Home / Slumming It In The Bronx

Slumming It In The Bronx

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

From Mecca to Slum

After living countless years in Manhattan, aka the center of the known universe (or so its residents believe), I now reside in one of the poorest, most underserved areas in the country — the Bronx. One might say it’s the urban equivalent of Appalachia, while most New Yorkers consider “the City“ and Manhattan as one and the same, with the other four boroughs as satellites revolving around the Emerald City.

Of course, the Bronx’s notoriety as the sixth circle of hell received the coup de grâce in the '70s when Howard Cosell interrupted a Yankee game to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning.” The financial situation in the city of New York was dire at the time, but nowhere was it worse than in the Bronx, which was virtually abandoned in terms of any kind of fiscal help from the city or federal government. The south Bronx, in particular, became an international icon for urban decay and hopelessness.

Like most of New York, there remained pockets of safe, beautiful areas which withstood even the worst of times. Rarefied neighborhoods such as Riverdale were populated with the well to do, but taking public transportation to and from the area could be hazardous. My younger cousin used to attend an elite private school in Riverdale, but got mugged several times on the subway during the very long trek back to his Greenwich Village abode.

A Bronx Revival? Not So Fast

Realtors and the media have been talking about a Renaissance of the Bronx for quite awhile now. But the areas my boyfriend and I reside in have not experienced this phenomenon, being in the Fordham/University Heights sections in the northwest Bronx. True, there are some tourist destinations for the braver souls, including the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Gardens, and the Bronx’s version of Little Italy, as well as a number of universities, most notably Fordham. There are some signs of improvement, such as a state of the art library and cultural center which replaced the old dilapidated library across the street. But plans to turn an old, huge armory into a shopping center is a project that has been talked about for many years, to no avail. The confluence of poverty, lack of resources especially for youth, failing schools and high dropout rates, drugs, and gangs makes it hard to envision many young people rising above the Boogie Down zeitgiest.

A Rarefied Past

There are many rundown but once opulent prewar buildings in the Bronx, none more notable than the ones that stretch along the Grand Concourse, once considered the Park Avenue of the Bronx. At the turn of the century, the Bronx was still mostly bucolic farm land, and Poe Park on Kingsbridge Road features another notable tourist destination: the still-intact cottage where Edgar Allan Poe went to stay with his seriously ill wife, to escape the unhealthy conditions of the inner city.

After the subway systems were expanded to the Bronx in the early 20th century, the borough became a destination for many middle class New Yorkers wishing to escape the slums of Manhattan. Apartments were rapidly built which included many heretofore unparalleled amenities, including doorman buildings with awnings and elevators.

As for me, I live in a coop building which is protected with 24-hour security guards, featuring beautiful landscaped grounds and spacious rooms, with a view of the Harlem River and upper Manhattan.

You Are Exiting Shangri-La

But when I went for my interview with the coop building committee several years ago, I was told in no uncertain terms that once one stepped out of the gates of this “hidden oasis,” as it is called, there might as well be a sign declaring: “Warning: you are now entering da hood.”

The vast majority of middle class folks would not be caught dead in my area these days, despite the fact that the whole stretch of Fordham Road is a shopping mecca. Not to bring race into the picture, but an area once populated by Jews, Italians, Irish, and other middle class groups is now mainly black and Hispanic, with immigrants, the working poor, single mothers, and teens who hang out in groups and gangs getting into trouble.

True Blue Poverty

At one time, I became acquainted with a few of the poor people in the area, and saw firsthand how they lived. It’s not pretty. This is true, unadulterated poverty. Aside from the working poor, most people are on food stamps and other forms of public assistance. Kids have babies early and often. Housing projects dot the landscape, and are particularly feared.

But don’t cry for me, dear readers, for there are advantages to living in an area such as this. In downgrading from a middle class environment to a very poor one, it is possible to live rather well indeed.

