V/O (Arline Parks): In the seventies, and eighties, the Bronx had all these burnt-out buildings. Landlords burning out these buildings for insurances, because they couldn’t afford to keep them up. Drugs destroyed the neighborhood. The Bronx literally was just a urban blight.
SUPER: Maria Ortiz, Resident, Diego Beekman
V/O (Maria Ortiz): I grew up in this neighborhood, and around the Diego-Beekman Houses. And I was here when it was, everything was just falling apart around us, it was in very bad shape.
SUPER: Consuelo Bacote, Resident, Diego Beekman
Consuelo Bacote: Back then, you would pick up your chair and run
SUPER: Barbara Dolberry, Resident, Diego Beekman
Barbara Dolberry: Exactly… From bullets!... From bullets!
Consuelo Bacote: Seriously. You would not, I mean when they said a rumble you were getting out of the way.
Barbara Dolberry: That’s right.
SUPER: Sonia Taylor, Resident, Diego Beekman
Sonia Taylor: This is our home. We wanted a better quality of life for our children. And the only way that we can do it is to participate. So we did decide to come together in a group.
Consuelo Bacote: And we created Tenants United for Better Living.
SUPER: Arline Parks, Vice Chair and CEO, Diego Beekman Housing Association
Arline Parks: They went and walked these buildings and got people coming to meetings and discussing how to revitalize the neighborhood so that people could safely raise their families here.
Consuelo Bacote: Tenants would come and connect and the children would come and connect, you know, ‘Can I do anything for you? Can I help you?’
SUPER: Maurice Coleman, Community Development Banking, Bank of America
Maurice Coleman: There was a need, and, they decided to stand up and to put their creative thinking caps on, and to figure out how to bring the right partners in to address the need.
Arline Parks: After years of being persistent, we formed a Mutual Housing Association. So we could take ownership of the buildings. We have thirty eight buildings, one thousand two hundred and thirty eight apartment units, and in 2003 we purchased all thirty-eight of these buildings. We needed financing, to fix these buildings up. Because of the history of Diego-Beekman, no financial institution would actually give us any money. Bank of America took the risk.
Maurice Coleman: We’ve been actively involved in every aspect of this development. From financing to helping to select property management, you name it we’ve been involved here. This project serves as a catalyst for change, for so many communities to come.
Maria Ortiz: From the way it was, to the way it is now? Wow. Night and day.
SUPER: Damaris Esquilin, Resident, Diego Beekman Housing
Damaris Esquilin: You feel more safe going outside, we have more stores, we have banks, schools are improving.
Arline Parks: The women in this neighborhood never gave up. They empower themselves to affect their lives.
Maurice Coleman: They are true trailblazers. They represent the true spirit of what this community was about.
Barbara Dolberry: This was where our home was going to be, right here. And we’ve fought to stay here. The Bronx is back.
Consuelo Bacote: It’s back.
Barbara Dolberry: The Bronx is back.