BUILDING A BETTER BANANA?

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Few community groups are as far-famed as the South Bronx-based community development powerhouse Banana Kelly–founded in the late 1970s with a mission of saving crumbling housing and a motto of: “Don’t Move, Improve.”

In 1997 the group is hoping to improve–by moving the scope of its operations worldwide.

BK International was recently created to deal with Banana Kelly’s overseas contacts and links to other nonprofits throughout the U.S. “The community challenged…the organization and its board of directors to go out beyond New York [to] create new partnerships with other communities interested in building a healthier world,” wrote Joe Hall, BK International’s president, in an announcement faxed to City Limits.

BKI’s founding comes from recent contacts with development groups in Asia, Africa and South America. It also comes on the heels of Banana Kelly’s involvement in a controversial, internationally-financed paper recycling plant proposed for the Harlem River Rail Yard in Port Morris.

The proposal, which is also backed by the National Resources Defense Council, foundered after a Swedish company backed out of financing the deal–and following the opposition of community environmental groups. Banana Kelly, which is the sole shareholder of the plant, hopes the project will create 450 jobs and is working with NRDC to find new investors.