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October 31, 2002

Velella’s $30,000 Grant Helps Fund Economic Development

by Jon Minners

Thursday, October 24, the North Bronx Westchester Neighborhood Restoration Association (NBWNRA) announced that it received a $30,000 State Legislative Grant from Senator Guy J. Velella to bring economic development needed in community boards 8, 10 and 11.

Representatives from the three community boards were on hand at the offices of Community Board 11, 1741 Colden Avenue, for the special check presentation. The NBWNRA will disperse $10,000 in funding to each board for commercial revitalization projects encompassing graffiti removal, sanitation and greening and the establishment of an Internet-based local business directory.

"I am happy to have brought these three community boards together," said Velella. "Right now, Albany has been passing mandates and not giving out money, but right here, these three boards got their money; money without mandates. I see some good stuff on the horizon for development in the Bronx including biotechnology and the hopefully the annex to the New York Stock Exchange. Maybe in the future, we ought to do more coordinated efforts between the community boards and bring more programs together by sharing costs. I think we are really going down that right path and these grants are a start to a better quality of life in the Bronx with the high prospects for much more to come."

Each community board seemed to prosper from the monetary gift given by the senator. The host organization, CB 11, looking to the long-term, decided to use the money for a website. Through Bronx Mall, CB 11 will be able to keep the community aware of events about to take place in their neighborhood. The site will also help local businesses in the community with a business directory listing along with future plans for website links and more.

"We really wanted to get a website together," said Joe Thompson, chairman of the Economic Development Committee at CB 11. "A lot has already been done for our community and we felt the residents would benefit most if they had a newspaper. Bronx Mall really did a great job putting it together and we feel it will really enhance our commercial businesses."

John Fratta, district manager for CB 11, believed this was the best possible use for the monies given by Velella. "This shows the solid relationship between elected officials like Velella with the community," Fratta said. "He was generous in getting us this money and we had to come up with something to use it for. We could have used it for a number of things, but felt we should use it for something that can last as long as we do, 365 days a year. This site will be a benefit for economic development. A lot of thought went behind it and we feel when other community boards go to www.bxcb11biz.com, they will want a website, too.

CB 11’s neighbors, at Community Board 10, split the money up between three groups. The Westchester Square Merchants Association was given a third of the money to help with sanitation efforts and keeping the streets clean. The Pelham Bay Merchants Association was given money to help efforts in graffiti removal and the City Island Garden Club was given the remainder of the money for new equipment to help continue sprucing up the community through greenery. "The three groups that Board 10 selected are key to the maintenance of our commercial areas," said James Vacca, district manager of CB 10. "When I look at our neighborhood and when I look at what Board 10 has tried to effectuate over our many years, there are few higher priorities than clean streets. Board 10 is in the 96th percentile for cleanliness. We are exceptionally clean and we want to keep it that way. We want to keep it up and this was the right way to allocate the money. We thank Senator Velella for thinking of these groups."

Finally, Community Board 8 has allocated the money to the 50th Precinct for machinery that will help implement graffiti cleanups. The board also allocated money to the Riverdale Community Association to help with landscaping, signage, garbage cans and other endeavors aimed at beautifying their community. "We are thrilled as always by the senator’s generosity," said Grace Belkin, district manager of CB 8. The city is hitting on hard times financially and our community board needed the money. This came at a great time and will help make our community an even more enjoyable place to shop and live."

With the plan set, Velella stated he was proud to help the community boards achieve their goals. "Viable commercial districts are not only essential to the people who live in the community, but also to the proliferation and survival of small businesses," he said. "Continued reductions and cutbacks in the city budget leave community boards struggling to provide the necessary services to foster economic development. I will continue to build on my commitment to invest state funds for commercial revitalization. We can’t afford not to."


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