From South Bronx Classical Charter Schools' LinkedIn account.

Schools and cultural institutions across the Bronx are starting to receive news of their piece of the borough’s $24.6 million capital budget for fiscal year 2023.

Borough President Vanessa Gibson allocated over $14 million — almost 60% of total funds available to her to distribute — for education, mainly new technological equipment for classroom instruction. This amount is a significant increase over FY 2022, when 28% of the capital budget went towards education, although education was top priority for both years.

About $3.3 million will go towards arts institutions, including $2 million for further construction of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, located in a mixed-use waterfront building called Bronx Point.

The Bronx’s $24.6 million is a portion of city capital funds set aside for discretionary use by the borough. Each borough receives these discretionary funds every year. They can be used for any community assets, including construction, vehicles, repairs, and equipment.

From the discretionary funds, local branches of a city agency can make direct requests to the borough president’s office, but the money comes to them through their agency (i.e., the Department of Education handles requests from schools). The borough president chooses which requests receive funding, and not all are selected.

In the South Bronx, four public schools will receive over $500,000 between them. Public Schools 43 in Port Morris, 161 in Woodstock, and 48 in Hunts Point will receive $363,000 combined for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) lab equipment. P.S. 369 in Mott Haven will receive $150,000 for laptops, scanners, printers, document cameras, and carts.

“For far too long, Black and Brown students across our city have suffered as a result of the digital divide that persists in communities of color,” Gibson said in a new release announcing the allocations. “We are telling our youth that the sky is the limit and … we are helping to grant access to life-changing career opportunities.”

Schools will be able to begin ordering their new equipment in November or December, according to the borough president’s budget office.

News of these allocations hasn’t fully spread but will likely be welcomed by schools as they try to recover from pandemic learning loss.

Teacher Glenn McCaleb — “Mr. Mac” to his students – has been an art teacher at P.S. 369 for 15 years. While had not yet heard about the funds allocated for his school, he welcomed the news.  While all students at the school have iPads (a product of the pandemic) and the classrooms have Smart Boards, McCabe said, “We need to be at the same or even better level than our counterparts in the suburbs.”

In addition to schools, $2 million of the budget went to further construction of the Universal Museum of Hip Hop, a cultural organization that also maintains a strong tech and education focus.

The museum offers interactive exhibits — some with virtual reality, artificial intelligence and other technologies — as well as an education center teaching topics such as the business of the music industry. The museum will not be fully completed until 2024, but the “[R]evolution of Hip Hop” exhibit is open now at the Bronx Terminal Market.

Press Spokeswoman Renee Foster says the Hip Hop Museum will be not just a place to view artifacts but a “smart museum of the future.” Foster is pleased with the support from local elected officials and sees the museum becoming a “worldwide destination” when finished.

A final priority in the budget allocations was housing, with $3.4 million allocated to creating 600 new affordable housing units and rehabilitation of existing units in buildings throughout the Bronx.

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