Nearly a decade ago, Steven Smith looked beyond the junk and destruction and saw promise in the Bronx’s Oak Point Property. For many years, the area was a beacon for undesirables and was also a convenient dumping ground for those in the South Bronx to (illegally) get rid of their trash.
At the time, Smith worked for ABB, who intended to use the land to house their newest power plant. However, they eventually decided not to pursue those plans, and Oak Point Property struggled to survive. Since it was dealing with tens of millions of dollars in debt after ABB dropped out of the picture, no one else stepped up to intervene.
Still, Smith looked beyond all the obvious issues to see what no one else could: the site was huge, covering 28 acres of land, which was virtually impossible to find in New York City. He decided to take a chance and quit working for ABB. After emptying out his bank accounts, he found himself stepping up to take charge of Oak Point.
Smith knew that unless someone took action, Oak Point would never be anything but a junkyard. However, it could be so much more, and with his help, it now is. Oak Point is no longer facing the financial problems that they once were. After a huge six million dollar overhaul, it is about to embark on its newest journey as a distribution center for fresh food. The impact of the project is huge: it could eventually provide employment for hundreds of people.
Turning Oak Point around wasn’t easy, however. Smith had to contend with plans to turn the area into an incarceration center. He also had to deal with public backlash when it became clear that he was moving forward with plans for a power plant on the site. Discussions with some prominent citizens eventually changed his mind, and he determined that the food industry was a suitable replacement.
Finally, two years ago, a food wholesaler named Jetro decided to purchase twelve acres of Oak Point from Smith. In return, Jetro paid more than 20 million dollars for the property.
Smith still retains part of the land, on which he has decided to build a distribution center, complete with a rooftop greenhouse. The project will cost close to 90 million dollars, and Smith is currently trying to gather investors to help him get things in motion. He believes that the center could be completed as early as a year from now.
Smith and the Oak Point Property are a shining example to others of how to turn “nothing” into a business that can benefit the economy. As a result of what he has done, investors are taking a second look at other dumps in the area. There has even been talk that one dump may be transformed into brand new Rockville Centre apartments.
Image credit: Bronx Chamber of Commerce
Great piece about Oak Point! I just came across it. I’m the new Communications Director at Sustainable South Bronx, the group that did the remediation work at Oak Point. We have a green jobs training program I’d love you to know about, and our annual community fundraiser is coming up. Let me know the best way to reach you?