July 12, 2017 – The Executive Director of the Bronx Children’s Museum, Carla Precht, enthusiastically announced that “Construction on our long-awaited Museum facility will begin this summer under the supervision of the NYC Department of Design and Construction. To mark this historic and joyous occasion, we were proud to host a public Groundbreaking Ceremony on Wednesday, July 12. ” The ceremony was co-organized by NYC Parks, the owner of the site, and NYC’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), which is developing the site, located at 1 E. 150th St. (725 Exterior St.) in Mill Pond Park. “This is our first major milestone and we are ecstatic!” said Precht.
“We are beyond grateful and excited that the construction of our City-owned site can now begin,” said Board President Hope Harley. “When I, along with other community members, learned a decade ago that the Bronx was the only New York City borough without a children’s museum, we were stunned. Children’s museums are valued as safe, fun, educational places where youngsters, regardless of economic status, physical ability or learning style, can play, be inspired, dream, and create in a place that reflects and takes pride in the diverse cultures, natural resources, and unique history of the Bronx. I’m proud that we have already created a new kind of museum ‘without walls’ where we see more than 15,000 children a year but I am even more thrilled and satisfied to finally have a permanent home for our children to call their own. The Museum will always operate with and without walls–and we are thrilled that we will have our walls by the end of 2018!”
“Collectively,” Precht said, “The Borough, City, and State have allocated nearly $16 million dollars in capital funding to make our dream a reality. This is truly revolutionary when you consider that the Bronx is the only borough in the City that has been without a children’s museum facility. We could not have come this far in the last ten years without the steady and dogged dedication of all our partners, including the children themselves. In addition to the capital funding we have raised with the support of our City partners, the Museum has received almost $3 million in private funds for its exhibits from anchor committed funders like the Ford Foundation, The Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, Con Edison, and the Frederick P. & Sandra P. Rose Foundation. New York State, under the leadership of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the Bronx State Assembly Delegation, and Assemblymembers Jeffrey Dinowitz and Latoya Joyner, has also supported the Museum by allocating $4 million dollars toward the project.
Precht continues, “The building we are renovating was the Powerhouse for the Bronx’s original terminal market at the turn of the century. With four turrets, it looks like a castle and is located just south of Yankee Stadium, along the Harlem River. It is now a historic site with LEED certification and currently houses offices for NYC Parks as well as Stadium Tennis Center facilities, including a café that will be available to Museum visitors. Children and their caregivers will also be able to use Mill Pond Park, in which the building stands, as an extension of the Museum. The opening of our museum space, designed by O’Neill McVoy Architects, is now clearly in sight in 2018.”
The event entailed a ceremony at which time Hope Harley, the Museum’s first and only Board President, spoke, as did Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYS Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, NYS Assembly Member Latoya Joyner, NYC Council Member Vanessa Gibson, and Sonia Manzano, formerly “Maria” of Sesame Street. A proclamation from Governor Cuomo’s office was also read and displayed throughout the ceremony. After the speeches, elected officials and Museum staff and board members dug in the symbolic shovels alongside the Acting Commissioner of the NYC Department of Design and Construction Ana Barrio, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, and DCLA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl.
At the end of the ceremony, Carla Precht made a surprising announcement: BCM Board Member Richard Abrons (through the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation and the Iris and Richard Abrons Foundation) recently pledged $1 million toward the Museum’s exhibits and reserve fund. “It is so beneficial to engage, inspire and encourage children at a young age,” said Abrons. “This is what the Bronx Children’s Museum offers to the 250,000 young children of the Bronx. It gives me great pleasure to support that initiative.”
After receiving this amazing news, guests at the Groundbreaking were treated to a special performance by ¡Retumba!, a Bronx-based Afro-Cuban music and dance troupe that has been working with the Museum for seven years. Guests also had the opportunity to view an architectural model and rendering of the exhibit spaces, and to tour the new space during a reception that featured goody bags for guests, a hands-on microscope station, and a beaver-topped dulce de leche cake, made by one of the Museum’s Educators.
“It will be a historic event for Bronx children past, present, and the future,” said Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. “This Bronx Children’s Museum facility was one of the first capital projects I supported when I began as the Borough President and I am ecstatic to see it is now getting off the ground. The children of the Bronx deserve their own children’s museum. The Groundbreaking is a monumental step forward for the Bronx and I am proud to have been a catalyst.”
“The Bronx Children’s Museum has served this borough and it’s children for years as a museum without walls. It’s an honor to celebrate today’s groundbreaking and begin construction on the museum’s new home. Investing in this cultural institution will give our children access to diverse experiences and uplift the beauty, art and culture in the Bronx. The New York State Assembly is proud to continue to support and partner with the Bronx Children’s Museum,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“Breaking ground on the Bronx Children’s Museum is the culmination of a dream several years in the making, and one that will bring increased cultural awareness to the hundreds of thousands of youth that call the borough home,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Over the last decade, the City Council has allocated more than $5.3 million toward the realization of this project, and it is thrilling to see it begin to take physical shape today. As the Council Member representing the museum’s district, and in my capacity as Speaker, I am proud to be a sponsor and supporter of this essential addition to the community.”
