for increasing instances of inclement weather and for sea level rise, especially given the area’s current state of contamination. There are several brownfields located throughout the district; storm surge and flood water may pick up toxins and carry them into residential Mott Haven during climate events. Furthermore, almost all of Port Morris and South Mott Haven are in the floodplain, underscoring the urgent need for resiliency measures. If climate change continues at its current pace, half of Port Morris will be underwater by 2100. We recommend using a combination of shoreline design interventions and open space initiatives to eliminate cross-contamination of land and to mitigate the effects of sea level rise. Building off design guidelines in the Hunts Point Lifelines plan, we recommend a parcel-by-parcel analysis of the South Mott Haven/Port Morris shoreline to determine appropriate interventions for each site, based on the complex nexus of ownership, use, and development of each. Strate-

The map indicates industrial buildings in Port Morris that could be potentially host the Microgrid

gies range from a “thick” edge, such as a seawall, or a berm, to softer, more adaptive edges, which can use slopes, rip rap, and/or greenery/open spaces to protect inner parcels. Once protected from sea rise and surge, the waterfront must also be protected from becoming the lowland for all the neighborhood’s stormwater. To manage this issue, we also recommend the creation of “performative” open spaces, a new typology of open spaces that are constructed and reserved solely for stormwater management. These would serve as storage and filtration sites during climate events, with the biodiversity and ecosystem in place specifically for these purposes.

Recommendation P6: Shoreline Resiliency Interventions and Performative Open Spaces


inally, a precondition of all the recommendations described in this chapter is that Port Morris and Mott Haven once again become a larger, synergistic community. While the prior recommendations discussed ways Port Morris can once again serve the Mott Haven community as an asset, this last concept addresses physical connectivity between the two areas, without which physical and psychological barriers will remain. 138th Street is the prime connector from Port Morris to the core of Mott Haven, while 132nd Street is the prime connector to South Mott Haven (and to Randall’s Island). Both should be made fully pedestrian and bike friendly, and lead to waterfront parks that are in turn linked by a promenade built into the flood attenuation infrastructure. This network will increase safety and ease of travel throughout the whole area, encourage outdoor activity and multi-modal transportation, facilitate public trips to the waterfront and South Mott Haven, and create spaces for additional programming and activation. Implementation of this recommendation should be tied to that of Recommendation W3 (previous chapter). Significant steps toward these goals have already been made the New York Restoration Project’s (NYRP) Haven Plan, the first phase of which has proposed a new park and point of public waterfront access at the 132nd pier in Port Morris. Any efforts in this regard should be coordinated with NYRP. For example, to build off the Haven Plan’s first phase, we recommend partnering with ConEdison to activate

The map indicates the proposed Green corridors connecting Port Morris to South Mott Haven

an underutilized site adjacent to the 132nd Street pier as a flexible public space for events and programming. In addition, a network of pocket parks for industrial district employees could be installed along the Port Morris Waterfront between 132nd St and NYRP’s proposed open space site to the north, bolstering connectivity and access to the waterfront promenade and encouraging shared space between residents and workers. ConEd Plaza site at 82 Locust Ave.


138th Street T

he 138th Street holds a great deal of commercial and social value as the main retail corridor in Mott Haven and the most prominent place for community gathering. Its bustling sidewalks and mom-and-pop shops epitomize Mott Haven’s cultural vibrancy and diversity. Yet residents also identified traffic safety issues and underdeveloped physical conditions. This set of recommendations emerged from merchant and shopper survey findings, and aims to turn 138th Street into a model main street by integrating socioeconomic services that address local community needs, and by improving existing features to build resilience into the commercial fabric. It is recommended that South Bronx Unite (SBA) lead a community engagement process with residents (especially the tenants in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments adjoining 138th Street) for programming and capacity building, while also advocating for municipal action to improve walking experience and increase community gathering options.

Recommundation S1: Design and Install Street Furniture with the Community


he lack of seating options and greenery along 138th Street was a key concern among surveyed residents. It is recommended that place-specific public furniture be designed and built to promote social activities such as domino playing, music playing, and dancing, which currently occur organically. The project would be implemented through collaboration between the Merchant’s Association (see Recommendation S4), Bronx Community Board 1, and the proposed Port Morris School of Craft and Design (see Recommendation P3). This recommendation aims to enhance the physical value of 138th Street through giving community members the opportunity to put their ideas for improvements into action. Rather than having to work around the limitations of the street, residents will be able to shape the street’s built form such that it suits their needs, without major infrastructure or expense involved.

Innovative Street furniture – Precedent images

Domino playing, music and dancing, general socializing and hanging out

Recommundation S2: Create “Plaza Salud”

here is a major lack of public open space in Mott Haven. The NYCHA campus parking lot near St. Jerome’s Church often goes underutilized and represents an opportunity for creating more meaningfully public space and implementing green infrastructure through a community-driven programming and design process for what can be called “Plaza Salud.” The plaza’s name references the focus of its design and programming to benefit community health, through creation of new green, open spaces, reducing unsafe pedestrian conditions, and celebrating healthy lifestyles.


