Our organizational philosophy revolves around our history and our perspective. Banana Kelly is only possible due to the fact that residents who were part of one of the most dramatic urban debacles of American history, were unrelenting in their fight to save their neighborhood — this despite the general consensus from outside the community that there was no future for the South Bronx, at least not for those who lived there. Given this history, where local residents built this organization from nothing, we are compelled to respect and promote local resident capacity in our ongoing work.
Since our inception, our focus as an organization has been on neighborhood preservation and community development. Although we have done new construction, most of our development has occurred in buildings with residents in place. And even though this means that we took on existing social problems in redevelopment of our projects, it also meant that we were able to preserve not only housing, but also low income tenancies of our community members, while at the same time preventing homelessness and saving all of the financial and social costs associated with homelessness.
Consistent with our philosophy, our particular programmatic approach is framed by our belief that local institutions are the vehicles through which a community’s agenda is accomplished, and our definition of community (and community building efforts) seeks not only to highlight commonality, but also to foster interdependence (through mutual aid, support and cooperation) and collective capacity. We do this through constantly working to create a balance between our housing, our social service and our resident empowerment programs.
Our current programs are described in detail elsewhere, but one of the areas that we are most proud of is our Residents Council, which has been a sustaining force for our organization through difficult times, and has also provided us with a continuing presence at community board, precinct council and other neighborhood bodies. The Residents Council regularly engages in their own grass roots fundraising. This group offers peer counseling and dispute resolution services for residents prior to any issue becoming a Landlord-Tenant issue. The Council sponsors regular social events including holiday parties, local informational forums, and the like. As we believe that a community organization is only healthy if it has a dedicated and vested constituency, we see this component of our organization as one of our greatest strengths.