Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mott Haven: Trip #1

The Bronx Experience continues in City Semester. My name is Benjy (but you probably already knew that), and here's what there is to say about week number 3 of City Semester 2016. Fresh off of our experience with the Warriors Vision Quest, we started a new sort of vision quest. Mott Haven is the neighborhood of the South Bronx. Some refer to it as the "Piano District" because of its history of having piano factories. Right away, after getting off of the bus, we were greeted with an interesting opportunity. An opportunity to get a "Brazilian Butt Lift."

Brazilian Butt Lift Billboard

It was a very interesting offer... But seeing as how we had business to attend to, we passed on it. We started off visiting an old factory, so one group could present on Mott Haven's history. Prior to the trip, we were broken up into 6 groups, and we were each given one specific part of Mott Haven to research. From its history, to community projects, to gentrification, we had a lot of grounds to cover. Unfortunately, not every group got to present this time, but we will be returning there soon, so those groups will present then. Anyway, we learned about Mott Haven's history with pianos, and why it is sometimes referred to as the "Piano District." We later stopped by a restaurant that I believe was called "Charlie's." There, another group presented. An interesting topic they brought up was how not everyone in the neighborhood could afford going to that restaurant, but other richer people from other neighborhoods often came in to that restaurant. From there, we walked to some public housing locations, and another group talked to us about public housing. From there, we walked to Brook Park. There, we met Harry Bubbins. He talked to us about the park, and how it was funded, taken care of, and the Friends of Brook Park organization that he belonged to. He also gave us a sample of their own hot pepper sauce, and honey. One was very hot, the other was sweet and delicious. You can likely tell which is which. We did an activity where we sketched out the biomes and plants of the park for Mr Waldman's science class.

Rough Sketch of Brook Park plants, part of Mr. Waldman's activity for us there

After Brook Park, we went to a restaurant called "La Morada." A restaurant that was famous for a dish known as "mole." I tried it, and it was very delicious. The spanish speaking students talked a bit with a lady at the restaurant, Natalia. She told us about how she and her husband came from Oaxaca, Mexico, and how they ended up at the restaurant. As we were leaving the restaurant, we met with Michael Johnson, head of South Bronx Unite. He took us down to the waterfront to talk to us a little bit more about gentrification, and how several corporations, such as FreshDirect, are trying to use the neighborhood for projects. It was very fascinating, and very much worth talking about. Unfortunately, at that time, it had started raining very hard. We were all getting incredibly wet at that point. But regardless, after that, it was time to go. We had to make it back to school in time for our history and english classes, as this was not a full day trip. We returned. Our first trip to Mott Haven was a great time, and I am definitely looking forward to going back later! Week 3 was also supposed to be the start of Unit 2, "Immigrant Metropolis." But the true start of it felt like the week after. Mott Haven was great, regardless, and I look forward to whatever else we will be doing there.

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