When The Bronx Was Burning
Christian Community Benevolent Association, Inc:
An Oasis When The Bronx Was Burning
You should know that during the 1970’s -1980’s The Bronx was burning. The Bronx had reached rock bottom becoming the laughing stock of the nation, and that’s an understatement.
Businesses, retailers, banks, factories and other industries fled the Bronx. Buildings burned and the owners abandoned their properties. The Bronx resembled a war torn country. The City of New York in its attempt to remedy the problem of abandoned burned-out properties gave incentives by offering abandoned properties for $1.00 hoping for any takers, no questions asked.
The South Bronx was in such a state of dilapidation that Hollywood took advantage and profited off our misery by using the Bronx as its backdrop to film movies that served as an embarrassment to those of us who remained and called the Bronx home. Movies like “Fort Apache the Bronx” filmed in 1981 and “Bonfires of the Vanities” filmed in 1990.
Some people were scared to visit the Bronx, but that didn’t stop tourists to come and gawk at the burned out sites especially Charlotte Street and Boston Road areas of the South Bronx. These movies made a name for Hollywood Directors and actors, making them richer, but they did little for the Bronx, its reputation, and its residents.
You should know that in the middle of the fires, the decay and devastation, there were courageous men and women who stayed and worked hard to raise the South Bronx. Those individuals deserve mention for their exceptionalism, such as Ramon S. Velez, Father Luis Gigante, Sister Thomas, Michael Nuñez, Gilberto Gerena Valentin, Frank Lugoviña, Dr. Richard Izquierdo, Jose Rivera, Carmen Arroyo, Evelina Antonetti, Belen Dennis, Jose “Joe” Sierra, George Rodriguez, Senator Joe Galiber, Genevive Brooks, Rev. William J. Smith and others.
I had the honor and privilege to have worked with them at times in the task of the reconstruction of the South Bronx by creating jobs, and providing services through programs that would help revitalize the Bronx and help bring it out of the ashes to what it is today.
Revitalization programs like the “Hunts Point Multi-Service Center”, “The South Bronx Community Development Organization”, “ The Mid-Bronx Desperados”, “ The South East Bronx Community Organization (SEBCO), “United Bronx Parents” and others were responsible for the rebuilding of the South Bronx.
That said it is important for you to know that in the midst of this devastating period of the Bronx, I am proud to say that I created the (CCBA), “The Christian Community Benevolent Association” in 1977. Its goal and mission was to provide services to the poor and needy residents of the South Bronx with specific attention paid to the most vulnerable - the sick and elderly - who remained in the Bronx.
CCBA served as the parent organization to programs we created and sponsored. Programs like “Casa Boricua Senior Citizen Center”, “Betances” and “Millbrook Senior Centers”, “The South Bronx Transportation Network”, and we also created “the Christian Community In Action Home Attendant Program.”
During that time of great need in the South Bronx, by the mid 1990’s, CCBA had become among the largest employer in the Bronx. CCBA provided the residents of the South Bronx with much needed jobs and vital services. CCBA employed 1,300 workers, serving more than 5,000 Senior Citizens in Bronx County.
We (CCBA) employed newly arrived immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Haiti, and other countries. The word was out that CCBA was the place to go to for a job, and they came and received a job, moreover they received other services when needed.
You should also know that not only was CCBA the largest employer in the Bronx at that time, CCBA was instrumental in the construction of low income housing which today houses hundreds of low income families. The “Rev. Ruben Diaz Plaza”, has 59 low income apartments.
“Rev. Ruben Diaz Plaza” was made possible because I was influential in getting Gov. George Pataki to allocate nine million dollars toward the project. This project was sponsored by CCBA and constructed by Donald “Don” Cappoccia, an openly gay urban developer, who at the time was just starting his business in New York. Today Don Cappoccia is one of the biggest and most successful, influential developers in New York City.
Through CCBA I was able to create other low income housing units such as “Rev. Ruben Diaz Apartments” in Westchester Avenue and Kelly Street in the Bronx and “Rev. Ruben Diaz Gardens, also in the Bronx.
CCBA and I have also worked arduously not only in the confines of the South Bronx. We have answered the call to help countries like the Dominican Republic, where we provided a much needed ambulance service. In the town of San Pedro de Macoris we provided a sanitation truck, we also provided vans, and buses. This was done through our efforts and grass roots fundraising.
During devastating hurricanes like David in 1979, Hugo in 1989, Mitch and George in 1998, CCBA led a humanitarian relief effort and helped Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela.
We did the same for Puerto Rico in 2017 as a result of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria, CCBA sponsored the largest relief effort in the Bronx. The Bronx Borough President, Fat Joe, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo along side CCBA were able to send thousands of relief aide in funds and supplies to Puerto Rico.
My dear reader Christian Community Benevolent Association has been an oasis in the middle of the Bronx since it was burning.
CCBA proudly created and sponsored programs under contract with The New York City Department for the Aging, and The Department of Human Resources Administration. CCBA relinquished its contracts with those funding entities back in 2009 and 2011. The programs continue under other non-profits, and many of our employees continue to work with other agencies. However, CCBA continues to serve our community in a different capacity.
Today CCBA no longer employs people, and those that benefitted from CCBA and started their business with our help and influence no longer need us nor wish to give credit when credit is due. But the facts cannot be changed, even when young “Johnny Come Lately’s” who were probably not even born yet when the Bronx was burning. Now all they have to offer is mockery, and a cheap attempt to knock us down. But the facts are the facts.
I am Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz and this is what you should know.