In their book The Millionaire Next Door, authors Thomas J. Stanley and William Danko interviewed numerous self-made millionaires and discovered a surprising fact. The typical American millionaire is self-made, owns his own business, and lives below his or her means. In this way, the business owner (often of a blue collar variety) can be thrifty enough (along with his coupon-clipping wife) to amass a fortune for himself, his wife, and his children.

Though my boyfriend and I may never be millionaires, we are the middle class version of this phenomenon and are thus able to live comfortably and well. As my boyfriend's brother once told me, the family motto of this very frugal, hard working family is "cheap is good; free is better."

Oy! The Bargains!

My boyfriend and I are both retired and on limited incomes, and were priced out of Manhattan long ago. The advantage of living in a poor area such as the northwest Bronx is that the cost of living is in exact opposition to Manhattan, where everything is as sky high as the landscape.

By contrast, most everything money can by is ridiculously cheap here: rents, clothing, food (though not as much as other items, but food stamps compensate for most folks), and any other items imaginable under the sun, many which can be found in the numerous 99 cent and up stores, which are virtually obsolete now in tony Manhattan. The commercial rents are much cheaper, so mom and pop shops still flourish. In addition, Fordham Road is a paradise for clothes shopping at rock bottom prices, fresh fruit and vegetable stands, ubiquitous cell phone outlets (even the poorest have these, along with a surprising number of cars), and an unparalleled library and cultural center. We became members of the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo, which has paid for itself many times over.

As middle class folks, we know all the cultural amenities many in this neighborhood of immigrants and poor do not. That is another advantage, along with quick access to Manhattan via two subway lines, or express bus.

So in short, we get a kick out of bargain hunting, anywhere from the local Rite Aid to the grocery stores, clothing stores, shoe outlets, 99 cent stores, and so on. It really is a rush to save money especially in these tough times, and a limited budget which has to stretch as much as possible. Living below one's means with some money in the bank for a rainy day is a good practice for anyone, from low to high income.

So let the naysayers warn about the dangers of the area. I say, "Viva la Bronx!"

Powered by

About Elvira Black

  • bruski lawton

    POOR BRONX and all the problems there.

    i really think nothing less than some serious draconian measures are needed to fix the long lasting and ever present problems of BRONX.

    60 years of endless POLITICAL happy talk and there is no real fix to the problems.

    education is of no help to congenitally biologically defective groups of people.

    hear me loud . there is no slavation for some people.

    encourageable with out any prospect of redemption..

    think a am a hater ?

    cant take the truths .

  • Reality Check

    I grew up with stories from family members and neighbors about the glory days of East Harlem. A once beautiful and dominant Italian neighborhood that turned to a dilapidated slum. Most of the Italians moved to Castle Hill, Parkchester, Pelham Bay, Morris Park, and Country Club. I grew up and still live in Country Club, which is considered to be the gold standard of the Bronx. Unfortunately, I have personally witnessed the aforementioned areas undergo the same cycle my elders talked about. I personally don’t care about people’s opinions, community groups, and arguments over the quality of the human race that this article ensues. There is no article that can change what I have seen with my own eyes. The point I am beginning to culminate is that certain races still haven’t figured out the ability to live amongst members of their own race. Outside of New York, I really don’t care about the perception of races because I do not live there, but White people know how to coincide within the guidelines of a civil society. Our neighborhoods always are safe, clean, and built upon the foundation of hard work and civility. We take pride in where we live, and the well being of our families. From trimming our grass, to hiring good teachers, to making sure our kids are studious, we move with modern times and keep traditions that we pass down to our children. It’s a simple formula. Go to school and/or work hard, strive to become better human beings, and pass that down to our families.

    The only fact I need to know is that I don’t know one white family that is signing up to live in Soundview, but I can tell within the past 5 years the amount of hispanic/black families that are moving into Country Club and Throggs Neck. Why is that? Why are minorities dyeing to move into white neighborhoods since the 1950’s? Why does every former White neighborhood become a grime and filth ridden slum? You can take any angle you want to argue, but living proof is living proof. It’s the only evolution you can actually witness with your own eyes. It’s called reality, I mean racism.

