Riverdale woman helped lobby for animal care center in the Bronx

Construction has now begun for $92M shelter for pet rescues


After moving to Riverdale 15 years ago, Marion Koenig said she admired the great access to nature but she also recalled noticing a lot of stray cats throughout those first few years.

“I noticed cats all over the neighborhood,” Koenig said. “Some of them looked in very poor condition. I saw people feeding them under cars. It was frightening.”

Koenig would ask neighbors if there was an animal shelter in Riverdale where these cats could find sanctuary. After more than five years of campaigning, Koenig and many other activists were excited May 18 when they joined electeds to break ground on such a sanctuary in Baychester.

The $92 million animal care center will house admissions, adoptions, medical services and boarding for approximately 70 dogs, 140 cats, 30 rabbits and up to 20 animals of other species. There will be smaller, self-contained housing groups also referred to as “pods,” which will allow flexibility in housing options and greater ease in caring for animals.

Koenig was there alongside city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner Ashwin Vasan, Department of Design and Construction commissioner Thomas Foley and Animal Care Centers of NYC chief executive Risa Weinstock.

For Koenig, the journey started when she tried to find a place for stray cats.

“They would tell me there was one on Fordham Road, but it wasn’t true,” she said. “That location was a receiving center where animals that are either sick or surrendered sit for hours until an Animal Care Center member would transport them to Manhattan.”

Animals placed in these receiving centers could not receive medical care until they were sent to the crowded shelter at the Manhattan location.  It was around this time that Koenig decided she needed to take action.

She began attending ACC board meetings where she met with other animal rescuers. Koenig wanted to make sure that sheltered animals were receiving the care and proper treatment they needed.

“I really wanted ACC to be deeply involved with the (cat) colonies to make sure the shelters were standard,” she said. “I began giving testimony at these meetings.”

That’s when Koenig and other rescuers in 2013 formed a group called the Bronx Animal Shelter Endeavor. After spending much time giving testimony and working together for animal rights, former mayor Bill de Blasio signed off on a bill that required animal shelters to be placed in each borough. Finally, after 12 years of reaching out and working with ACC and two mayors and City Council members, the Bronx will have its first-ever state-of-the-art animal shelter.

The Bronx Animal Care Center is not scheduled to open until Spring 2025. Koenig shared the details of the shelter’s plans and goals. The shelter will provide proper veterinary care and free training to animals.

“It’s an extraordinary building,” she told The Riverdale Press. “It’s going to be wonderful and we’re very happy.”

Bronx Borough president Vanessa Gibson joined the activists in cheering the progress of the animal care center.

“For many Bronxites, our pets are a part of our families, and we want them to receive the best care possible,” said Gibson. “Once completed, this new Animal Care Center in the Baychester neighborhood will ensure our residents in the Northeast Bronx have access to compassionate, comfortable, healthy, and quality care for their pets without having to leave their community.”

The shelter plans to even offer an outdoor location for potential adoptees to walk animals in quieter locations. “My biggest thing was to have a courtyard so passers by wouldn’t be influencing animals when they’re getting trained or calmed down,” she added.

The shelter will take in dogs, cats, rabbits and other species — even snakes. While most were in favor of the shelter, some residents had other concerns.

“The only problem we’ve had so far was that some of the locals felt unsure that the shelter should be in their neighborhood,” Koenig said. “But, I think they’ve learned that it’s going to offer plenty of jobs. All of the little shops and facilities in the area will also gain new customers.”

Koenig hopes the shelter will allow residents to become more educated on the value of adopting animals. “I have neighbors that have bought dogs and I try to tell them that if you get an adopted dog from a shelter, especially ACC, you’re going to get someone that’s been a cat or a dog that’s been fully vetted medically.”

Koenig also is aware of how animals can help improve people’s overall mental health. “I think during Covid, most people began to recognize how animals can help us with loneliness and depression, there’s really no question,” she said.

Even if one is not in the place to adopt an animal, there are so many ways they can help support the shelter and animal rights. “It helps to become knowledgeable, participate in the community and help raise money for shelter supplies,” she said.

“You can also volunteer your time at the shelter. You can foster or even help with walking. It’s a wonderful way of getting a little exercise and getting to know the animals.”






Marion Koenig, Baychester, Animal Care Centers of NYC, animal shelter,