YONKERS, N.Y. – A local nonprofit is hoping to turn a dilapidated former school building into a neighborhood school and day care center that will be an anchor institution for southwest Yonkers.
The Yonkers-based Community Governance and Development Council submitted its proposal for the Jackson Street building to the city Wednesday.
“Our primary thing is we want to create an anchor institution, a bedrock for community,” said 25-year-old LaMont OyeWale' Badru, the community group's executive director. “We want it to be a hub for folks to come to.”
Last month, city officials released a Request for Proposal for the acquisition and redevelopment of former School 19, a 97-year-old building that has been abandoned for more than a decade.
But Badru and his council were brainstorming ideas for the dilapidated structure long before that.
Badru said the vision for a community center was born while he was still a student at Lehman College. As part of this senior thesis, Badru created a community development strategy and, after leaving school, began to look for ways to implement his strategy.
He found that School 19 was the perfect place to begin.
“I grew up across the street from School 19,” he said. “We used to play in the abandoned lot. So we said it would be great if we could acquire it from city and come up with a plan to develop it into an anchor institution for southwest Yonkers.”
Shortly after its inception in November, Badru's community group teamed up with Meridian Design , a Manhattan-based Architecture and Placemaking firm, to develop a plan.
The final draft submitted to the city Wednesday includes a four-level facility with a neighborhood school, day care center, a community hall and fitness center, multimedia library, study center and community arts space.
The proposal also includes plans for a solar greenhouse, new playground and basketball courts.
While the CGDC is a relatively new operation, Badru feels it works to their advantage that it is made up of young professionals who are familiar with the community.
“This is a project that is led by folks that are indigenous to southwest Yonkers, folks that are in touch with the needs of the immediate community,” he said.
And what the neighborhood needs, he said, is a community space.
“School 19 is a facility that has infinite potential, but it is up to us to tap into it and come up with a plan for it and then take action to mobilize the community to implement those plans,” Badru said.
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