Streams

Why Can’t the Bronx Be More Like Brooklyn?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s Planet Money and contributor to the New York Times Magazine, looks into why the Bronx has been left out of much of the economic boom in New York City. His article “Why Can’t the Bronx Be More Like Brooklyn?” appeared in the July 10 New York Times Magazine.

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Comments [41]

Silla from The Bronx

Why would you want the Bronx to be like Brooklyn? So the rent can sky rocket?

Sep. 12 2013 12:08 AM
NC from Bx/Bk

I was born & raised in the North Central Bronx (Williamsbridge area), and am what Anna refers to as a "famously high achieving Afro-Caribbean". Kareem is right, we are up there, even if not quite in the same numbers as Flatbush. My parents came from Jamaica, and moved up to the Bronx because my mom worked at a hospital up there. Now both of my sisters are doctors and I have a master's degree, but we all left the Bronx. For me, who now lives in Brooklyn, it was too far and didn't have the educated environment, restaurants, etc. that I craved. But I still think Adam was oversimplifying a very complex situation. There are educated blacks & latinos staying in the Bronx. It is more multi-cultural than he's giving it credit for, including Italian and Irish enclaves.

Aug. 01 2012 04:01 PM
kevin from upper LS

another ahistoric moral mediocrity. a flat souled mypopic bean counter. a putrid, shriveled up WSJ,could be his mascot.

Jul. 26 2012 05:37 PM

This author is a racist and an elitist. No doubt about it.

All the blame for blighted neighborhoods lies at the feet of the late 20th century Urban Planners. All they saw was a real estate boom and Dollar Signs, while expanding the City's Tax Base. No intelligent or aesthetic planning involved.

In the 19th century we had real Urban Planners that gave us Central Park and Prospect Park, Eastern Parkway and The Grand Concourse.

Staten Island is a perfect example (since most of the building has occurred in the 20th c.), albeit it is predominantly White. But The City's Elites have destroyed the Boro! It has been nothing short of an assault on the working class and their neighborhoods.

There has not been any grand planning for the Boro of Staten Island, no wide, tree-lined streets culminating in parks, etc, no monumental statues or public artwork or museums, no direct preservation of many of its most important historic sites and neighborhoods, and all of the working class and middle class housing is poor and shoddily constructed, on top of one another to maximize the tax base and give big Tax cuts to greedy developers. It is Mayors like Bloomberg, Amanda Burden (racism, elitism) and this author who has destroyed our Boros of loveliness.

It is astounding that vibrant, diverse neighborhoods have still thrived in The Bronx and Staten island, thankfully, even as The City of NY tries to strangle them with mediocrity.

I suggest you have Sarah Schulman author of The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination on your show. She could address this issue even better!

Jul. 26 2012 10:22 AM
Nick from Staten Island

This author is a racist and an elitist. No doubt about it.

All the blame for blighted neighborhoods lies at the feet of the late 20th century Urban Planners. All they saw was a real estate boom and Dollar Signs, while expanding the City's Tax Base. No intelligent or aesthetic planning involved.

In the 19th century we had real Urban Planners that gave us Central Park and Prospect Park, Eastern Parkway and The Grand Concourse.

Staten Island is a perfect example (since most of the building has occurred in the 20th c.), albeit it is predominantly White. But The City's Elites have destroyed the Boro! It has been nothing short of an assault on the working class and their neighborhoods.

There has not been any grand planning for the Boro of Staten Island, no wide, tree-lined streets culminating in parks, etc, no monumental statues or public artwork or museums, no direct preservation of many of its most important historic sites and neighborhoods, and all of the working class and middle class housing is poor and shoddily constructed, on top of one another to maximize the tax base and give big Tax cuts to greedy developers. It is Mayors like Bloomberg, Amanda Burden (racism, elitism) and this author who has destroyed our Boros of loveliness.

It is astounding that vibrant, diverse neighborhoods have still thrived in The Bronx and Staten island, thankfully, even as The City of NY tries to strangle them with mediocrity.

