Editor's note: this story appeared in the last issue of the Norwood News. One correction: we mistakenly spelled Reed's name wrong in the original article. The correct name is "Phyllis Yvonne Reed."
The more Allison Richardson sees and hears about her mother Phyllis Reed’s impact — on the lives she touched and the community she loved — the more she feels guilty.
In the years leading up to Reed’s death in the fall of 2009, Richardson, an only child, tried in vain to keep her mother close and safe during her battle with cancer. Mostly, she just wanted to spend time with her mom. But Reed was often too busy empowering young people to chase their dreams, fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged or tending to her beloved public garden in the shadow of the Kingsbridge Armory.
Richardson resented this until recently, when she realized, her mother “fed and thrived on other people’s dreams,” she said.
Last month, thanks to the efforts of Councilman Fernando Cabrera, the city officially recognized Reed’s indelible impact by re-naming the corner of Davidson Avenue and Kingsbridge Road “Phyllis Yvonne Reed Plaza.” The signage hovers over Reed’s Armory plot like a guardian angel.
When Richardson spoke at the ceremony on a sunny Friday afternoon, she talked about how she felt guilty for trying to keep her mother away from the community work she did. But, “Now, I get it,” she said. She added later, “You guys are what made her get up every day.”
“We all stand on her back right now,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, who worked alongside Reed for years as part of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, an activist group that has long fought for the responsible redevelopment of the Armory. “She has given us work to do.”
Assemblyman Jose Rivera said whatever happens to the Armory, it should be called the “Phyllis Reed Center.”
Cabrera said people will see Reed’s name above her garden and ask about her and hopefully find inspiration. “She didn’t just plant a garden,” he said. “She planted seeds in all of us.”