Places that Matter

The Point Community Development Corporation

Mural, Martha Cooper
Mural, Martha Cooper
A cultural center in the South Bronx
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The Point CDC is a community-based organization that uses the arts to organize for comprehensive revitalization, and social and economic justice in its local area.

The Point Community Development Corporation was founded in 1994 by Bronx residents Maria Torres, Paul Lipson, Steven Sapp, and Mildred Ruiz. All had worked at a local settlement house, Seneca House, where they gained an appreciation for applying the arts to youth work and community development. With their new endeavor, The Point's founders hoped to stimulate culture and enterprise in the Bronx in collaboration with local artists and entrepreneurs. The population in the surrounding Hunts Point and nearby neighborhoods had suffered greatly in the "urban crisis" years of the 1960s through 1980s (bad times lasted longer in the South Bronx than in other parts of the city), and the foursome planned to use the arts to revitalize and rebuild their local community. Rather than just offer social services that addressed symptoms of socio-economic disadvantage, The Point offered a rich array of arts, environmental, and business-oriented programming to the area’s youth.

The Point is located in a mixed residential and industrial neighborhood that is bisected by the Bruckner Expressway. At one time, this was one of the most thriving commercial areas in the Bronx. Located nearby is the Hunts Point Terminal Market, built in the 1960s, which is still the largest produce market in the United States. In the early years of the 20th century, the local population was largely of Eastern European Jewish, German, and Irish descent, which after the 1950s became increasingly African American and Latino.

By the time The Point was established, much of the housing that had been abandoned and burnt during the crisis years had been rebuilt. (The area didn't regain all the units that it lost, but at least the empty, rubble-strewn, and dangerous lots were gone.) Community-based groups like The Point had, by necessity, played a large part in that renewal process. For far too long, the private and public sectors had done little to repair the damage that had been done to the physical and human landscapes of Hunts Point and neighborhoods like it around the city. By the 1990s, those still living in the area had homes, but there were few jobs nearby and very little in the way of commercial or financial services in the area. "You couldn't even find a bank," Executive Director Paul Lipson told us, "and you can't create any kind of quality of without a functioning local economy." Lipson and his colleagues set out to use the arts to stimulate economic activity. "We really felt there was a need for a creative sector to take hold. There are a lot of creative people here already, so that’s why we did this."

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