I suggest you have Sarah Schulman author of The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination on your show. She could address this issue even better!

Jul. 26 2012 10:15 AM
Kareem

Anna -

You ask where are the "famously high achieving Afro-Caribbeans"? The North East Bronx is full of them. They dominate Eastchester - Williams Bridge - Wakefield areas. Formerly Italian (and Jewish areas). Those neighborhoods never turned into slums (a lot of that has to do with the fact that other than Edenwald and maybe Secor there isn't any huge public housing developments).

As others pointed out - at one time the Grand Councourse was more ritzy than Eastern Parkway.

Jul. 26 2012 09:27 AM
AG

I can't believe the author said it's hard to find places where you walk long stretches in the Bronx where it's nice. What??? Riverdale - Fieldston - Woodlawn - Pelham Bay - Country Club - Throggs Neck - Pelham Gardens - Morris Park are all very stable neighborhoods.

You are right - it's more than just PR. The South Bronx was "red-lined" just like the northern Brooklyn neighborhoods that are still suffering. Let's get to the real story.

The reason though the South Bronx has not prospered as much in recent times is the same reason Brownsille and East New York haven't. Most of the new housing has been "low income". When that happens "money" won't move in. That's reality.

Jul. 26 2012 09:01 AM
AG

Joe Dorinson - the Bronx has much more spacious parks. The Bronx has the highest rate of green space than any other dense urban place in the US. Prospect Park is lovely - but it's tiny compared to Van Cortlandt or Pelham Bay in the Bronx. The Prospect Park zoo is nice - but nowhere near the size and depth of the Bronx Zoo. The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are lovely - but again - tiny and not as diverse as the NY Botanical Gardens. As far as I know - Wave Hill in the Bronx has no contemporary in Brooklyn.

Not sure why you bring up George Steinbrenner... he only owned the Yankees. Are the O'Malley's more enlightened because they took the Dodgers out of Brooklyn? I'm confused by your comments.

The reasons for the South Bronx falling into more decline has more to do with housing stock.

Jul. 26 2012 08:54 AM
Anna from NY

Having grown up in Brownsville, first Jewish immigrant, then grandma of the South Bronx, I think there is much more to the analysis.

First, with the exception of Williamsburg, which is 1 stop from the Village, all parts of Brooklyn that gentrified had excellent housing stock and never became a ghetto.

I don't know any parts of the Bronx other than the Concourse, the South Bronx and Riverdale, I don't know what the housing stock is like elsewhere. My guess is that it doesn't compare to Eastern Parkway, Crown Heights, etc. - and the refugees who were resettled in the Bronx were low skilled, as opposed to the Soviet Jews, who revitalized Brighton Beach and surrounding areas.

The Syrian Jews settled in Brooklyn in 1951 - and stayed - and grew. An incredibly wealthy community. There is nothing comparable in the Bronx, nor are there the famously high achieving Afro Carribeans. Or the enormous, growing, Modern Orthodox and Orthodox communities who have colonized Midwood.

There is more the change in Brooklyn than the gentrification of the The Slope and B'berg.

And what about the very negative of Coop City on the South Bronx? It dramatically accelerated the deterioration of the South Bronx. Everyone moved. And then there was Whatever Happened To Bruckner Blv'd? - which wrecked even more of the Bronx, with endless construction and small business destruction.

Brooklyn rebounded for a number of unrelated reasons, far beyond the Slope phenomena.

But back to Brownsville. Before The Brooklyn Rennisance, an urban planner told me it would never gentrify - the housing stock was too poor. Williamsburg is the exception on this, not the rule.

Jul. 26 2012 12:43 AM
Dawn from Bronx

Comparing the Bronx to Brooklyn is like comparing apples to oranges. A better comparison would be Inwood/Washington Heights for Northwest Bronx (in terms of housing stock/commute), and East Harlem for the South Bronx (similiar commutes and both needing infill development). No brownstones in Inwood, and the commute is longer than many parts of the Bronx, but it still is a thriving neighborhood (I moved to the Bronx from Inwood).

