Urban Renewal is a topic that I have become very interested in. During the Fermi “Q” Conference last April, the lab that I chose to go on was titled “Sustainable South Bronx”. We rode the subway from Manhattan to the South Bronx. Comparing the sites going into the subway right next to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan to the site coming out of the subway of an elevated six lane highway in the South Bronx made an impression in me. One area is kept clean and used as a center of entertainment and celebration, the other is a industrial mechanism with byproducts like noise, litter, and pollution. One are is alive – buzzing with energy, the other is drab and pulls the energy out of you.
We met two gentlemen that gave us our tour and described the Sustainable South Bronx Project – they both worked for SSBX, and I wish I could remember their names. Majora Carter was supposed to meet us and give the tour, but she was invited to carry the Olympic torch for the upcoming Games (After you watch the video below, you will see why). Majora is the lioness of the South Bronx. She fights for Environmental Justice in an area that usually gets the short end of the stick in urban planning. There is a river that flows along the South Bronx, but industrialization and run-down buildings hid the river. Most kids growing up in the Bronx never experienced the river. Majora was inspired to make a green space at Hunts Point. There is a riverside park there today where the kids can sit by the river, take canoe lessons (one of the guides that grew up in the Bronx said he never knew what a canoe was while growing up), or take music lessons – we saw all three of those while visiting the park. She also started a Rooftop Greening project where they are planting rows of plants on the rooftops of buildings to reduce solar heating of the building and provide another place to experience nature. To demonstrate Majora’s drive – she asked to have signs put up to guide the residents of the Bronx to the riverside park. The city couldn’t come up with any money, so she went out and bought gallons of green paint and a 12 in roller paint brush. She painted a green stripe from the center of the Bronx along the sidewalks and across crosswalks all the way to the park. The city didn’t approve, but they didn’t do anything about it. She seems like the type of person that has a vision and makes it happen.
the video below is of Majora describing her vision in a TED talk. The video is 18 minutes, but it will fire you up. She is an incredible speaker, and I hope to meet her one day.
Huntsville has an area that in a lot of ways is getting treated like the South Bronx. I want to be a part of bringing renewal to this area.