This Bronx landmark, a few blocks from the Criminal Court complex where Bronx Community Solutions is based, is being transformed into a new school. Read the article today in the New York Times. For some neighborhood history, point of view from a member of the Bronx Community Solutions project who used to work in the old courthouse, and a related editorial about the old Family Court building in Staten Island, Read More.
From the Times article:
"The Melrose and adjacent Morrisania neighborhoods were among the hardest hit during a wave of arson in the South Bronx in the 1970s and ’80s. But the courthouse’s landmark status spared it from demolition, and at various times developers and community activists proposed turning it into television studios, medical offices, a community center and a Puerto Rican museum. A community group, Nos Quedamos, which means “we stay,” is building much of the affordable housing in the area and tried unsuccessfully to buy the courthouse several times. Now thousands of units of affordable housing are planned for the surrounding area, and Boricua College, a four-year college, is building a campus next to the courthouse."
The Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School and will be run by Imagine Schools, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va., which runs about 70 schools in the United States, in partnership with with Urban Youth Alliance, a private nonprofit group and Bronx Community Solutions partner.
A member of the Bronx Community Solutions team, Alfred Siegel (Deputy Director of the Center For Court Innovation), started out as an Assistant District Attorney in the old Courthouse, and he says the stories about having to choose between stifling heat, with the windows closed, or a noisy racket from the nearby train line, with the window's open, mentioned in the article, are true. However, the article describes some uncertainty about when the old building closed: "It has been vacant since the 1970s, although the exact year is unclear. The current owner, Henry Weinstein, said neighbors told him it had been empty since 1972, though the city puts the date at 1978." Says Al: "It was still in use! I was there until the year the new Courthouse opened (1977)." Of course the year the new building opened was a momentous one for the Bronx - the Blackout, the Son of Sam, "the Bronx is Burning," and 24-hour arraignments for the new courthouse.
Lots of construction for new schools is underway in the Bronx. On the other hand, some schools are closing (link).
Finally, this editorial from the Staten Island Advance arguing for the preservation of the old Family Court building there, published last November, is an interesting read. "Reminiscent of small but stately rural courthouses, the building is clearly inadequate for the Staten Island of today. It must, however, be spared the wrecker's ball because it is a magnificent piece of this county's unique past, a sane, nurturing judicial setting in which broken people were always embraced and their shattered lives gently repaired."