New life being brought to Tremont Park

New life brought to Tremont Park

by Allen Devlin

The field where the Bronx Borough Hall once stood has been vacant for 49 years. Photo credit: Allen Devlin

Community Leaders in Tremont are moving down a long-treaded path, trying to find the right use for an underdeveloped piece of historic land: the Old Borough Hall site in Tremont Park.

They have opened up the site to private development, asking for those who are interested in the space to put their ideas forward.

The hall was demolished in 1960s and the property has been vacant since.

“I had a vision for reimagining the site of the Old Borough Hall,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres, who represents the Tremont area in October of 2017.

The possibilities for the site could include recreational facilities and programs, eating and drinking establishments, festivals and performances, amusements, markets and fairs, and public art.


The community board wanted to construct an indoor recreation center and requested funding last fall from the Parks Department. Currently, the closest indoor recreation center is the West Bronx Recreation center, a 33-minute walk from Tremont Park. There is also a Boys and Girls Club in Belmont, a 22-minute walk. Sanchez believes expecting kids to make the trek into a different and perhaps unfamiliar neighborhoods, is unacceptable. But last October, the Parks Department denied the funding request for an indoor recreation center, citing “insufficient funds.”

Torres, alongside John Sanchez, district manager of Community Board 6 and the community board, didn’t want to see the land stay vacant. He approached the Parks Department Commissioner and requested that they begin accepting third party and private sector ideas for the space. The Parks Department agreed and moved forward with the Request for Expression of Interest process. They issued the request in October 2017 for the northwestern corner of Tremont Park near East Tremont and Third Avenue. The Request for Expression of Interest process is a precursor to the more formal Request for Proposal process, and is only the most recent development in what has been a 49-year struggle.

The property has a grand past, the former site of the Bronx Borough Hall, a building which originally acted as the administrative headquarters for the Bronx borough president and other civic leaders. Constructed in 1897 by George B. Post, the same man who designed the New York Stock Exchange, the hall stood for 72 years. Following talks of demolishing the hall in the early 1960s, on September 21, 1965, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission held a widely unpopular public hearing to potentially designate the building as an historic landmark.

The Grand Staircase that connects Tremont Park to 3rd Avenue below is all that remains from the original construction of Bronx Borough Hall. Photo credit: Allen Devlin

After vigorous debate, in October 1965, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Bronx Borough Hall as the 23rd Landmark in New York City, and the first landmark in the Bronx.

Just one year later, 1966, the board overturned the Landmarks Preservation Commissions’ designation because the building was structurally unsafe.. The building was demolished three years later, and community leaders began the process of deciding what to do with the property. Now, 49 years later, the only thing that occupies the land is the lightly trampled grass that has grown over the last half century and the occasional food wrapper that didn’t make it to the nearest trash can.

“I don’t think it’s an issue of money not being there, you can’t say that money hasn’t been there for nearly 50 years,” said Sanchez. “I think as administrations come and go, it hasn’t been a focal point when it comes to capital projects.”

Sanchez wants that to change. Developing the property is his number one priority, he said.

“We’re hearing about jails being brought to the Bronx, why can’t we bring something a little more positive?” said Sanchez.

The Parks Department is accepting Request for Expression of Interest and will be reviewing the submissions with the board.

There is still a possibility the site will be occupied by an indoor recreation center.

“It’s like a blank canvas. Every time I walk through it, when you go through Tremont Park and you go up the steps it’s like an invisible barrier and people don’t want to go to that part of the park,” said Sanchez.

“It would be a travesty if we had to wait another 50 years to see something at that site.”