Place in History

The Bronx River / Monroe High School Project

Year: 2003
Project: The Bronx River Project was undertaken in partnership with the Sam Schwartz Company, Groundswell Community Mural Project and the NYC Department of Education to enhance school facilities in collaboration with students. Place in History's work involved teaching Monroe students how to design oral history interviews, how to find resources about neighborhood issues, and how to pull out salient information from this research. The permanent installation of five lexan displays is now featured in the library of the school. Project Director: Rosten Woo

Excerpts from the interviews:

  • Subway Graffiti

    "I remember when I was a little kid, and I was inside the train wondering why I can't see out the window, how come I can't see and I was getting so mad. The train had been painted and the windows were painted over and when we finally got out of the train I was looking at the train and when the doors shut it the whole thing came into focus. It was this huge picture of a lion and it said LION below it and I was so excited it was like the worlds biggest comic book."

    "It was a teacher here at Monroe that encouraged me. She saw what we were doing and really encouraged me to pursue it. She was like, you know, that's really like a kind of sign painting. Graffiti was born here in the Bronx and know it's a global art form. People used to think of it as a crime and now we're hired by people to make signs for them."

    -Nicer, Tats Cru (Monroe High School '74)

  • Bronx River

    "When I was a kid we would swim in the River, hang out there. Over time it got so polluted you couldn't really do that"

    -Edward, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice

    "When I heard that they were going to try to make a park out of the Bronx River. I was like, are you kidding, that's the death river. That's the river where you wade into it wearing jeans and you come out and your jeans are orange. When I saw them actually clean it up, that was really eye-opening for me."

    -David, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice

  • Highways/Expressway

    Many here trace the decline of the South Bronx in the 1960s and 1970s to the construction of two expressways. The Cross-Bronx expressway ran directly through a neighborhood's main drag. The Sheridan expressway divides Hunts Point in two. The Sheridan was never constructed in neighborhoods north of here because of political pressures, but you can still see these pilings where the highway was planned. Today, local community groups are rallying to tear down the Sheridan and convert it into a park.

    "This neighborhood really changed when I was growing up. It used to be primarily white people. But a lot of things changed. When the expressway got put in here and a lot of people moved out of here right when black and Latino families started moving in and a lot of the services declined. Things really changed."

    -Eddie, YMPJ

  • Insurance Fires

    "At that time, there were people who just owned the buildings and they didn't really live here and they found out that they could make more money from insurance by burning their buildings down than by collecting the rent and so they did that. They burned down people's homes for insurance money!"

    -Nicer Tats Cru

    "Have you ever heard that phrase "The Bronx is Burning." It really was. There were huge fires all over. Huge areas were just completely burned down. Filled with rubble. That the Bronx has revived so much is really an amazing testament to the work of community groups and commitment to these neighborhoods."

    -Jerry

  • Local Games

    "You really used to be able to play in the streets around here. There weren't any cars really. And this whole street used to be a park. When I was a kid we used to play hot peas and butter. You know that game? I would hide a belt somewhere in like a 10 block radius and everyone would look for it. When someone found it they would just whale on everybody else with it. Wow, that hurt. But it was a lot of fun!"

    -Eddie, YMPJ

  • Bronx River Houses

    "When I was growing up my parents used to tell me never to go to Bronx River Houses. Even though I had some relatives there. I remember I would sometimes cut through there on the way to school and I would just run the whole way. That's how scared I was! When I grew up I've gotten to know a lot of the people there and I realize how twisted my parents conception of the place was. That place is totally cool! Afrika Bambataa used to live right there; they used to have some amazing concerts there."


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