Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council

about The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council from their site:
The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council was established in the 1950’s as a civic organization. It was specifically founded to address emerging racial tensions resulting from Black and Hispanic populations settling into the Lower East Side neighborhoods that lie between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. These neighborhoods, at the time, were comprised mainly of white-ethnic national groups. Working along with churches, settlement houses and a group of racially integrated, visionary leaders from the community, the Council served as a forum and catalyst for resolving racial conflicts. It soon published a neighborhood newspaper with the intention of exchanging news about local events and people, and sponsored little leagues and sports events and other activities for youth - all with the goal of improving racial and cultural conflicts.
As has been its strength over the years, the Council changed its focus in the late 1960’s to the very preservation of the neighborhood when AT&T planned to purchase, and in turn, demolish old tenement buildings located on Madison Street and replacing them with a huge Switching Station. This plan would have forever displaced hundreds of low-income families, and would have been an impetus to transforming the Lower East Side from a traditional enclave of affordable housing to a commercial area. Organizing the community against the proposal, the Council hired its first community organizer and was successful in preserving the stock of housing in this area by working out a plan that eventually moved the Switching Station closer to the Financial District. This is now a Verizon building located adjacent to Police Headquarters.
Having assumed at first a housing advocacy role in the community, the Council soon grew from a civic neighborhood association into one of New York City’s major housing development organizations for low and moderate income housing.In the 1970’s, TBNC teamed with Settlement Housing Fund, a nonprofit housing organization, to redevelop the Two Bridges Urban Renewal Area. This blighted urban renewal area was bounded by Montgomery, Cherry, South and Pike Streets, and adjacent to the East River. Since then the two organizations have developed on the site a large scale supermarket, Pathmark, and five residential sites containing over 1500 units of affordable housing, including a condominium and a 108 unit HUD financed rental development building for senior citizens, the Two Bridges Helen Harris Senior Residence.
The most recent development, Two Bridges Tower, at 82 Rutgers Street represents the culmination of this twenty-five year collaboration. In the climate of scarce government funding at the time, the two groups, now formed as the TwoBridgeset Associates, LP, had put together six different sources of financing for this building, including New York City capital funds, blended with bank loans and equity from low income housing tax credit investors. A row of small stores have been built adjacent to the tower.
Both the nonprofit developers also realized that besides all the housing and commercial development both were so effective in building on the urban renewal site, social services became a special concern, especially for the needs of formerly homeless families moving into the 80/20 Two Bridges Tower, and for the aging-in population of seniors at the Helen Harris Residence. As a result of this concern, Hamilton-Madison House, one of New York City’s largest social service providers, and a local organization, was sub-contracted to provide social workers in both buildings.
The Two Bridges Tower also includes, in a separate part of the residential tower, space for Hamilton-Madison House’s expanded behavioral health services which it provides to the burgeoning Asian community. It also includes an adult day-care and rehabilitation services sponsored by the Cabrini Nursing Home.
Having achieved all of this, TBNC now seeks to change its mission through a more individualized approach to community development programs that (i) are meant to sustain the current stock of affordable housing it helped to build, (ii) strengthen families and community bonds, and (iii) initiate programs meant to enhance the waterfront for the use and enjoyment of the local community.

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