Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Timing is Every Thing

Written by
Eliezer Rodriguez, Esq.

Association Executive Officer, Bronx Manhattan North Association of REALTORS® (BMNAR)

NAR’s Placemaking Micro-grant could not have come at a better time.  Last September, Kathy Zamechansky was sworn in as the 57th President to lead BMNAR’s Board of Governors.  At her first Executive Board meeting, Kathy emphasized working more with the community and building on the Borough President’s theme of “The New Bronx” by taking something old and making it new.

Hearing Kathy talk about the borough we both love, The Bronx, gave me the motivation I needed to pursue an NAR Placemaking Micro-grant.  And I was supported by Kathy: “REALTORS® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them.  Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities. It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better. This grant will allow us to address areas in our community that are in need of improvement or redevelopment and create a place where friends and neighbors can come together.”

It was now time to put a placemaking project plan into motion and start making a list of strong community stakeholders who might be interested in working with us.  As timing would have it, I happened to read an article that William Rivera was elected as the new Chairman of Bronx Community Board 9.  I remember thinking: “I found my first stakeholder.”

I had the pleasure of meeting William several years ago when he was the campaign manager in a successful race to elect Luis R. Sepulveda to the New York State Assembly.   Assemblyman Sepulveda is now serving his second term representing the 87th Assembly District in The Bronx.  William and I have had numerous conversations about the condition of certain areas in the communities he represents and how he wanted to upgrade those conditions if funding was available. My conversations with William convinced me that I have a friend who is willing to help transform BMNAR into a stronger voice and presence throughout the communities we serve.

I got on the phone and called William to congratulate him and he immediately reminded me that his community needs help.  Within two weeks of our call, an area was selected and a plan was put into action.   BMNAR then applied for NAR’s Placemaking Micro-Grant to create a community mural adjacent to the new Morrison Avenue Plaza Project.  This Plaza will be the first of its kind in The Bronx.  This type of plaza, mostly only seen in Manhattan, transforms underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces that promote community engagement, cultural activities, and economic vibrancy.

The mural, which will give people visiting the plaza a touch of local art, will be painted on the side of a building across the street from the plaza.  A famous artist from the neighborhood will lead the project and the mural will reflect the culture and history of the Soundview neighborhood.  As soon as the weather gets better, the artists will go to work and the transformation will begin.

William also introduced our plan to Bronx Community Board 9 and they voted to become stakeholders.  Without hesitation, William pitched the grant to others and added to the list of stakeholders to include: Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.; Bronx Community Board 9; Youth Ministries of Peace & Justice; NYC DOT Plaza Program; Councilmember Annabel Palma; Assemblyman Marcos Crespo; Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.; and Congressman Jose Serrano.

BMNAR has now begun forming new partnerships with these groups and individuals to turn something old into something new.  My message to those in our community who see themselves as a recognized leader in bringing about improvements to your community is that you need to have my information on speed dial.

And…you have not heard the last of William and me as he has other unmet needs in our community.  $2,200-- not bad, huh?  Hip, hip…!

Graffiti Initiative


Community Outreach Programs

Housing Opportunity Grant
Housing Opportunity Grants support state and local REALTOR® Associations’ affordable housing activities. The goal of the program is to position REALTORS® as leaders in improving their communities by creating affordable housing

Smart Growth Grant
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. The Smart Growth Program offers state and local REALTOR® Associations to way to engage with government officials, community partners and the general public in planning and designing community’s future.

Planned diversity initiatives makes good business sense. REALTOR® Associations with well-planned diversity programs create a stronger sense of community, particularly in neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreign-born and minority residents who are moving up the socioeconomic ladder and are buying homes.

NAR Placemaking Resources

Placemaking Guide: A Guide to Transform a Public Space into a Community Place
REALTORS® and state and local association staff can learn the details of Placemaking, the kinds of projects placemaking entails, how to organize them, and where to go for assistance and resources.

Placemaking Webinar Series
Our Placemaking Webinar Series will provide more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® were involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Placemaking Grant
The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces, like pocket parks, trails & gardens, in a community. The grant focuses on “lighter, cheaper, quicker” placemaking projects, which can be built under a year and cost less  than $200,000.

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Smart Growth

The healthier a community, the better the environment for REALTORS®. Keeping a community attractive, livable and functioning well is a complex task.