Late Summer Scene: Morris Heights Health Center

Morris Heights Health Center is now open in Melrose. (Pauline Bock for NYCityLens)

Morris Heights Health Center is now open in Melrose, and celebrating the opening. (Pauline Bock/NY City Lens)

On each handle of the opened doors of 779, Melrose Avenue in the Bronx, a red satin ribbon is floating in the wind. Someone just cut it. The Morris Heights Health Center is celebrating the birth of its new operating facility, an all-renovated building in the Morrisania neighborhood. Tents of green and white, the colors of the center, host a dozen stands on the pavement along the building, near the corner of 158th street. Here is the rose tablecloth of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Here are the colorful stars on Amida Care’s version. Further on is the blue table of New York Life Insurance.

Locals, including customers of the pharmacy nearby, seem happy to discover the street event, which runs all week in different Bronx areas for the National Health Center Week. It is a beautiful day, and they stop to chat with healthcare workers in dark green shirts. Others are following the signs to get a free blood pressure, glucose, or HIV test. A joyful man with a large striped T-shirt is going from one association to another, signing up for every newsletter. A mother with her two children is waiting to cross the street when her ten-year old son, a baseball cap crooked on his head, notices the candies at the Green Mountain Energy stand. “And hey, take a free frisbee!” the Mountain representative adds. The kid takes it, thanks the man and jiggles. “We are so healthy!” he exclaims, and his mother laughs as they head home, lugging shopping bags.

Everyone is very interested in the NYC Condom stand: It offers free condoms in blue or yellow, sensitive or ultra-thin editions; even King-size, flavored, or female condoms! A short quiz intends to educate users : “How to put a condom correctly? Choose the steps in order.” Not far from the condoms space stands the health center’s community liaison and the organizer of the event, Shannell Arroyo. “We offer affordable healthcare for all,” she declares.  Immigration status doesn’t matter matter, she says. People get care, “even if they don’t have a health insurance.”

“This is a caring place,” says Joseph Pinion, the social media representative for Morris Heights Health center, as he smiles. “It started in Morris Heights and we are glad that it can expand here.” According to him, renovating the building cost around $35,000.

Music suddenly starts. It comes from the big speakers near a door, and it is hip-hop, obviously—the sound of Morris Heights. When it fades to become a zumba, Rufus, a tall man with a slim mustache, wearing sneakers which have probably danced too much, places himself on the cleared side of the road, in the very front of the main entry. “Join me! ZUMBA!” he says, and starts dancing. Children with still-wet painted faces, Skeletons and Ninja Turtles, group around him. Yes, definitely, this neighborhood is, and will remain, healthy.

Pauline Bock