  • 2 homely 4 u

    elvira you are indicative of the never ending hemorage bronx is .

    it ouzes out of your mouth with the rhetoric you spew .

    they have over come and look at what its has done….

    look at all your rights , they have been wronged on many who moved rather than stand and fight a population and dirt bomb!!

    whos truths are these any way ??

    glory glory who the hell are you ,,
    lets get when johnny comes marching home !!

    look at the out ragious rent and real estate prices of broxn .. some people are not living in the real world..

    bronx capital of crap noise.

  • Oy, how intelligent.

    The Bronx is a very diverse borough, and a great deal of it is safe and beautiful. Pelham Park area has the biggest park in the city, and from what I hear it’s like the UN, but in a nice way. I’m a three minute cab ride outtta my “ghetto,” and the South Bx has been vastly revitalized. So enough with the paramilitary talk. Yes, it’s frustrating to see people who cause trouble or an area that’s deteriorated cosmetically, but the borough is far from that condition. It’s not 1973 no mo–not in Manhattan, the Bronx, or any of the five boroughs. Living in the past is not appropriate esp in a new MILLENIUM, my friend. Get with it.


    YES YOU,












  • Richard

    Thanks for reading my comment Elvira . It’s nice to see somebody who actually responds. I wanted to add a few things. You mentioned white castle.In 1976 I was sitting on a beach In South Fl. A few hours later I was at white castle near Roosevelt HS. I think it was on Fordham Rd. I went back to visit. There’s an excitement you get in the Bx. that you can’t get anywhere else. Everything is in hyper-speed.I kind of get that vibe in your comments.My last trip there was in Oct. 79. We jumped in my friend’s ’69 Cutlass and took 161st St. to St. Ann’s Ave and drove down to St. Mary’s park. Well there were heroin dealers all over the place. It was not a smart place for us to be, but still kind of fun. That might sound strange. You know it’s funny,people never seem to talk about race until they become older. I lived in a building that was like the united nations. Young people never bothered calling each other racial names. We were too busy having fun together. I think people have been way too critical of your blogs.You’re describing what’s happening. That’s what a good writer always does.

  • Elvira Black

    PS: I’m preparing a sequel, with plenty of photos of my hood and the surrounding, tonier hoods. Make no mistake–I adore my neighborhood, warts and all. In many real ways, it’s like living in a small town. Once you get to know the store owners, it’s a pleasure to get out everyday and shop for the bargains or hang out in the park.

  • Elvira Black


    I respectfully disagree. This hood is a small (I repeat) small enclave where people stay and never leave—it’s as isolated as the Lodz ghetto in its way. If you ask a typical resident if he knows Fordham University they will say no, even though it is centrally located on Fordham and Webster Avenue, but if you ask them if they know where the White Castle is, that will ring a bell.

    It takes literally one minute by car to get to the neighborhood of Kingsbridge, which is still urban but also has beautiful houses and many more aesthetic and other amenities.

    But the folks in this area are in large part Latino immigrants (and African, Asian etc but a lot of Latinos, esp from Dominican Republic) who are too busy working hard to do much else, along with kids from the projects who have nothing to do because there are few resources for them (the drop out rate is also very high), and so on.

    I don’t feel unsafe here, but it is a very high crime area, with murders and assaults rising, I believe. And I had my own experiences with some of the local “criminal types,” so I know firsthand how folks live (many without even a TV) and what they do to get by.

    Richard, thanks for the kind words. In ’73, the whole city was getting hot, including Manhattan, and folks were moving out to the burbs in droves if they could afford to.

    At the time, I was living with my aunt and uncle on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and there was nothing “hip” about it at the time. Now it’s almost tragically hip in that area, with many bars, clubs, boutiques, and restaurants in what used to be factories and textile stores.