I live close to Mosholu Parkway - it's a beautiful area. To listen to the guest, all of the Bronx is like East Tremont (except Riverdale of course). I also wonder if he has ever been here.

The quality of life in the Bronx is greatly improved, and crime is way down. Not much artisanal mayonnaise, but to some that is an advantage.

Jul. 25 2012 08:03 PM
Carola from Bed Stuy

Williamsburg became hip precisely _because_ it was a ten minute ride from 14th St. I moved there because it was cheap and very close to my job (in 1991, that is)

Jul. 25 2012 12:34 PM
Gigi from The Bronx

New excellent and quite successful sushi restaurant, Ceetay, has opened on Alexander Ave, so comment on No Sushi is no longer true!
Things are changing and i hope,as a South Bronx resident, while becoming more economically viable and creating living wage jobs we respect long term residents.
I heart The Bronx.

Jul. 25 2012 12:32 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Wow, that Bronx caller made an excellent point and neither host nor guest had a substantive response...

So, historically economically excluded communities can only be revitalized with gentrification?

Jul. 25 2012 12:31 PM
Len Maniace from Jackson Heights

A couple of things.

Brooklyn is so much closer to downtown and midtown - a shorter and what some perceive to be a safer commute into work. Large portions of Queens are much closer to midtown than the Bronx, which is helping with resurgence in much of that borough.

And architecture is destiny. Brooklyn is densely built, but its filled with beautiful brownstones and row houses. The smaller scale housing is easier for individuals to buy and renovate than the larger apartment building in the Bronx. These smaller buildings also contain gardens, which appeal to many folks. And they provide city dwellers the chance to also be homeowners.

And as some have pointed out. Brooklyn was a city and developed at an earlier time, when settlements were more walkable and more of a mixture of land uses.

Jul. 25 2012 12:29 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The Bronx has Yankee Stadium, The Botanical Gardens and Zoo. It is a beautiful boro but is seen as having an ostensibly monolithic culture, usually defined as working/poor and latin.

Jul. 25 2012 12:28 PM
Bob from Brooklyn

Has this guy ever been to the Bronx? The Bronx and the Grand Concourse has some of the most magnificent housing apartment stock in the world. It was similar to Paris. It was grander than Eastern Parkway in its heyday. Can anyone just read a book or too and call themselves an expert? The Bronx has a multitude of well to do and interesting neighborhoods, including Fieldston, Riverdale, City Island... and tremendously interesting geological diversity and parks, rivers... what an ignorant and racist segment. What a joke. A great boro ruined by years of Democratic and liberal racism and neglect.

Jul. 25 2012 12:28 PM
RJ from prospect hts.

I agree with the last caller about the prevalence of the development vs. gentrification of the Bronx vs. Brooklyn. An added point is that as the wealthy has concentrically taken over the Brooklyn Hts/Astoria-LIC/ Williamsburg (1 L stop) areas closest to Manhattan, the poor and working classes have been pushed not only further out into those boroughs but also up to the Bronx for affordable housing.

Also, there is a legacy of red-lining throughout the city; even though it is now illegal, there have been reports of its continuation in much subtler ways.

Jul. 25 2012 12:27 PM
Kressel

I work in New Rochelle, right across the street from a big Trump building. Perhaps that's where the upwardly mobile people in the Bronx are going - north and out of NYC.

Jul. 25 2012 12:26 PM
Dc from Brooklyn

What about teen pregnancy rates?

Jul. 25 2012 12:25 PM
Cyndi M. from Bronx

I think the Bronx has been under-developped because the residents don't avdocate for themselves. Most immigrants have a "this is what I've been given" mentality.

Jul. 25 2012 12:24 PM
john from office

Katherine from Westchester
I agree, they seem unwilling to mention race or crime.

