WNYC is taking a close look at New York City’s affordability crisis, one neighborhood at a time. We’re starting in Mott Haven in the South Bronx and featuring stories and voices from the community. Join the conversation with your voice using #MottHavenSpeaks.
Diana Hernandez was an '80s kid. She grew up in the South Bronx in Section 8 housing at a time when the area was filled with drugs and disease. She got out of the neighborhood through education. At the age of 19, she began her Ph.D. in sociology at Cornell University. Now, Hernandez is an assistant professor of sociomedical sciences at the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health where she conducts research on poverty and public health.
Drinking a cafecito in her home in Mott Haven, she described how she had a revelation in grad school.
"I know I realized I wanted to come back in summer of 2004 because I had been studying urban poverty issues...but I was also living the dichotomy of privilege and disadvantage," she said. "And I was frustrated and embarrassed by what the Bronx was."
Seven years ago, Hernandez moved back to the South Bronx to be a part of the community. And as the area gentrifies, Hernandez is trying to figure out how to balance her role in the community as South Bronx native, current resident, professor at an Ivy League school, and real estate developer.