  • Richard

    Think it’s great you moved there. I grew up on Townsend Ave. and then Morris at Cameron Pl. Left the summer of ’73 (things were getting a little hot.) My 1st 3 years of h.s. were on 164th st. Now live in a small Calif. town. I think about going back all the time. My grandmother lived on North St. (between Jerome and Davidson.) Not far from Fordham and Kingsbridge. Thanks for the memories

  • Laura

    not that alot of what you said is not true…Facts are facts…The Bronx has alot of problems, and we might have the worst, most greedy, crooked, do nothing politicians around, but you said it in a disrespectful manner and obviously it was hurtful to some people. Write whatever you want, we are just giving you our opinion.

  • Hey Mark:

    Been a long time; really appreciate the comment.

    Go figure; I think these respondents are touchy Bronxites who are sick of defending their borough from being maligned. I count myself amongst them, but frankly, as long as I’m happy, who cares? It’s the best kept secret as far as I’m concerned.

    But clearly, yes, some of these folks had an agenda to air. And to go as far as saying this is the most offensive piece I’ve ever read…I guess they don’t read much, ‘cuz this was one of the mildest pieces I’ve ever done, just for starters.

  • Mark Schannon


    Gadfry Daniels, did you ignite a bonfire of the insanities or what? I took your article for what it was, or seemed to be, a heartfelt description of living and enjoying a part of our country that’s been pretty screwed up over the years.

    Thanks to the internet, we can now take offense instantly without having to stop and think if, in fact, offense was offered or simply a misreading of an article. Back in the good old days of typewriters…or quills…and mail, one thought before one put words down. No longer.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • It is a slum. It is one corner of the Bronx. The Bronx is still a poor borough. Folks are being priced out of Washington Heights and moving to this hood.

    Perhaps slum is not the right word, but as a writer, I need a catchy title, and slumming it was used back in the day when the white folk would go to Harlem on the weekends to take in the jazz and other rich culture of Harlem, despite the deplorable ways in which blacks, many of whom were talented and well educated, were treated then. Entertainers (think Amos and Andy) were “beloved” but from a safe distance.

    There is no quick fix for poverty and despair. I only report on what I see, and yes, many of my doctors are located very nearby in very safe, “nice” areas. But I also know, as one of the only white people in the hood, that it is a poor one with an underserved community.

    There has been a partial renaissance, and things are looking up. I anticipated and feared that gentrification would overtake the area, but this has not been the case. White folks are much too “spooked” (pardon the pun) to set foot here. The only whites are broken down vets and disabled folks.

    My coop building is predominantly black–Afrivcan Americans as well as Caribbean immigrants–with a lot of long time, elderly residents. They doubtless want to distance themselves from some of the street scene which is harardous to the vulnerable elderly.

    Just recently, a dangerous two way curved street was changed to one-way, because cars would speed by in both directions…a terrible hazard, but it took all this time to get someone to scream loud enough to do something about it.

    One of our Bronx representatives, Pedro Espada, has been accused of incredible corruption. There is a Bronx “machine” in place, and poor people have no time to get involved in politics other than voting if they are not illegal immigrants.

    I went with my b/f to renew his food stamps, and saw how hellish it is to wait on enless lines for hours on end to get benefits. This is for food, folks…and the way the food stamp system is set up, you can’t sell stamps. You have to get fingerprinted to get a food stamp card–though I’ve encountered a few people who try to get you to give them cash and a bonus in return for running their card through and giving them the cash equivalent. One of these was a pleasant woman holding a child.

    The Kingsbridge Area is rather nice, is it not? Try walking in my shoes in this little pocket of paradise, and then tell me what you think.

    I love this area, but I did get ripped off by a few of the locals, which gave me pause. Perhaps I had to rethink my liberal middle class naivete which led me to be so easily vicimized. But that’s for another article…perhaps.

