West Farms Hero, Ma Carter
Juanita Carter (a.k.a. “Ma Carter”) was a pillar of the West Farms community for over 40 years. Ma Carter had two sons, Harry and Dennis, but she answered to the name of “mother” for many in the West Farms community.
Back in the days when drugs and prostitutes were far more frequent in the streets of the South Bronx and when the Bronx was known as the forgotten borough, Ma Carter tirelessly advocated for the rebirth of the West Farms Community. Ma and a few others decided to start an annual event focused on the theme of taking a day off from crime and violence. These annual events came to be known as “Not In My Neighborhood, You Don’t.” Community organizations would target some of the roughest areas of Community Board 6 and put on an all-day street fair and participants would march through the streets chanting “not in my neighborhood, you don’t!”
Thankfully some of Juanita Carter’s vision for the West Farms community became a reality in her lifetime. West Farms underwent construction: homes where built and businesses began to rebound. People started thinking to themselves, “why do we have to leave our neighborhood to enjoy a nice park? River Park is here in our community. We will help take care of our park for our children.” At the same time, City Hall, NYC Parks & Recreation, and the Bronx Borough President became aware of the little woman with a loud voice in the West Farms community. So Ma Carter became a Park Warden for River Park under Parks Commissioner Castro and Commissioner Stern, often keeping an eye on the park outside her window.
River Park flourished, families started spending time in the park, herb workshops with seniors citizens took place, and the Bronx River came alive. This is largely because the entire community took ownership of River Park and the whole of their community
Ma Carter is no longer here, but her legacy and belief still lives on. Many travel through the West Farms community heading towards the Bronx Zoo, and many stop in amazement, viewing the beautiful park with a vibrant waterfall named River Park.
Written by Michelle Williams, July 2005.