“I am so excited to be here for the groundbreaking of the Bronx Children’s Museum’s new location in Mill Pond Park. The Bronx Children’s Museum has served as a vital resource for Bronx children interested in learning and developing for over a decade and will now be able to more greatly fulfill that goal. The Bronx community is well served having such a vital resource for our children and we should continue to advocate and fight for that resource just as we must advocate for our children and their education. I am so pleased that the Bronx Assembly Delegation including Speaker Carl Heastie, was able to secure millions of dollars in funding to help make this great day possible,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
“The creation of the first ever Children’s Museum in the history of the Bronx is an important milestone in our ongoing effort to expand educational opportunities that engage local families, inspire young minds, and build upon the strengths that our community has to offer,” Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD) said. “The $4 million commitment that my Assembly colleagues and I won with the support of Speaker Carl E. Heastie is an invaluable investment in the future of children throughout our borough. It will also serve to enhance recreational and economic opportunities for tourists and residents alike.”
NYC Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson has supported the Museum’s mission for more than ten years. “Today, we ensure that our Bronx children will have their own Museum that allows them the unique opportunity to dream big, express themselves and aspire to be whatever they want to be. I am beyond thrilled that today we celebrate the culmination of a long journey of hard work and labor of love to open the doors of the first ever Bronx Children’s Museum. This project is necessary to the cultural fabric and diversity of our great Borough and is long overdue. I am so proud to have been a big champion for our children and all their possibilities and greatest potential through this monumental project. I am grateful for the incredible commitment and partnership of all our stakeholders, elected officials, public partners, private partners, the Board of Directors, Board Chair Hope Harley and especially our Executive Director, Carla Precht for their tireless efforts, consistency and belief in the mission and vision of the Bronx Children’s Museum. Today is a great day for the Bronx and the future of our children.”
“Working from their now-famous school bus, the Bronx Children’s Museum has become a valuable resource for cultural and environmental education for families from across the Bronx and beyond,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “The City is proud to support this exciting project to give the Museum a permanent home, where their partnerships with local schools and community groups can grow to bring the transformative benefits of the arts and culture to even more young New Yorkers for generations to come.”
“Enriching the lives of children is one of our top priorities,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “We could not be more thrilled to partner with this inspiring place of learning. Just like our many parks, this museum will cultivate curiosity and creativity in kids across the city.”
“We’re pleased to be working with our partners at the Parks Department and in the Department of Cultural Affairs to finally bring a children’s museum to the Bronx,” said DDC Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio. “The Bronx Children’s Museum will be a hub of learning and community development, where families can bring their kids to engage in safe and fun educational experiences in a space tailored to high standards of sustainability and active design.”
Sonia Manzano, (formerly “Maria” of Sesame Street) has been among the Museum’s earliest and most loyal supporters. “I have been involved with the Museum for close to a decade,” she said. “I was raised in the South Bronx and so I am well aware of the need for a museum to serve the children of that community. There are more than a quarter of a million children under the age of nine living in the Bronx, and almost half of those children are living under the poverty level, making the need for a museum vital. Today is an important step in making this dream a reality.”
Sunny Hostin, BCM Board Member and host of TV’s The View, has been waiting for years for her home borough to have its own space for children. “I became a part of the Museum because I believe in the inherent capability of every child to achieve his or her dreams. Children only need that one inspiration, that one life-changing experience, or that one person who believes in them to move them in the right direction toward success. Now with its own space, the Bronx Children’s Museum can be that inspiration for so many children.”
“This is a joyous occasion for the children of the Bronx and the entire city of New York that will soon be able to explore this new remarkable institution,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, a major funder. “We are pleased to see this inspiring vision become a reality and are grateful for the outstanding leadership and dedication of Carla, Hope, and the Bronx Children’s Museum team for their unwavering commitment.”
Bronx native Kerry Washington, who was honored at the Museum’s first Gala last month, shared, “I know how vital it is to provide kids with places that inspire them to think, create, and dream. The Museum says to our children of the Bronx: we matter, your own community matters, this place that you call home matters and because of that, possibilities are endless and you can go anywhere and be excited about who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.”
Dr. Joan Kong, Principal of P.S. 11, has worked with the Museum for four years. “Over the years, our school has had many partnerships with cultural institutions. Rarely has an institution worked as hard as the Bronx Children’s Museum to ensure that the needs of both teachers and students were met at every moment. If they can provide this high quality programming without walls, I can only imagine what it will be like once they actually have their space. They have set the bar high, but I do not doubt they will continue to meet these high standards in 2018.”
Nicole Perrino, founder of Bronxmama and long-time advisor to the Museum, said: “The Bronx has a rich and vibrant cultural history, yet until now our borough has been without a dedicated children’s museum. Over the past ten years, the museum has grown from a dream to an idea and now to a reality. Every step of the way we’ve made sure to include community input through our forums and outreach. What makes this place unique from all other children’s museums is its focus on celebrating what it means to be from the Bronx. It’s been a long time, but the wait has been worth it!”