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Urban Wonk

How the South Bronx Was Saved

How the South Bronx Was Saved
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New York City's South Bronx is making an astounding comeback. Not that long ago, the neighborhood was perhaps the country's most villified, a setting for all that had gone wrong in urban America: abandonment, decay, arson, street gangs, violent crime, slumlords, drug dealers, and hopelessness. 

Today, the neighborhood has turned around. Ford Foundation president and former South Bronx resident Luis Ubinas spoke last year:

 Last month, I walked with a friend from 138th Street in Mott Haven to Yankee Stadium. It's about two miles. There were no burned out buildings or vacant lots strewn with trash. No syringes on the sidewalk. No acrid smell from the previous night's fires. What we saw was a place where hard working people send their kids to decent local schools, shop at neighborhood stores, and even tend their gardens. Today the South Bronx is everything it wasn't in 1980—a sustainable, low-income community.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a profile of Via Verde, an ambitious and very green affordable housing and garden development in the South Bronx. Two years ago, I profiled a large, neighboring green project, Melrose Commons, covering some 30 city blocks and led by a Bronx-based citizens'-organization-turned-community-developer, Nos Quedamos. Translated as "we stay" in Spanish, Nos Quedamos has from the beginning followed the principle that revitalization should transform the community for the benefit of the community, with no resident involuntarily displaced by rebuilding. It's an inspiring story.

Both projects, and many others, make an appearance in this highly informative video produced by The New York Times and featuring New York City planning director Amanda Burden, accompanied by Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. It shows an amazing display of accomplishment in transforming one of America's worst neighborhoods into one of its most exciting and hopeful.  Watch and learn:

This post originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Kaid Benfield is special counsel for urban solutions at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Law, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and author of several books on cities, smart growth and sprawl. All posts »

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