Vol. 11, No. 18 Sept. 24 - Oct. 7, 1998


Soldier Comes Home to Join Armory Battle


A former military commander and Bronx native son returned to his home borough last Saturday to respond to a growing community chorus pushing for the rehabilitation of the Kingsbridge Armory.

James McDonough, a former colonel and Vietnam veteran who is the director of strategy for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), addressed the Fordham Bedford Community Coalition's (FBCC) annual meeting at Fordham Methodist Church. FBCC is a neighborhood affiliate of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC).

Residents sought a meeting with McDonough, because the ONDCP -- through its regional offices -- has been helping to retool other armories for youth programs. Earlier this year, the New York/New Jersey HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) -- ONDCP's regional affiliate -- contributed $400,000 towards the transformation of the East 168th Street Armory in Manhattan, and coordinated the effort to enlist youth service providers to set up shop there.

The NWBCCC is presently collaboration with Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to develop a plan to renovate and reconfigure the armory for schools and youth programs.

ONDCP, which is popularly known as the federal drug czar's office, is increasing emphasizing "demand reduction" initiatives, or programs that keep kids off the streets and away from drugs.

McDonough, who toured the armory before the meeting with represenatives of NWBCCC, appeared energized and pleased to be back home. Stepping down from the platform to talk directly to the audience, he praised the Bronx "values that made me [and led to my] commitment to family and commitment to country." He told the group that of the 4,000 communities nationwide that invite him to visit "this is the one that I wanted to come see."

McDonough led off his address by stating, "I don't come here with a bag of money. I do come here to help organize and help you get the money to do what you do."

Committing his office and that of the HIDTA director, Chauncy Parker, who was also present, to help the group develop their concept and find the money they need to get the job done, McDonough listed available government resources the group could go after. They included the Drug Free Communities Act, under which each affiliate of an organization (the NWBCCC has 10 neighborhood affiliates) can apply for a grant, and the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act, a program administered by the federal Education Department.

To get the schools money, McDonough said, "I have to go to guys like [Education Secretary Richard] Riley [and say] I think you ought to support them." Asked by the audience if he would do this, Reilly said he would, adding, "We'll see what we can do to support and organization that's working." The crowd cheered. They were also pleased to hear that Parker of HIDTA volunteered to meet with NWBCCC leaders within two weeks, rather than the requested 90 days.
Though impressed by McDonough's appearance, residents said it was only a baby step towards realizing their goal of making the decaying landmark work again for the community.

"We got him here," said Fordham Bedford resident Raquel Colon. "Now we need to follow up. Our job has just begun."

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