We envision this process as an opportunity for NYCHA tenants and Mott Haven residents to collaboratively design a shared space that suits community needs. Initial phases could use tactical urbanism methods to try out designs and to hold pop-up events in the parking lot alone, with the long-term opportunity to expand, permanently delineate plaza space, and “green” the area, depending on the community’s designs. Replacement parking can be provided by reutilizing the right-of-way of what had been 137th Street. The basketball court adjacent to St. Jerome’s Church and the nearby parking lots could be potential opportunity areas for inclusion. In this case, traffic-slowing devices on 138th Street between the plaza’s two sides would make pedestrian flow smoother and safer. For large events, 138th Street could be blocked off and temporarily pedestrianized. If implemented, Plaza Salud should be designed and programmed to encourage healthy lifestyles, in terms of outdoor activities, healthy cooking and eating, regular exercise, and more. The programming might include community potlucks and sports events, health fairs, relocation of the existing farmer’s market to the plaza, and installation of various food carts/trucks along the sidewalk with a focus on organic and healthy options. Tenants and residents should drive this process as well, to ensure each event has a high level of attendance, public engagement, and community value. Recommundation S3: Pedestrianize 138th Street


urveyed shoppers named traffic as the number one problem for 138th Street (see XX below), and the NYC Department of Transportation designated the street as a Vision Zero Priority Corridor, based on frequent pedestrian fatalities in the corridor. At present, an average of 15,000 vehicles a day traverses 138th Street—equivalent to a major suburban arterial. Existing conditions analysis concluded that the problem stems from use of 138th Street as a thoroughfare between the Bruckner Expressway and Manhattan. The solution starts with a mid-block crossing on the stretches of 138th Street between Willis and Brook Avenues, and St. Ann’s and Cypress Avenues. Bump-outs should be provided at all the intersections. Major pedestrian-minded interventions are needed at two highly unsafe intersections: Bruckner Boulevard and at Third / Morris Avenues.

Initial Stage - Experimentation

Second Stage - Expansion

Final Stage - Consolidation


138th Main Street Plan The next step is to redesign 138th Street as a one-way route. This would cut traffic significantly and enhance sight lines for people crossing the street. Diagonal parking could be provided, more than compensating for the number of parking spaces lost to placemaking, as per other recommendations. Two eastbound lanes (instead of a single lane) could be provided, reducing back-ups due to double-parking. A dedicated, safe two-way bike lane could be provided.

As there are no other full, eastbound streets in the neighborhood, the street should run eastbound. Both 137th and 139th Streets, meanwhile, could run westbound. Both 137th and 139th Streets could also be improved as better through streets by (respectively) reopening limited through traffic south of Plaza Salud and a redesign of the “bowtie� at Third / Morris Avenues.

Truck traffic—other than for local deliveries—should be prohibited on 137th, 138th, 139th and all other neighborhood streets. This can eventually be enforced through congestion pricing tools. Bruckner Boulevard and 135th Street already act as an alternative route for westbound trucks. An eastbound truck route could be created through selective realignments south of the highways, employing 135th and 134th Streets to Bruckner Boulevard. A truck toll on the Third Avenue and Willis Avenue Bridges (see Recommendation P2) would counterbalance the increased volume of trucks on Bruckner. A key benefit of all these recommendations is the reduction of trucks bringing pollution into the heart of the neighborhood. The recommended congestion pricing tools can even be adjusted upwards and downwards (for diesel v. electric trucks).

Recommundation S4: Build Capacity through the Merchant’s Association


his chapter’s preceding recommendations take a grassroots, do-it-yourself approach to strengthening the spine of Mott Haven, as a place made for and by the community. To ground this process within the commercial community and to build capacity for implementation, it’s recommended that SBU and its peer organizations engage the existing Merchant’s Association on 138th Street, and help strengthen the group through collaborative capacity building. This will improve the feasibility of implementing recommendations, and ensure that recommendations are appropriate and suitable to the needs of local retailers. The Merchant’s Association will be a crucial piece of driving improvements on 138th Street and should be at the head of this process.




he authors of the research and recommendations found in this report owe extensive thanks and credit to Mychal Johnson and Monxo Lopez of SBU, who, over the course of three months, progressed from the role of our client to become our critiques, leaders, and partners. Simultaneous to the Pratt studio, SBU initiated its Power in Place project, in partnership with the Design Trust for Public Space, and its subsequent Community Land Trust (CLT). The process of parallel and synchronized research and planning efforts strengthened results and bolstered opportunity for both SBU and the studio class. This speaks to Pratt’s service learning model and to SBU’s ongoing engagement with institutions of higher education. At the time of this report, the two parties are continuing their working partnership, which will culminate in a forthcoming workshop and presentation of findings to the Mott Haven community.