    Some folks such as my b/f, who is at the poverty level, are able to get Section 8 housing, so they can live in a decent apartment. The government pays a large percentage of the rent, and rather than live in a housing project, Section 8 residents can have a clean, safe and decent apartment. But it is very tough to get, especially a single guy like my b/f.

    There are a lot of working poor who take the subways into Manhattan every day and struggle with rent and expenses. I am also on a fixed income, and cannot afford Manhattan prices anymore.

    Yes, I am aware of the poverty, but most people are incredible survivors who have family and community bonds which keep them going despite the hardships of poverty.

    Thanks for your comment, Laura.

  • Laura

    hey everyone, the fact is, Elvira is not the problem.. The problem is that alot of people think the same way…”slumming it”

    With that attitude, nothing will ever be fixed cause people in slums are only good for the cheap products that are sold nearby, and the cheap housing that they cannot even afford.

    And no, thankfully I have never been robbed. People are, and worse as you know. I’m just saying that the idea that it happens to everyone is just not true…and I too am Jewish in case you are wondering.

    I still Love the Bronx…Kingsbridge area, I still know it needs ALOT of help, but calling it a slum?

  • Paperpest:

    I originally intended to get more involved in the community, but quickly realized that the best way for me to do so was in a modest way: i.e., shopping in the local stores, etc.

    I just went through my closets and rather than throw away my too large/small clothes, I put them in bags and left them in front of the church across the street.

    This morning when I delivered two large bags, there was a long line of folks waiting in the rain for the food pantry to open. So I just placed the bags in the front of the line; I’m sure someone can use them.

    A few weeks ago, someone came and set fire to the church, which just turned 100 years old. So that’s the hood I live in.

    As far as the coop, it’s too political for me. I originally was going to help them set up some digital communications for newsletters etc, but I have a condition that makes it hard for me to observe long term commitments because if I become ill I have to abandon the project.

    Yes, the demarcation lines between very rich and very poor are tenuous and changeable, in this country and others.

    Thanks for the comment and not biting my head off, paperpest!

  • How involved are you in the community in which you live? Do you participate in any co-op activities? Manhattan is also a land of contrasts, with very wealthy and very poor people living side by side.

  • Jose comment 11:

    Take a chill pill! As you know, NYC is a community of neighborhoods. A ten minute drive can take me into the tony universe of Riverdale. One can see the contrast immediately. I wouldn’t assume to generalize about a whole borough, and know very well about its charms, parkland, and other attractions. But a poor hood is a poor hood.

  • If I seem to be on a high horse, perhaps I am betraying my solidly middle class (or lower-middle class) roots. I tried to befreind some of the locals, but I was not used to dealing with people so poor and entrenched in the criminal element that they would steal you blind and laugh in doing so. I was mesmerized by the “exotic” people and culture I found here.

    And it’s not that I have a problem with people saying “ma nigga,” but to say I’m being racist and clasist is a bit much. It’s just that the word itself is offensive to many older blacks who know full well what its roots signify. It’s hard to imagine getting a job, going to college, etc and succeeding in the mainstream culture if you have to pepper your speech with this word, but yes, on the streets it’s just part of the way people greet each other.

    The advantage I have is that as a middle class person, I’m aware of the cultural amenities that many here are not. Some residents don’t even know that Fordham University is right in front of them, or have never been to the Bronx Zoo or the Botanical Gardens. Many spend most of their lives in a very small circle of the hood, so all the cultural amenities in the world won’t affect them.

    And as I say, I am the one in the minority here, and it’s a strange turnaround. Most people are friendly and nice to me, and I love seeing all the different races and languages. That’s what New York is all about, why I love it so, and why I would never move to the ‘burbs (plus I can’t drive).