I grew up in Williamsburg in the 60s and am shocked anyone wants to live there. If the area becomes majority white, it attracts more money, services and other white people. That is just the way it is. Crime goes down and there is more police.

Jul. 25 2012 12:23 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Really, too bad that the issue of socioeconomic justice for the traditional residents of these neighborhoods is COMPLETELY missing from this discussion. Harlem is experiencing a Renaissance? Really? For whom?Pathetic.

Jul. 25 2012 12:22 PM
afgan irakson

its a mystery only for PC squeamish.
for the rest of us the answer is simple.

Jul. 25 2012 12:21 PM
Tom from UWS

Much of Brooklyn is 10-15 minutes away from lower Manhattan by subway. That appeals to downtown workers. The Bronx is a longer slog, to put it bluntly.

RE: the Moses legacy, once neighborhoods have been permanently divided by highways and other infrastructure, they become set as pockets - a "finer" neighborhood can't gradually grow larger, a "depressed" neighborhood becomes isolated. The "gentrifying" public look for old charm of some kind. Isolation is rarely charming.

Jul. 25 2012 12:20 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The fact that Brooklyn was once a city and places like Harlem had a history and a certain mystique, meant they were not defined by the urban decay of the 70's/80's, like the Bronx has been.

Jul. 25 2012 12:20 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

I also grew up in Williamsburg (in the 60s and '70s) and its closeness/convenience to the Lower East Side/East Village is key to why it's become the hipster destination it is now. One subway stop to the parts of Manhattan that these people were moving from and where their cultural/social lives were located.

Jul. 25 2012 12:18 PM
Alex from Brooklyn

I think there is an issue of proximity and access to transit involved in the continued marginalization of the Bronx.
Queens and parts of Eastern Brooklyn have similar issues, but the Bronx had elevated train lines taken away.

Jul. 25 2012 12:18 PM
Tony from Canarsie

Why can't Brooklyn be more like the Bronx?

Jul. 25 2012 12:16 PM
Katherine from Westchester

How do you write on this subject and not mention Robert Moses? Or race? Or crack? It's a bit bourgeois.

Jul. 25 2012 12:13 PM
RL

Brooklyn is parallel to Manhattan, but The Bronx is above it with little connection to the main parts of Manhattan. Unless upper Manhattan creates a major business district (not likely), The Bronx will always be a bridge too far.

Jul. 25 2012 12:13 PM
Larry from Williamsburg

I agree with the statements regarding geography. Brooklyn is much closer to the centers of culture & economics in Manhattan (in addition to having its own cultural institutions). Thus, when Manhattan became too expensive for many students and artists and others all we had to do was pop over the East River. Even Queens (LIC) is just over from Midtown. However, the Bronx is farther away from these centers despite express subway service. I never considered moving there mostly because of distance (which I think it shares with Staten Island).

Jul. 25 2012 12:11 PM
Louis from Brooklyn

The Bronx needs to be gentrified but in the right way. Not changed to the point where residents who have been there for decades are being pushed out by yuppies and hipsters, losing its culture to transient Americans from other parts of the U.S.

Jul. 25 2012 12:10 PM
antonio from baySide

I think I got it...
The neighborhoods initially gentrified in Brooklyn, were more diverse to begin with. Williamsburg had the Hasidics and Puetro Ricans. Boerum Hill had Blacks, Puerto Ricans and Italians closer to the Gardens. Also, crime is huge. I grew up in Hell's Kitchen in the late 70's/80's and even we were mindful about going up to the Bronx!

Jul. 25 2012 11:26 AM
Michael J. Agovino from NY, NY

Great topic. Blaming Robert Moses and and Co-op City (where I lived for 22 years) is too simplistic. And let's not forget, parts of Brooklyn are as bad or worse than the Bronx. As the Times piece argued, and argued well, it is largely economic, though I'd go a step further and say there are some thornier issues at play. May I recommend my book from a few years ago: "The Bookmaker: A Memoir of Money, Luck, and Family From the Utopian Outskirts of New York City." It tells the story of Co-op City (and class distinctions within NY) from someone who lived it.

