5 Minutes With The Bronx Commons Team

Bronx Commons, Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing Development Finalist 

Davon Russell, President, WHEDco 

Nancy Biberman, Founder and President Emerita, WHEDco 


Who has had the greatest influence on your career and what was the best advice he or she gave you? 

Davon Russell: Nancy Biberman, WHEDco’s Founding President and my predecessor, has been a wonderful mentor to me since 1997, when I first started at WHEDco as a part-time drama teacher for a fledgling after school program. Thanks in large part to the potential she saw in me very early on, I have had the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, which has led to my now leadership of the organization. I am proud to be at the helm of an organization whose work impacts the lives of thousands of children and families. One of things that Nancy always emphasized and is at the core of WHEDco’s work to this day, is the focus on the whole person as we seek to add value to their lives. Our approach is holistic and we apply comprehensive solutions to the issues and challenges faced by the families we serve. It is an honor to lead the organization that Nancy founded and one to which I have dedicated the better part of my adult life. 

As a ULI NY Awards nominee, what makes you most proud of your project? 

Nancy Biberman: Bronx Commons represents the capstone of WHEDco’s work in affordable housing and neighborhood development. I’m most proud of its programmatic elements and its design, both of which evolved from our immersion in contemporary community planning and our study of the architectural and social history of the Bronx. WHEDco’s development approach seeks to concretize the values and aspirations of neighborhood residents and to flesh out answers to a question we have asked hundreds of times over nearly three decades: How can a building serve whole neighborhoods and not solely tenants who win a housing lottery? The answers to that question have resulted in abundant and verdant public plazas, parks, green roofs and gardens, wayfinding and street lighting, childcare facilities, a health clinic, incubators for small businesses, and two cultural venues.  

What about New York inspires you? 

Davon Russell: New York is home to immigrants from all over the world. As an immigrant myself, there is something magical about being 1,500 miles from where I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica and still being able to converse in a language I grew up speaking, eating the foods I enjoyed throughout my nineteen years there, and having the ability to connect culturally to people from all over the world. New York is truly the most dynamic and culturally relevant place on earth.