MIT 4.213J/11.308J Urban Nature and City Design









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 grant
This provided the initial impetus to start the Working Group and the resources to stregthen the group and build momentum.

•  The presence of a coordinator
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 interest
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 inclusive structure
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 elected officials
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.

•  Noteworthy river-wide events
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 land
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 parkland.

•  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.

•  Programming
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.