Jul. 25 2012 11:19 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Some people blame the construction of Co-Op city for the decline of the Bronx. When Co-Op City opened, the stable working Middle Class moved out of the central Bronx and the people who moved in didn't care about the neighborhood.

There were so many burned out buildings in the Bronx due to arson, leaving burned out shells, that when the Pope came to NYC, the city put PAINTED PICTURES of window shades and potted flowers in the empty window frames visible from the CBX.

Buildings in the Bronx didn't magically burst into flames, just as graffiti didn't magically appear on and in Subway cars.

Jul. 25 2012 08:58 AM

Because The Bronx has all the nice things: Yankee Stadium., Fordham University, Botanical Gardens, A REAL Zoo, Orchard Beach, City Island, and the Little Italy.

Jul. 25 2012 01:04 AM
Steven in Brooklyn

I oversimplify, but I feel it has a lot to do with brownstones and proximity to lower Manhattan. Brooklyn is huge and much of it is not much different than the Bronx in terms of family income or aesthetic. I feel we are really talking about the bell curve-shifting effect of Brownstone Brooklyn: Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boreum Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Forte Green. The influence of the earliest professionals who settled these areas, built beautiful buildings, and fought off Robert Moses politically with historic designation eventually paid off as the same traits that drew people here in the 1800s (architecture, community and proximity to, lets face it: Wall Street) drew a new set of professionals willing and able to rebuild. Yes, I'm talking about gentrification. And while there are many negatives to this process, is there any doubt that it is why there is the difference mentioned here? Success attracts more success, and the start of it all was brownstone brooklyn.

Jul. 24 2012 08:20 PM
Joe Dorinson from Brooklyn, naturally

Lisa is correct to put the guilty finger on Robert Moses. In addition, the difference stems from divergent development between the Grand Concourse and Ocean Parkway; the former, a one fare zone; the latter, until recently, a two fare zone. Brooklyn benefits from better housing stock, safer and more spacious parks. Another important difference is the constrast between rapacious ownership epitomized by George Steinbrenner as opposed to more enlightened moguls in Brooklyn. My colleague Larry Richards is currently working on a Brooklyn film project that explains this dramatic difference. Stay tuned! Joe Dorinson

Jul. 24 2012 07:05 PM
Joe Dorinson from Brooklyn, of course

Lisa is correct to put the guilty finger on Robert Moses. In addition, the difference stems from divergent development between the Grand Concourse and Ocean Parkway; the former, a one fare zone; the latter, until recently, a two fare zone. Better housing stock, safer and more spacious parks. Another important difference is rapacious ownership epitomized by George Steinbrenner as opposed to more enlightened moguls in Brooklyn. My colleague Larry Richards is currently working on a Brooklyn film project that explains this dramatic difference. Stay tuned!

Jul. 24 2012 07:01 PM
Peter Derrick from The Bronx

Re: The comment: he Bronx was more like Broooklyn until Robert Moses performed major surgery on it.

It's a pity that all many people seem to know about The Bronx is Robert Caro's flawed account of the Cross Bronx Expressway. Most historians who have examined Caro's account argue that the CBX did not "destroy" The Bronx. Rather it was a host of many factors, to which the CBX did not help. And many of these same factors helped devastate much of northern Brooklyn. Plus, Brooklyn has the Gowanus, just as negative on neighborhoods there as the CBX was in The Bronx.

The Bronx has been quite different from Brooklyn for over a century, for many of the reasons discussed in the Times article. Much more of its housing stock is five and six story apartment houses than in Brooklyn, which individual families cannot afford to rehab only. Plus it never was its own business center in the same way as Brooklyn, and never was an independent city, as Brooklyn was until 1898.

Jul. 24 2012 06:20 PM
Lisa from Forest Hills, NY

The Bronx was more like Broooklyn until Robert Moses performed major surgery on it.

Jul. 24 2012 05:15 PM

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