The Center for Architecture Foundation joined forces with an impressive list of dignitaries to support the Bronx Children’s Museum’s 5th Annual Dream Big Day at Lehman College on 07.25.14. The event was the culmination of the museum’s summer arts enrichment program for low-income Bronx youth. The nearby High Bridge, New York City’s oldest standing bridge, was the theme of this year’s Dream Big event, which encourages kids to “dream, work hard, follow their passions, and become caretakers of their world.” CFAF Director Catherine Teegarden led a bridge-building workshop at the event where 1st–through 3rd–grade students learned about the structure of the High Bridge and built a 15-foot model, which they presented to event honorees Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actor and author Sonia Manzano (“Maria” from Sesame Street, whose children’s book on the High Bridge will be published in the fall), and NYC Department of Design + Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. Commissioner Peña-Mora, a structural engineer, was delighted to discuss structural concepts of tension and compression with the workshop participants, and fielded questions prompted by the children’s model about how the larger steel arch can span a greater distance than the stone arches, rendered in the model with Chinese take-out containers. The renovation of the High Bridge is due to be completed later this year, and will provide pedestrians and bicyclists with a new quarter-mile of parkland, reconnecting the Highbridge neighborhoods of the Bronx and Manhattan.
The Dream Big event not only highlighted this current city project and the Bronx Children’s Museum’s outreach programs, but was also an opportunity to advocate for a permanent home for the museum, which now serves an impressive 10,000 children per year through its mobile “On the Go Bus” exhibition. “The Bronx is the only borough without a children’s museum,” noted Justice Sotomayor, a Bronx native herself and a steadfast supporter of the Bronx Children’s Museum, founded in 2005. As the city’s poorest borough, she reminded the assembled group that it would significantly benefit from having such a facility to provide hands-on learning experiences for thousands of Bronx families. Commissioner Peña-Mora and NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, who also attended, were thanked in advance for their roles in making this dream a reality. The museum is slated to move into a renovated city-owned building on Parks Department land just south of Yankee Stadium in 2016, where it will open the Kids’ Powerhouse Discovery Center, designed by New Jersey-based Alchemy Studio. The project suffered some lack of momentum as the mayoral administration changed hands, but seems to be back on track and firmly in the sights of the two new commissioners.
Further inspiration to dream big, but not forget where you came from, was provided by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who introduced the other guest speakers, including Bronx native and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he joked with, saying: “Even if you are an expecting grandma, you can dream to be president of the United States – right, Hillary?” The program concluded with Justice Sotomayor inviting the 120 children to join her onstage as she congratulated them for their High Bridge-themed performances and projects, recognizing the support provided by the adults who worked with them, and those who were there to provide inspiration. “Go hug these famous people and tell them thank you!,” she said.