52 People for Progress (The Bronx, 1984)

Danny and Mirna at 52 Park in the South Bronx, 1984. Credit Ricky Flores
Note from the editor: In our continued celebration of 50 years of Hip Hop Culture, 206 Zulu News is taking time to look at moments along the timeline of Hip Hop’s evolution, both big and small. Knowing that sometimes small instances can tell the biggest stories, staff writer Camilo Almonacid has taken on the task of looking deeper into those single moments that contain the people, places, politics, and power of day to day life in this vivid and dynamic culture. Using historic photos as prompts, this series aims to expand on these seconds and minutes, drawing out how deep the answer can be to the question, ‘what’s in a moment?’

In these first four installments, Camilo will explore the stories found in the spaces and settings shown in this series of remarkable photographs…

Photo #2: Danny and Mirna at 52 Park (Photographer: Ricky Flores)

When the Bronx was burning in the 1970’s, 52 Park, aka Playground 52, a community managed park located in the Longhorn neighborhood of the BX, became a dangerous place to be, but it wasn’t always that way. 

Birthplace of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in the 1950’s, Longhorn was home to mostly middle class families of European and Jewish descent. The park was originally built as a traditional Robert Moses era playground with a pool and basketball courts.

As the socio-economics shifted and the white flight began, highway construction divided communities.  Some were displaced, some fled to the suburbs, and this abandonment led to an epidemic of arson and insurance scamming.

What city officials of New York City could not accomplish, 52 concerned citizens, 52 community members did when they created the park volunteer organization called, 52 People for Progress Inc.  Lead by the late Al Quiñonez, the collective effort exemplified how 52 people with love for their community, 52 caretakers who wanted to improve their quality of life, removing the syringes, broken glass and the garbage, helping paint, helping clean, could give back to their neighborhood.  52 People for Progress Inc. organized events where children could play, dance, create, dream, deduce the laws of gravity, or sit on a bench and watch the birds—without fear.