By SOPHIA ROTHMAN, age 10
While Paris and San Francisco celebrate their public staircases, the many staircases scattered throughout the Bronx have fallen into disrepair. The Bronx is New York City’s hilliest borough and many of the 20 or so public staircases have been in existence for more than 80 years.
“Years ago, this was like paradise,” Roger Hartley, 57, a local resident who lives near a staircase, told a Bronx community newspaper in 2012. But now, he said, “It’s a total mess.” Bronx residents have long pressed the city to take better care of the stairs.
Fixing the Bronx staircases is not just about showing off their beauty. In the borough with NYC’s highest rate of obesity, these stairs can offer a path to better health. According to Dr. Karen Lee, senior advisor at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, stair use can be a way to promote regular physical activity.
“Physical inactivity is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.,” Lee explained, “Experts have calculated that if the average American adult climbed stairs just two more minutes a day, it could burn enough calories to prevent the average yearly weight gains we see.”
A new nonprofit, The Bronx Steps Up, aims to repair these staircases and encourage Bronx residents to use the stairs to stay fit. Two architects, Lawrence Murphy and Alvin Niere, co-founded TBSU. Their idea is to find funding to fix up many public staircases in the Bronx so that more people will use them and build exercise into their daily routine.
“One obstacle is that some people might not want to change their habits, but this is a public health issue and it’s worth the effort,” said Murphy.