For the past 15 years Henry Weinstein, the owner of the landmark Beaux-Arts Old Bronx Borough Courthouse in Melrose, has been searching for the right tenant. Deals have come and gone but none stuck but after 2 years of negotiations, he told Welcome2TheBronx, the building is set to re-open in late Summer 2018 as a charter school.
Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts has signed a 20 year lease for the entire property at 161st Street and Third Avenue where the borough of The Bronx was born in 1914 as the 62nd County of New York State as the mainland officially split with New York County aka Manhattan.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the deal was made possible thanks to a large contribution by John Paulson, a billionaire hedge funder and philanthropist.
“Forty years ago, this building housed prisoners waiting for trial,” Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, said in a statement. “That space will be transformed into beautiful, modern classrooms and a historic house of learning. Success is quite literally transforming the school-to-prison pipeline to a school-to-college-and-prosperity pipeline.” posted Curbed.
In 2015 the art organization No Longer Empty, which creates art installations in vacant or underutilized spaces that speaks on community histories and issues held their 3 month residency at the space bringing thousands of community members and youth through the doors of the landmark building for the first time in since its closing in 1977.
The transformation of the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse is the one of the last pieces of the puzzle in the urban revitalization set forward by Nos Quedamos in Melrose as WHEDco’s Bronx Music Heritage Center is rising just 2 blocks away on the last large remaining track of land in the Melrose Commons area of the neighborhood.
We Stay/Nos Quedamos fought hard to acquire the property in the 1990s but in typical former Mayor Rudy Giuliani petty fashion, his administration instead chose to sell the property off at a city auction to spite then Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer with the organization—and The Bronx ending up the ultimate losers.
Although many in the community would have much rather seen the building turned into something that the entire community could utilize, at the very least it will no longer be a derelict, vacant monument to government failure and neglect and will instead serve to as an institution of teaching rather than incarcerating our youth.