The South Bronx has gained a new place for families and the community as a whole to gather, share meals, network, and support each other. The new Family Enrichment Center at 109 Bruckner Boulevard held its grand opening last Saturday. The constant rain didn’t keep away a crowd of staff and supporters excited about how the new center, officially called Bronx H.Y.P.E. (“Help Y(Our) People Evolve”) can benefit South Bronxites of all ages. 

While the center is funded by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, staff are not required to collect names or report any cases to the agency. 

For the opening, Bronx H.Y.P.E. staff greeted visitors in their brand new kitchenette in the 109 building, where a pop-up cart called The Rolling Roast served coffee and smoothies. From there, staff ushered visitors next door to the 111 building, where a DJ played pop music and everyone gathered for lunch and mingling. 

Since Herald staff first visited the center in early March, director Amanda Perez said they quickly outgrew that space and relocated to a much larger office, Studio 203 at 111 Bruckner. The airy room has couches, a large TV, work tables, coffee and tea station, bookshelf, board games, and merchandise set up in a welcoming way that is meant to feel like home.

Staff have been busy serving the community while construction in the 109 building has been ongoing. They’ve held a pop-up food pantry, a weekly men’s group, bi-weekly free community dinners catered by Empanaology, and more. 

“Our offerings were getting really packed,” Perez said. She explained that the larger space, in addition to accommodating more Bronx H.Y.P.E. visitors, will also allow for other community groups to hold meetings and events without paying a fee.

The center will continue to adapt to the needs of the neighborhood. “Whatever you want it to be, that’s what it’s gonna be,” said Julian Diaz, who works as a community liaison for Bronx H.Y.P.E.

Renderings of the still-expanding center

The center still has some way to go before it can fully live out its mission. After construction is completed, downstairs from the new kitchen will be a meeting room, workspace, lounge, and other shared space. Staff hope it will be finished by the fall. 

All this new space will continue to bring together all ages and types of people who live and/or work in the neighborhood. Dr. Melissa Barber, who serves on the center’s Parent Advisory Committee, explained that Bronx H.Y.P.E.’s location and shifting demographics are a huge asset in terms of knowledge and expertise. 

Dr. Melissa Barber reveals the center’s new name, which was chosen by community vote

“The special sauce that we put in it is that not only are we getting what I’d call the old and seasoned neighbors that have been in the South Bronx, we also now have new people that are coming up,” Barber said. 

Perez and her staff and supporters are proud of what they have built. “We set the bar high because this is what Mott Haven and Melrose deserve,” she said.

Bronx H.Y.P.E. is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Anyone can drop in to meet people, learn about center offerings, or just get work done. Check their Instagram (@southbronx.fec) to stay updated on programming.

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By Emily Swanson

Emily had long careers as an English teacher and restaurant chef before starting a career in journalism. She was previously an intern for THE CITY and will be reporting for the Bronx Times this summer. She lives in Harlem and enjoys listening to public radio, music, and podcasts, exploring the city, and bartending at the Bronx Brewery. On Twitter and IG @em_and_magpie.