In the course of reporting on this
process, I have identified some key strategies and crucial moments that
made the formation of the Bronx River Alliance possible. They are:
• The original URP
This provided the initial impetus to start the Working Group and the
resources to stregthen the group and build momentum.
• The presence of a
The coordinator helped different groups to see the commonalities between
them, to help set goals and move the project forward, and to channel and
focus available resources.
• Strong community
The upsurge of interest that came from people and organizations that lived
and worked near the river provided and continues to provide the passion and
long-term vision that sustains the work.
• Creation of an
As the Working Group grew, creating a structure that did not leave
interested partners out was crucial. By designing a team structure and
allowing interested partners to be involved where it made sense to them,
the working group opened opportunities for organizations to be involved
where they might not otherwise be.
• Coordinated vision
The ability of the community to come together around a vision for the river
made it much more difficult for elected officials and relevant agencies to
ignore the work and energy that was building around this project.
• Money for regrants
The relative freedom provided in spending some of the large grants allowed
the coordinator and the Working Group to build collaboration into the
regranting process. Money for regrants also allowed the Working Group to
distribute resources according to their priorities rather than relying on
someone from outside of the community to do it.
• Buy-in from
Recognition from elected officials of the work being done on the Bronx
River moved the efforts of those agency workers that were involved from
being small side projects to being work that was mandated from above. This
buy-in also resulted in major funding for the project which pushed it even
more into the limelight.
These helped to raise the profile of the project and gave elected officials
access to photo opportunities, which in turn strengthened their support.
Events also served to draw more attention to the project in the community
and added a sense of celebration, pride and fun to the project. They also provided additional leverage for
attracting new funders, created
more reasons for groups along the river to collaborate, and provided deadlines for cleaning
up the worst blockages and making key physical improvements
• Majority DPR owned
This reduced the number of property owners with which the Working Group had
to deal. Concentrated land ownership allowed the Working Group to target
its work in the initial years on getting DPR to take more responsibility
for the land that had already been "protected" and designated as
• Small successes
with visual impact
These helped to sustain momentum in the community in the face of such a
large project with broad goals and a long-term vision.
A variety of ongoing programs are crucial for creating a structure of
sustained involvement over time.
• An exit strategy
for the coordinator
From the very beginning of the creation of the Bronx River Working Group,
the coordinator's intention was to phase out her role after four years. The
final goal of the creation of an offical organization had not been
determined, but when the decision was made, the exit strategy of the
coordinator was a real and symbolic break with the informal nature of the
past organizing work that had been done.