ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Community First's Vision for Transforming Yonkers School 19 By HEZI ARIS
Location: 70 Jackson Street (in front of the abandoned Yonkers School 19 building).
YONKERS, NY -- November 30, 2012 -- Members of Yonkers Community Governance & Development Council, better known as Community First, a “Not-for Profit; For-People”, Southwest Yonkers community group has announced it will conduct a rally to demonstrate their support for transforming the abandoned School 19 building / property from its present blighted state to a mixed-use facility housing a neighborhood high school, community center, multimedia studio, and daycare center.
Community First [http://www.yonkerscommunitygov.org] has partnered with Meridian Design, an experienced architectural and project management firm who have already began to formalize designs for the proposed, self sustaining concept.
School 19 was abandoned in 1992. It has languished by neglect into a deteriorating state that is offensive to the Southwest Yonkers neighborhood. In 2006 the City of Yonkers issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) calling on developers to convert the property into that specifically for housing. No proposals were ever submitted.
In 2012 , Community First began its foray into defining its vision for the property, distilling a proposal to acquire the property, and thereby transform it to a relevant and self-sustaining operation. In November of 2012, Community First launched its “Free School 19 Campaign” to organize community support for the project. Both Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Wilson Terrero (District 2), in whose district the property is situated, and fellow Councilman Michael Sabatino (District 3) attended the kick-off event voicing support for the project to those in attendance. Since then, Community First has gained additional support from most of the city council membership. They are now seeking an audience with Mayor Mike Spano in order to find how they can best work together for the betterment of the city on this project.
Southwest Yonkers has for many years been plagued with issues and concerns over poverty, high crime rates, low property value, etc. There has been a constant grass roots call for the establishment of a new community center to serve the area. This project would provide such a service. And since it incorporates a “neighborhood high school” it would reduce the city’s bussing costs, a point emphasized by candidate Mike Spano during his campaign effort last year.
Community First seeks to ask for a zoning change for the property so that the community center, a centerpiece to the renovation effort be a viable outcome. After the zoning issues are addresses, Community First intends to gain control of the site, work and partner to vigorously mount a funding effort to raise the necessary capital to bring the vision into reality. Funding strategy would include contributions from partner foundations and individuals, State and Federal economic revitalization funding, and the leveraging of Federal tax and State credits to attract even more financing options.
Local Community Organizer LaMont Oye'Wale Badru said, “This project could change the trajectory of Southwest Yonkers by bringing a sustainable neighborhood base to a community. We would not only provide constructive space for community members to learn skills, create value to the community through productive interaction of community residents, provide job opportunities and creating a safer environment. This project is also critical because it demonstrates that development can be led by the ideas and efforts of an organized community, and not only through a top-down model that imposes projects on a neighborhood.”