MAKERS Profile

Genevieve S. Brown

Urban Revitalization Pioneer

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Brown on growing up with parents who taught her to "rise above her own circumstance" and how she applied that lesson to revitalize the Bronx.
Genevieve S. Brown has been called “one of the architects of the New Bronx.” She was a driving force behind the urban revitalization that helped rescue the borough from the violence, arson, and blight that made it internationally notorious in the 70s and 80s. Brown grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, raised by parents who, although of modest means, taught her self-esteem and the imperative of helping others.   By the 1960s, Brown was living in Bronx, New York, in a diverse neighborhood of middle-income professionals. In the next decade, however, the area would crumble to drugs and violence and see hundreds of thousands of its residents flee and its housing deteriorate. Determined to not be run out of her own neighborhood, and impatient with landlords and city officials who wouldn’t act, Brown took it upon herself to do something. Going door-to-door, she organized a block association to clean up the streets and started the Seabury Day Care Center. As conditions deteriorated further, and arson became rampant, she brought together a coalition of churches and civic groups to form the Mid-Bronx Desperados (MBD).   At first, “the Desperados,” were simply determined to lobby city agencies for restored services. But within a few years, MBD incorporated as community housing corporation, with Brown as its Executive Director. Working with the city, private developers, and other non-profits, MBD has built or rehabilitated over 2,400 units of low and middle-income housing, and leveraged millions of dollars in commercial reinvestment, job creation and infrastructure renewal in the Bronx. Among its successes is the Charlotte Gardens project, which transformed the very street visited by Presidents Carter and Reagan as a symbol of urban decay, into thriving community of single-family homes.   In 1990, Brown, then Genevieve Brooks, was appointed Deputy Bronx Borough President, the first woman to hold the post. In 2000, she moved back to Anderson, SC, where she became just as involved local community groups, serving on the board of the Westside Community Center, Senior Solution, and the AARP South Carolina Executive Counsel. She has also served on the boards of the Local initiatives Support Corporation, the Bronx Boys and Girls Club, the Committee for New York, The Bronx Council on the Arts, Model City Planning Board, Neighborhood in Action Committee, South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve, Advisory Councils of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac), and Cornel Cooperative Extension System. Brooks has received numerous community service awards which include: Bronx Community College, the National Council of Negro Women, the New York Metropolitan Chapter of the American Planning Association the Network Organization of Bronx Women and the Brooks Russell Astor Award from the New York Public Library and David Rockefeller.

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