This Solar-Powered Music Booth Is Bringing Some 'Boogie Down' to the Bronx

The IRT station at Freeman Street will double as a musical hub of community activity.

(Photo: Bronx Music Heritage Center/Facebook)

Jul 25, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Bus and train stations don’t come off as places to hang out with your friends, especially not the hustle-and-bustle ones found in the Big Apple. But with Wednesday’s opening of the Boogie Down Booth in the Bronx, at least one of Gotham’s transportation hubs is poised to become a center of community activity.

The vibrantly colored outdoor space, which is under the IRT's Freeman Street elevated station, is a bench where you can wait for the bus or train. When someone sits down, the booth plays music—from Bronx-born hip-hop to the foot-tapping sounds of mariachi music. Bonus: The whole thing is powered by solar panels.

The booth, which is part of an effort to beautify public space under New York City's elevated transit infrastructure, is the result of a collaboration between the New York City Department of Transportation, the Design Trust for Public Space, and several other community groups.

“These spaces are often noisy, dark, and kind of scary," Susan Chin, executive director of Design Trust for Public Space, a nonprofit that focuses on community places in New York City, told the Wall Street Journal. "We're trying to create a space you might want to hang out or meet your friends."

That’s a tall order in some parts of the Bronx. The borough’s 30 percent poverty rate is New York City’s highest, and the area is the poorest congressional district in the United States. But the neighborhood around the Boogie Down Booth is on the upswing. The hope is that just as the High Line on Manhattan's Westside has become a catalyst of community revitalization, installations like the Boogie Down Booth will similarly spark a renaissance in the area.

"People actually feel like they can be on the streets at night now," longtime resident Nathan Riley told the Journal. "They don't have to be afraid. This is just another positive step."