By SHANIA DEGROOT
A new public space and seating area, “Street Seat” was officially opened to residents along Jerome Avenue and East Gun Hill Road on Wednesday July 14th. It was organized by the Jerome Gun Hill Business Improvement District (BID) and the New York City Department. Transport (DOT) and will function as a social hub for local residents. The space has been dedicated to the local medical community for the work they have done throughout the pandemic.
Part of DOT’s revitalization of the intersection as part of its public space unit and art program, the new space builds on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment to creating public spaces newly designed for the 33 hardest-hit neighborhoods in the city. The space is intended to support local small businesses, foster community ties, and provide an arena for arts, culture and other programs.
Movable seats, planters and a mural created by Bronx artist Britny Lizet are just some of the features of the new space. Throughout the summer and into early fall, Jerome Gun Hill BID will host programming in the region, including free public events twice a month. The BID will work with community organizations and local businesses to provide free arts activities, books, food from local restaurants, live music and other events in the space.
Lizet was unable to attend the official opening of the space but later posted about it on Instagram, expressing her excitement that the project has finally come to fruition. “Last month, I had the opportunity to brighten up my neighborhood. I painted my first floor mural, measuring 1,000 feet for a seating area project, ”she wrote. Lizet said it was her hardest job yet, but said she learned a lot from the project. “The mission was to transform an empty sidewalk… into [a] colored asphalt seating area. I lived in the Bronx all my life until I moved west. To make this mural a few blocks [from] where I grew up is still shocking to me, ”she said.
The artist said she couldn’t believe it when she first received the email regarding the project, claiming she cried, mostly tears of joy, tears for the hard work which has borne fruit in recent years. She said that the fact that she could have an impact on her neighborhood was crucial. “It was such difficult years that have led to this point. Without my supporters and without believing in myself, I wouldn’t be here today, ”she said. “This mural meant so much to me. and being able to give meaning and color to the Bronx is the icing on the cake.
Lizet said the project is a project she will never forget and that he confirms that if you work hard and believe in yourself, you will manifest whatever you want. “I am more than grateful for this huge opportunity. Thank you @jeromegunhillbid and @nyc_dotart for this amazing opportunity, ”she wrote.
– Jamaal T. Bailey (@jamaaltbailey) July 14, 2021
At the press conference to mark the official opening of the new space were senior urban designer, Jessica Cronstein, Bronx DOT commissioner, Nivardo Lopez, executive director of Jerome Gun Hill BID, Jennifer Tausig, State Sen. Jamaal T. Bailey (SD 36), Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz (AD 81), District 11 City Councilor Eric Dinowitz, Ariana Cipriani, Neighborhood Development Officer at Jerome Gun Hill BID and Deputy Commissioner of DOT for street improvement programs, Sean Quinn.
Eric Dinowitz expressed his appreciation for the newly constructed space, which he believes reinforces the values of the community. “During COVID, we realized how important these small spaces were for us to come together and have times to enjoy each other’s company and do great things, and these spaces look like this,” he said. -he declares.
“Beautiful works of art where residents can enjoy the shops, sit and have their meals with each other and organize events like reading a book that I look forward to,” he said. he adds. The city councilor went on to praise the DOT for recognizing the value of creating such spaces in the Bronx, a borough he says is sometimes overlooked for both large and small projects.
Meanwhile, Lopez said that as the city recovers from the pandemic, additional spaces and the like will open up around the city and in the Bronx.
In a subsequent Instagram post, Tausig and Cipriani of the Jerome Gun Hill BID said that over the past year, they have worked to transform the empty 1,000 square foot sidewalk into a lively seating area for members of the community rest, relax, and enjoy free community events. “Thank you to our community partners, local business owners and residents who shared their comments and ideas for this project,” they wrote. “We look forward to an exciting summer and look forward to sharing our Street Seat program of events with all of you. “
In a tweet later today, State Senator Jamaal Bailey thanked DOT and Jerome Gun Hill BID for investing in communities with beautification projects. “Our local businesses and neighborhoods thrive with spaces like these. Let’s sit down together! he said, before adding: “I also want to thank @JeffreyDinowitz and @EricDinowitzNYC for their support!”
For his part, Jeffrey Dinowitz thanked the Jerome Gun Hill BID for working with the community on the project and for their work in general in improving the local area over the past twenty years.
“It’s really exciting to be here,” said the assembly member. “I have walked this shopping district for most of my life. I saw this beautiful neighborhood, and I saw when there were really big problems, the best of times, the worst of times, but we are in the best of times again in this community.
* Síle Moloney contributed to this story.