    As for the bargains being made off the backs of laborers or whatnot, well, the same can be said of pricier items we all consume. In fact if one can get the identical item at a lower price, I’m not going to feel white guilt about it. As I mentioned, I live on a fixed income, and New York is a city that one can survive in whether one is rich or poor. In my hood, most people have food stamps. Theere is nothing inherently wrong with this; in fact, my b/f has them too because he is on the poverty level. No one should have to go hungry, and when I see folks standing in the rain waiting for the local church’s food pantry to open it’s pretty heartbreaking.

  • Hi Ruvy and STM; I missed you guys. Was on a, well, sabbatical from writing for awhile.

    Guy With A Cause: you can vouch for the negative vibes on the city data forum concerning the borough. ‘Nuff said.

  • It’s funny how far we will go to bend over backwards to avoid the elephant in the room–race–as if stating a fact that a particular neighborhood–not a whole borough–is predominantly ethnic is somehow offensive. It is not–it is merely a fact. All the hoods of New York go through cycles as new immigrants move in and old residents move on and out. My grandparents moved to the Lower East Side to escape persecution in Europe, and the poverty and living conditions there, as well as discrimination against Jews, was a very real thing.

    In addition, in the 60s, when a large wave of African Americans and Puerto Ricans arrived in the city, the whole structure of the city had changed and it was much harder to get industrial jobs of non skilled or semi skilled labor. Robert Moses had begun to transform the city and suburbs, and the decline of the borough and the city reached an apex in the 70s.

    I lived in Manhattan at a time when it was a wasteland of crime and neglect–when anyone who could afford to do so, for the most part, moved to the suburbs to escape.

    I am particularly proud to say I am a Bronxite, because if you can make it here, you can definitely make it anywhere! I am just beginning to explore some of its myriad areas, some of which are well to do as well. My area just happens to be what outsiders would call indubitably “bad.” as in unsafe, undesirable, etc. But what do they know?

  • Hey guys:

    I think you all misconstrued the piece, or I failed to communicate properly. I have known the bronx for about 12 years, because my boyfriend moved there, and had no trouble at all. I loved the diversity, found most people to be nice, decent family oriented folks, and treasure the parkland, the history, and the charm of the borough. After a period of adjustment, I was proud to call it home when I finally got a coop here a few years ago.

    My complex itself is predominanty middle class and black. My boyfriend and I are one of the few whites in the area, and I for one have felt some discrimination at times being a minority.

    But yes, I had brought my middle class ass here and as I mentioned I met some locals, and a few of them ripped me off and broke my heart.

    I have lived in NYC my whole life: Queens, Manhattan, and now the Bronx….and feel that I know a fair amount about its history and culture.

    It’s ironic, because I used to particpate in a City Data Forum and say how safe I felt and how glad I’d been to move here, and naturally all the folks who didn’t actually live here would say I was crazy to live there and it was irresponsible to encourage people looking for affordable housing to come here and supposedly take their lives in their hands.

    The only time my life was in danger was when I let some unscrupulous characters into my own home, so my bad, and as I say I saw how some people have to live and it’s definitely not middle class.

    I feel extremely privileged, and when I go to Manhattan I don’t miss it at all. People complain about losing the mom and pops and the charm of the old hoods, but these are usually the same people who wind up gentrifying a hood out of its own existence.

    I am no such person. I am a dead end New Yorker, and I couldn’t be more proud to live here. But I did have some very rough times, totally of my own making.

  • This is, quite seriously, the most disgusting piece of internet drivel I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. I’m insulted on all the levels that matter to me as a human being… as a writer, as a scholar of urbanism, and as a born and raised resident of the Bronx.

    First of all, you are absolutely and completely ignorant of the history of the borough, depending on pop cultural references that have become hard-coded into mainstream thought due mostly in part to class separation that has prevented the underdogs from voicing their side of the coin.

    Secondly, you are aggrandizing issues present in your tiny slice of the Bronx and applying them to an incredibly diverse and huge borough that you seem to know little about period, let alone in regards to its history. If you haven’t seen every single corner of this borough then you have no right to make statements about what the entire thing is like, or try to use shitty, overdone descriptors like “dot the landscape”… you’re talking about the borough with more greenspace and parks than any other in NYC. There are more projects in Brooklyn, as far as I know.