Community Engagement and Partnership with SBU The initial work of the studio was grounded in a multi-methodological existing conditions analysis of the Mott Haven neighborhood and community. During this phase, SBU supported our team by connecting us with numerous community stakeholders – a wide range of which we expanded through outreach. Stakeholders included business owners, representatives of local community and activist organizations, Bronx Community Board 1, local political leaders, and real estate developers. Stakeholder interviews expanded our understanding of various perspectives on Mott Haven as it exists today and its potential paths for the future. Direct resident outreach gleaned insight into the community members’ everyday lives. We conducted street-intercept resident surveys, which reaffirmed SBU’s concern that most Mott Haven residents are disconnected from the waterfront, rarely visiting it. Intercept shopper surveys identified for physical improvements to 138th Street. We heard respondents’ praise for 138th Street as the vibrant spine of their community, juxtaposed with their discontent with its lack of infrastructure and disruptive traffic patterns. Finally, our team visited Middle School 123 one afternoon to conduct an activity-based workshop with local teens. This trip painted us an invaluable picture of what it’s like to be a kid in Mott Haven today. Some students complained about dangerous and dark street conditions through the creation of an “advocacy poster.” Others shed light on the neighborhood’s lack of healthy food and public open spaces by claiming fast food joints as their go-to after-school hang-outs. The assessed existing conditions of Mott Haven discussed in Chapter 2 of this report grew out of a synthesis of the knowledge, data, and perspective gained in the process described above. Mychal and Monxo visited our classroom with Ray Figueroa – a program director at Friends of Brook Park who works with formerly incarcerated youth – to receive our findings and offer their thoughts. This evening of presentation, critique, and inspired conversations with Mychal, Monxo, and Ray marked the transformation of our client into a collaborative partner. The ideas brought to the table that night were crucial points of direction as we progressed into the development of recommendations. The development, amendment, and presentation of recommendations to the client followed. Six intense weeks after presenting existing conditions, Mychal and Monxo returned for our presentation of recommendations. Another collaborative, workshop-style session took place thereafter to identify and reconcile the disparities between what the studio team put forth and the SBU leaders’ vision and goals. Representatives of the studio and of SBU met once more one month later for a final collaborative meeting. In the meantime, SBU kicked off their community asset mapping and planning project, Power in Place, while the studio team was selected by Pratt’s Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment to represent the school at the American Planning Association’s (APA) annual studio competition for planning schools in the New York metro area. Finally, SBU graciously invited the studio team to present the recommendations – amended to reflect co-authorization by SBU’s leadership – to the entire Mott Haven community on March 31st, 2018 (forthcoming at the time of this report). This day of presentations, workshops, and collaboration will be led in participatory break-out sessions by the studio class. This report will be shared then with SBU, its partner organizations, and the community. The input and feedback collected from the community on this day will be incorporated into our preparation for and presentation at the APA competition, which will take place in May 2018.

Final Thoughts


ll the recommendations in this report attempt to address the right to health, home, and history. Some speak specifically to the immediate goals of SBU’s campaign to bring environmental justice and community-based planning to the forefront of local waterfront development; others speak to the broader economic, social, and environmental future of the Mott Haven community. The recommendations cohesively aim to broaden the scope of SBU’s ongoing, community-wide conversation about the future of Mott Haven, and to assist SBU’s ability to protect the community’s health, home, and history, as they enter a crucial phase of capacity-building and intervention. As SBU’s work progresses and as the partnership between our studio class and SBU continues, a clearer sense of real community need, current capacity, and phased implementation of any given recommendation will be gained. We expect that in this way, the recommendations will be organically prioritized by the community, and ultimately selected for inclusion in SBU’s long-term strategic action plan. While recommendations may not be implemented exactly as this report lays them out, we hope that at the very least, they will broaden existing conversations around community action, or spark new ones.

In considering capacity building for the future, we hope these recommendations will be useful to SBU in organizing alliances and partnerships. The wide-ranging network of community organizations throughout the South Bronx and New York City could make some seemingly out-of-reach recommendations become actionable. The opportunities for collaboration suggested in this report are intended to build upon SBU’s current partnership with the Design Trust for Public Space. Finally, we aspire for these recommendations to assist SBU as it moves forward with the Mott Haven-Port Morris CLT. SBU’s asset-mapping initiative Power in Place is currently leading discussions and visioning sessions with diverse groups of community members; the formation of comprehensive goals; and the identification and phased implementation of actionable items. We hope that throughout this process, these recommendations help broaden imaginations and provide insight into possibilities for creating a self-defined, community-led Mott Haven.

Mott Haven: Home, History & Health  

A graduate studio project

Mott Haven: Home, History & Health  

A graduate studio project