- Growing Up Bronx
There was a time in its history when the Bronx was considered a “good area.” I say this because when I was growing up there, the Bronx had a not so great reputation. Recently I saw a news story covering the cost of living in NYC, and they said that the Bronx was still the cheapest place to rent. This has to be due to the infamous reputation.
From what I have read, back in those so called “good days,” mostly Irish, Russian, Polish, German and Italian immigrants lived in the Bronx. With the passage of time, “we” started moving in and “taking over” the neighborhoods. Little by little the white folk started to move away due to escalating violence and crime.
Fast forward and the once prestigious Bronx is now considered “the hood”. A place that cab drivers seek to avoid, a place that simply by name frightens some people. It became so bad during the 70’s, landlords themselves started to burn down their own buildings to collect on insurance! It was only landlords, there were many other cases of arson happening back then too!
When I was growing up, you’d never see any white people in my area. That’s just a fact of my neighborhood, and I mean no offense to anyone. I will say that if you did see a white person in any of these neighborhoods, and he/she was “accepted”, by the non-whites, you’d be well served not to cross that person. You see, in order to be accepted in the hood, as a white person, these guys had to be crazier than any of the Spanish or black guys in the area. Being white is an automatic strike or two in the hood, and to make up for that these guys had to significantly outdo their peers in toughness. I was often a victim of violence, because I looked too white! I often heard these words before a gang beating “Get that white boy!”
Don’t get me wrong, there were areas in the Bronx that had hard core Albanians, and other white folks. However, these were only “pockets,” where they had “The Albanian Building.” The same could be said with the West Indians, in my old block we had “The Indian Building.” Nearly everyone in that building was West Indian! It’s bizarre how any one group can take over an entire building! In any case, whites were the minority in our neighborhood of minorities.
Lately I have noticed a new trend, I’m starting to see more white people in the Bronx. Granted, I’ve noticed this mostly in the Yankee stadium, or the Bronx Museum of Art vicinity. All the same, you now see white people in the mix. Not the crazy tough white person I mentioned from before, but just a regular white, white person. Again, I don’t mean to sound ignorant, but this has been my perception over the years. I know that my eyes have not seen it all, but I can only write about what I perceive.
I see the government has invested a significant amount of money in rebuilding Yankee Stadium. However, not just the stadium itself, but neighboring areas as well. Joyce Kilmer park, right there on the Grand Concourse looks amazing compared to what I remember. The Grand Concourse streets are tree lined, and the space overall looks much nicer than I remember it being!
I get the vibe that they are trying to get a Williamsburg thing going. Bedford, once Biggie Smalls hood is now occupied by hipsters and those of their ilk. Marcy, once Jay-Z’s hood now hosts some of my well to do coworkers. The neighborhoods are changing. The Bronx Museum of Art has been there forever, and I don’t recall seeing any white people when hanging out across the street at my man Sal’s crib! Yet, I was there recently, and it was packed with artist, and yes, quite a few of the attendees were white people. I SEE WHITE PEOPLE! I see white people! In the Bronx!
I wonder if this comes off as ignorant or offensive? It’s not meant to be at all. I’m simply being real and trying to mix in some humor. I hope the humorous aspect of “I SEE WHITE PEOPLE” is not lost on you guys. If you grew up in the Bronx when I did, the only white people you ever saw, if any, where cops, teachers, Mormons, and if you ever went to the Bally’s gym in Riverdale. Riverdale, yes you saw white people in that area. That’s real talk, and anyone that denies it, well they didn’t grown up in the Bronx neighborhoods that I’m talking about. They must come from Riverdale, Country Club or what we called “house area,” Pelham Parkway.
Look, I know my view is limited to my perspective. This article is written by a guy who grew up in the South Bronx, based on my own personal experiences, and what I saw. I understand that your experience may be different, and I’d love to hear about it, if that is the case! I know that I didn’t see everything, I know this.
I find it interesting to see this gentrification of the area. Although, I had a conversation with my buddy Ed Garcia Conde, the owner of Welcome2theBronx.com who provided me some good insight on this post. He reminded me that gentrification is more of an economic thing, as opposed to a “color” thing. That makes perfect sense, and though I refer to white folks in this post often, I have to agree that it’s not solely a skin color thing. Based on my limited perception as a kid, this was the way I perceived it. As an adult, I recognize that there is much more to it. I thank Conde for that additional perspective. For those of you not familiar with him, he is my go to guy for all things Bronx. Whenever I am unsure about something I wrote about the Bronx, that’s my guy!
A few years ago, one of my closest childhood friends bought a place in the area, he said it was a long term investment. It is a nice place, I like it. He purchased the spot in a luxury building we always admired as kids. It is right across the street from the Bronx Museum of Art. When he bought it he said “We are in there!” Now imagine that the area blows up over the coming years, my homeboy could make a killing on his investment. If not, he still has a nice place, for a reasonable cost, and close to his parents. It is a win/win situation. Recently he said that he may have to sell it due to some life changes, I’m thinking this is a mistake!
What do you think? Do you see the Bronx becoming a hipster’s paradise? Ed Garcia Conde doesn’t believe that it would, he feels they are priced out already. What are your thoughts on the gentrification of the Bronx? What do you think would happen to the current, low income residents? People like my mom, my friend’s parents, and all those old school folks who have lived their for decades? There is nowhere left for them to go in NYC, where would they be displaced to? What would happen to them? This concerns me, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Just a life long New Yorker sharing the journey through my lens. Please take note of a post’s date. The views I express here are subject to change and evolving as I grow and learn.