There are rumblings of excitement in the Bronx; a potentiality of change spurred on by the low cost of resources in a city so saturated. What, exactly, does the Bronx have to offer? We decided to find out.
On Saturday, May 21st, Breakout explored the Bronx. With the help of some key locals, we lifted up the hood and took a peek at the inner workings of a borough on the brink.
Breakout co-founder Michael Farber led the charge. The group convened at the seat of power in the Bronx, the County Clerk Office at 161st Street and Grand Concourse.
Breakers commiserating over that time-honored NYC tradition, train delays.
We kicked off the day with assemblyman for the 79th District, Michael Blake. Born and raised in the Bronx, Mike worked for President Obama in the White House for seven years, where he coordinated outreach to minority business owners. He moved back to the Bronx to call attention to the world of opportunity he knew was waiting to be discovered.
Like many communities poised for growth, the Bronx is re-imagining how tech and entrepreneurship can play a part in their upward trajectory. However, the Bronx is taking a different path than you may have typically heard. Where many tech companies employ oversees talent due to costs or for lower level tech needs, the Bronx wants to be seen as a local option, especially for those frustrated with communication and time-zone barriers.
Our pal Ryan Brown had such an itch to learn more about the Bronx. He flew up from Nashville!
Rocky Bucano is the Chairman of the future Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM). Rocky was the founder of Strong City Records, and an early pioneer in the Hip Hop movement as a DJ in the 70's and 80's. He's assembled a notable board of Hip Hop pioneers such as Ice T, Kurtis Blow, Tom Silverman (Tommy Boy Records), and KRS-1 among others. The museum's goal will be to preserve the legacy of the birthplace of Hip Hop and to create a much needed beacon to attract visitors to the Bronx.
We toured the Melrose and Mott Haven communities. The South Bronx is one of the poorest districts in the nation, with 38% of the population living under the poverty line. A striking contrast, as many of us took the 4,5,6 train up from Manhattan, a stretch of train that runs through the Upper East Side, one of the wealthiest districts in the world.
We really just liked this picture, but upon deeper thought we realized that pigeons are historically carriers of important messages. That symbolism couldn't have been more fitting for our next visit to Hunts Point.
Majora Carter and James Chase of the Majora Carter Group. Their current projects in the Hunts Point community range from Bronx Tech Meet Up, StartUp Box (a social enterprise that gives South Bronx tech members access to the broader tech community), a free Wifi Corridor, and a Birch Coffee which included investment from locals to help combat gentrification.
A Hunts Point native, Majora first gained critical acclaim for her 2006 TED Talk, "Greening the Ghetto." She later turned her direction to urban economic development to help African American's move out of poverty while creating an ecosystem to stop brain drain.
As a non-chef, Jon Gray is the self-described "dishwasher" of the group of culinary all stars behind Ghetto Gastro, which includes Lester Walker, Pierre Serrao, and Malcom Livingston (Pastry Chef at former world's #1 restaurant Noma). Their world tour has included "Waffles & Models" pop-ups in Milan and the South of France. Their inventiveness, storytelling prowess, and Bronx-flavored flare have created a must-see experience lauded by celebrities and large corporations alike.
Breakout co-founder Graham Cohen being as trendy as only a start-up founder can be, rocking the Breakout hoodie.
School might not be out for Summer just yet, but it's still Saturday.
Our first adventure in the Bronx is over for now, but we're looking forward to a proper City Island seafood feast this summer.