Urban Renewal

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.




Filed under Community, Fermi, Green Team

5 responses to “Urban Renewal

  1. jeffshinabarger

    Thanks for this post. It’s encouraging to know that this experience made an impact on you and that you are thinking about it more than 3 months later. By the way, your recount of the journey was excellent. For other readers I have a picture of the “Green Line” on my blog here http://www.jeffshinabarger.com/?p=8

  2. If you want to read a great book on this area you refer to, read Jonathan Kozol’s “Amazing Grace: Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation.” Great book! I reviewed it here:

  3. Interesting post and interesting thought process. One of the things I appreciate about you is that you always work hard to apply what you have learned to your own city and your own life. I’ve been challenged to do the same thing by reading your efforts. Keep it up!

    I heard great things about the Bronx tour, and am glad there was some good value for you in it. I was on the Central Park tour.

  4. sigmugi

    Jeff, Thanks for the picture of the green line. I have continued to enjoy Q. That was my first introduction to many of the speakers. I have since read a few of their books, especially Shane Hipps book and Jim Wallis’s new book. Looking forward to Q2009 in Austin.

    Jason, Thanks for the book suggestion. I bet that book is difficult to read emotionally. I will look it up next time I get a haul from amazon.

    Marla, I wish we would have run into each other at Q. My sister was on the Central Park lab with you. Thanks for the encouraging words about my blog. Are you going to attend Q in Austin?

  5. Hi Larry- thanks so much for the kind words on my guest blog on Marla’s site! (I lived in Decatur AL for 4 years). I envy all you guys that went to SSBX…Lawrence had an amazing blog on it as well. I’d love to see more of what’s happened with Huntsville…Relevant Magazine recently put it in the top 10 green cities in America…

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