BOOM!Health, a Bronx-based organization that is dedicated in transforming lives through health and wellness has signed a 25 year lease (with an option to purchase), taking over Brook House Furniture in the Melrose neighborhood of the borough. Once the renovations are complete, the building will also house The Bronx LGBTQ Center and BOOM!Cafe.
The organization is a result of a merger that occurred in 2013 between CitiWide Harm Reduction and Bronx AIDS Services and provides a wide umbrella of services to those most at risk in our community. Among the many problems that BOOM!Health fights against are: Hunger & Obesity, Homelessness, Poverty, Access to Healthcare, and HIV/AIDS just to name a few.
The caliber and effectiveness of this organization is such that it was one of “…just over 200 (out of 27,000) of the most effective organizations on the front lines of the battle against poverty in NYC…” that received funding by The Robin Hood Foundation, “New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization“. Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt said of The Robin Hood Foundation, “There is literally no foundation, no activity, that is more effective.”
Roberto Cordero, President and Chief Program Officer of BOOM!Health, said the Brook House building will be transformed into an energy-efficient building and will seek LEED certification as well as take advantage of NYSERDA credits for reducing their carbon footprint. Seeking such certification is in line with Melrose and the Melrose Commons area of the neighborhood which is still the ONLY LEED certified neighborhood in all of New York State.
The windows of this building will finally once again be opened up bringing new life to this corner of Melrose.
One of the most exciting aspects of the project that even senior management is thrilled about is the cafe that will open as a part of the new center.
On the ground floor of the building, 1,000 square feet will be dedicated to a cafe that will be operated by the youth who are part of BOOM!Health’s various programs. The cafe will feature fair trade coffee that is sourced straight from the groves of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and perhaps even Jamaica and aims to be an integral part of the community.
BOOM!Cafe will follow the model of Catalyst Kitchens, an organization that, “empowers the lives of individuals facing barriers to employment through comprehensive foodservice and soft skills training, along with targeted job placement and job retention efforts.”
Cordero and Jose M. Davila, BOOM!Health’s President & Chief Administrative Officer both envision this space as a place where the community can gather and are also interested in the possibility of it becoming a cultural spot with poetry readings among the many ideas being thrown around.
The space itself will have windows that slide open and will be able to take advantage of the warm weather by providing outdoor seating as well.
Such a cafe is something that many in the neighborhood have been asking for, particularly since PeaceLove Cafe and Coqui Mexicano closed. Since their closing, thousands of new apartments have opened up with both low and middle income working professionals yet no real community space has opened to compliment both longtime and new residents in Melrose.
The New Bronx LGBTQ Center
Since the former Bronx Community Pride (once located in Melrose on 149th Street) shuttered its doors over 2 years ago, the Bronx LGBTQ community has been without a home or a place to call its own. Thanks to BOOM!Health, once the building is renovated and open for business in January 2015, that will no longer be the case. Although the details aren’t finalized as of right now, the New Bronx LGBTQ Center (which was founded after the original organization disbanded) will be co-located within the organization in a mutually beneficial relationship.
According to Robert Cordero, both organizations have some overlap in the clients they serve but both offer different services that compliment each other and will only enhance the experience for their clients. Members of the LGBTQ community coming to the organization will be able to take advantage of the wide variety of services such as Housing and Peer Development, Legal Services, Wellness Empowerment, Food & Nutrition that BOOM!Health offers.
An often overlooked segment of the LTBTQ population is the transgender community and BOOM!Health, along with the Bronx LGBTQ Center are looking to change that and how that segment of the population receives necessary services. By sharing a physical space, they can provide a “safe space” where these individuals can come and receive the care they may need and are entitled to.
Filling A Gap Along 3rd Avenue
Since the early 2000s, activity along 3rd Avenue has been coming back to life. For decades, the 3rd Avenue corridor between 153rd and 163rd Streets was nothing but a stretch of vacant lots, abandoned buildings and a few businesses here and there.
Now there is only one tiny vacant lot in that stretch as developments, including condominiums, have sprung up in less than a decade.
The new BOOM!Health, once completed, will bring with it over 100 workers to the area from doctors, nurses, pharmacists to support staff and case workers. Employees of the organization were on hand for a tour of the building and everyone was excited about their new location. With their focus on women’s health along with seniors, the LGBTQ community and the youth, this will only help strengthen the neighborhood as it continues its transformation from a place that was torched to the ground to a place where people actually want to move to. Perhaps it will even spur activity at the Old Bronx Courthouse which sits directly across from Brook House.
Cordero stressed that they do not want to just be located in the community but they want to be a part of Melrose and develop partnerships with residents and businesses alike.
We look forward to not only welcoming them to the neighborhood but to also work with BOOM!Health in improving this place we all love and call home.
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