    I can’t begrudge you your experiences, but everything from your word choice and tone to the points you choose to touch upon screams of white privilege, classism, a hint of engrained racism. Ahat would I call people saying “my nigga?” I’d call it people communicating. Whether or not the code they speak in speaks to you is not grounds for using it as a rubric to judge anything about the people speaking that way. Do you feel the same way about the use of the word “bitch” as a term of endearment in subsections of the gay community?

    Bronxites, on the other hand, will continue to endure. During the recent round of school closings, the Bronx lost three while Brooklyn lost seven. In a map on Curbed.com showing how many development projects were stalled in the city, the Bronx in its entirety had less than all of Williamsburg and Bushwick. The South Bronx is now home to the nation’s first ever LEED certified eco-friendly neighborhood.

    People like you have ignored and maligned us for three decades now, and in that time we’ve made incredible strides with your backs turned to us. And we will continue to do so.

    I highly, highly recommend you do one of two things: move back to Manhattan where you can feel nice and safe and protected from scary poor people of color and their reality, or grow the fuck up, take the negative reactions you’re getting constructively, and make an effort to engage with the place you live instead of just talking shit about it for two pages before making cursory concessions about the little things that make it worth your while.

  • STM

    At least it got you out of the woodwork Elvira … haven’t noticed you around much lately.

    Don’t be a stranger!

  • Wow guys:

    Never in a million years did I imagine this article would be offensive; in fact, I thought it was one of my tamer pieces.

    I am not intending to be on a high horse at all. The fact is that this area is what it is, and I for one love living here. There are plenty of decent, hardworking folk, but there are also criminals, and I was victimized by some of them myself.

    When everyone goes around saying “ma nigga” this and “ma nigga” that, what would you call that?

    And race is race. The area was once solidly middle class, and predominanty white. NOw it is predominantly people of color–in fact, multiple races–which I happen to like.

    I just don’t know…maybe if you lived in this area you would see that I wasn’t trying to offend. I truly love it here, but as I say, it has its real hazards.

  • I still live here, and there are real people here with real lives, and all of you, I have never been mugged.

    Well, Laura, consider yourself lucky.

    One widow I knew in the Bronx was mugged twice and raped once – and there wasn’t a damned thing her famous cousin, Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, could to help the woman who had organized Jewish Pioneer Women to support her country and raise thousands of dollars for its benefit. The woman’s own kids packed her away to a nursing home in Jersey, where she died.

    When I lived in the Bronx, I participated in a guarding the homes of the Jews abandoned in the black and Puerto Rican slums of what had once been peaceful Jewish neighborhoods. What Golda Meir could not do, watch over abandoned Jews in the Bronx, I at least tried to do.

    So, count your blessings.

  • Laura

    I still live here, and there are real people here with real lives, and all of you, I have never been mugged.

  • Hi Elvira,

    I had family in the Bronx. When my father, z”l, was married to his first wife (who died before he met my mom), he lived in one of the fancy apartments on the Grand Concourse. My Uncle Abe and Aunt Pearl, z”l, lived there, and we had cousins who lived on 198th near Fordham Road.

    And I lived in the Bronx for a few years when I went to Lehman College. I didn’t enjoy the place at all. My best memories were hot sex with a nymphomaniac mynx, going to meetings of the North Bronx Republican Club with Larry Franklin (yeah, that Larry Franklin), and bull sessions with my room-mates over Middle Eastern politics. But I was glad to get out of there in the end, even if it was to a depressing basement apartment on the East Side of Manhattan.

    But, for all that, I have to say that those who were criticizing your piece were not too far off the mark.

