WHEDco shuts down 161st Street for a full afternoon of family fun!
Children’s laughter. A bouncy-house at full capacity. Police officers and local kids playing a competitive game of street soccer. This was the scene at the Melrose neighborhood in the South Bronx on Friday, June 2.
During its third annual Bronx Music @ Melrose event, WHEDco shut down 161st Street between Melrose and Elton Avenues for an afternoon of family-friendly fun, with live performances, face-painting, arts & crafts, games, and more. More importantly, event attendees were able to connect with local resources, including WHEDco’s Family Support Services and our Home-Based Childcare Program, as well as a dozen other community-based partner organizations.
This year, event-goers were also able to connect with potential construction job opportunities at WHEDco’s Bronx Commons affordable housing development. Currently under construction, Bronx Commons will transform the final undeveloped parcel of the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area into a vibrant center for living, working, learning, shopping and entertainment – including 305 affordable apartments, a landscaped public plaza, places to eat and shop, all anchored by the Bronx Music Hall, a new music venue, gallery, and arts-based community center.
“This event is important because it brings people together and introduces local residents to community organizations they never even knew existed,” said neighborhood resident Lillian Ayala.
Part of the NYC Department of Transportation Weekend Walks Program, this year’s BM@M sought to celebrate WHEDco’s longstanding trajectory of community development work across the South Bronx, while providing local residents with much-needed access to critical resources. Because the Melrose neighborhood will be home to WHEDco’s third and largest affordable housing development, we conducted a community needs assessment from 2013-2014, focused on a one-mile radius around the Bronx Commons site, with the purpose of gaining a better understanding of the community’s needs.
The study’s findings help to guide and adapt our approach to our community development work. For instance, the community needs assessment revealed that residents share a strong interest in services focused on housing, employment and job training, computer training, continuing education, youth education, and starting businesses or business training. As a response to these needs, direct engagement initiatives such as Bronx Music @ Melrose seek to close this gap and to help residents secure access to the things they need to improve their quality of life.
“This event keeps people informed about all of the resources available to them, and it’s completely free,” said Maxie Rivera, a community member who was completing a survey distributed by WHEDco on access to transportation and retail businesses in the Melrose neighborhood.
Events like Bronx Music @ Melrose also seek to highlight Bronx arts and music through live performances that showcase our local talent: From student performers that are part of WHEDco’s after-school programs, to Bronx-based artists and groups. This year, the audience was wowed by our student dance groups, the PS/MS 218 2nd Grade Xylophone Ensemble, as well as Bronx-based R&B artist Sean Taylor, and salsa group Oreste Abrantes y su Orquesta. Event attendees also got their daily dose of exercise, thanks to energizing performances by Haus of Casimar and a Zumba dance work out by WHEDco Junior Board member Emirita Torres.
WHEDco thanks the many organizations who participated in this year’s BM@M, including BronxWorks, Morris Heights Health Center, Boricua College, Mentor New York, Transportation Alternatives, Phipps Neighborhoods, The Uni Project, Montefiore WIC Program, BFC Partners, Premier Home Health Services, Hunger Free New York, VIP, and DOT Adopt a Highway.
Special thanks to the NYC Department of Transportation Weekend Walks Program, the NYPD 42nd Precinct, Cinco De Mayo restaurant, and Assemblymember Michael Blake, as well as WHEDco staff members and volunteers!