    You could have shown a little sympathy; that you could have accomplished by telling the story of Freedomland in the swamps of the Northeast Bronx, how it failed; and how its replacement, Coöp City, sucked the middle class out of most of the Bronx like a cheap vacuum cleaner, leaving the borough a stinking slum. The last time I spoke to someone from Coöp City, he was desperate to sell his apartment – which was sinking in a swamp, along with the rest of the building.

    It’s been many years since I’ve been in the Bronx and it is unlikely I will see the place again in my life. And I have no desire to go there at all. There are gangs and criminals and muggings and frankly, after having lived in a country with relatively little crime, I don’t need any of that crap. But real people live there, Elvira. And they deserve a more sympathetic portrait than you gave them.

    Sorry for being so critical, dear.

  • Laura

    Boy this was one of the most offensive things I’ve read in awhile…basically what you are saying is that although you live in a crappy place among crappy people, you are willing to do it because you get to buy things on the cheap…so viva la Bronx!

    And whenever someone says “not to bring race into it” They are, in fact, bringing race into it.

    There is nothing wrong with saying who lives where. Yes, there are Hispanics and African Americans, and Asians, and Caucasians (like me), (and some of them are poor folk) living around Fordham, but as soon as you say “not to bring race into it” you are doing the equivalent of the little old lady who has to whisper the word “black.”

    And keep buying those low priced items that are probably made in sweat shops off the backs of people here and abroad (although I admit, that is a hard one to remedy and get around.)

    Come off your high horse missy, you’re no better than the anyone else. In fact, you’re worse. Much much worse.

  • guywithacause

    I don’t think your blog is as bad as some assert, however your version of the Bronx is so small minded. You mention “an area once populated by Irish/Italians/Jews and other middle class groups”…really? The Irish were notorious for living in hovels and their slums/gangs were infamous in NY. Jews? Yup..they were relegated to the same slums and moved to the Bronx to excape the horrible conditions of areas like the LES. The Jewish mafia was also notirious. Italians? Heh…they too were the dominant force in slums, and the Bronx was no different. As the Bronx was developed, it was the slum dwellers, aka Italians/Irish/Jews that escaped to this “paradise” of homes with windows, ventilation, and indoor plumbing. The ones remaining in NYC may be middle class now, but they were not at the time…they were poor like everyone else. And had welfare/food stamps been available at that time, you would be speaking of all the Irish/Italians/Jews on welfare, but then again, you were not living there at the time. Gangs of Jews/Irish/Italians were the norm, roaming the streets, turf battles were an everyday past time, as was crime.

    You should read up on the Bronx’s history before attempting a lesson on it to others. Had you done your homework, you would know that the Bronx was called the “wild west” for a reason, crime was highest there (sound familiar?) and it was notorious for gangs/drunks/street fighting/etc.

    Let’s not try to rewrite history or paint some fasle idyllic enclave..the Bronx was none of those things. It was a step up from the horrible slums of Manhattan for those that fled to the Bronx, but it was no middle class paraide by any means.

    I am glad you have chosen to live in the Bronx, but you are no different than all the other people over the past 100 years that have moved to the Bronx: they were priced out/could not afford anywhere else.

  • jose

    Just wondering, is this a satirical piece or was it meant to just be offensive?

  • Lisa

    You seem to be making sweeping generalizations about people in the Bronx; “food stamps compensate for most”. Though at the end you claim to embrace living in the Bronx, you spend most of the article insulting it. There are plenty of well-educated, successful people living in the Bronx, but like any other place it has its bad parts as well. In this blog, you come off as though you are on some high horse looking down on everyone else. In the future, please be mindful of the things you write and provide sources to back up such sweeping claims.

  • Ike Godzie

    Very interesting article. The writer mentioned the Little Italy in the Bronx. There is a great guide to the restaurants and pastry shops in Bronx’s Little Italy. It is http://www.FordhamDining.com.

    You can follow news about this dining scene and news about Little Italy in general at http://www.Twitter.com/FordhamDining