WEEKEND EDITION

The Bronx Beat Heats Up

| July 28, 2011 8:08 AM

Is the Bronx blossoming? Or is the borough a cautionary tale of urban blight? Well, we know it’s not burning…

Over the past week, news about the Bronx has cast the borough in a spectrum of lights, from a model for urban redevelopment to a place choked by failing infrastructure.

Here are some highlights:

As the Bronx's poverty rate hovers at twelve percent, new government subsidized housing units maybe be attracting more people to the borough. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis

A success story for growth and development: “Everything isn’t rosy, but we are giving three cheers for the Bronx,” Daniel Massey, reporter for Crain’s New York Business said on Wednesday’s Brian Lehrer Show. Personal income in the Bronx climbed 54 percent between 2000 and 2009, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, but at $28,500, it was still 71 percent lower than the city’s average. And more than 40 percent of the jobs created in the borough in the past decade were in low-paying fields, like retail and home health care, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although the Bronx is still entrenched in poverty (12 percent of residents live at or below the poverty level), according to Massey, “perceptions are starting to change… and when you talk to people who are moving to the Bronx they don’t talk about it burning, they talk about its affordability and its transportation links.”

The piece in Crain’s points to new housing developments, which Massey said have played a vital role in “attracting people to a borough they once fled and setting the stage for a gradual economic revitalization.” Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s watch, the city has created or preserved about 35,000 units of “affordable housing” in the Bronx.

A recent article in the New York Times took a similar tone. “Government Can’t Help? Tell That to the South Bronx,” by Michael Powell, credits the resurrection of the South Bronx to the government’s multi-decade investment efforts since the  early ’80s. “More than 1,000 new apartments citywide come courtesy of $85 million in federal stimulus dollars,” Powell said.

But the Bronx’s infrastructure is suffering…

  • Rundown Subways: The borough’s subway stations are in pretty bad shape. On Monday, Charles Moerdler, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board member from the Bronx, criticized the agency’s “second-class” treatment of the borough’s subway system, the Daily News reported. Mordler cited recent MTA data showing that the Bronx’s trains rank last in terms of on-time performance and delays and the stations are the worst-kept in New York City, according to the Daily News.
  • Water Main Issues: Forget about the quality of the train cars, try getting to the station — a water main break flooded the streets in the Bronx on Wednesday morning, according to several reports. After a 108-year-old, 36-inch cast-iron pipe burst, water began spilling onto Jerome Ave around East 177th Street in Mount Edan. Waist-deep water flooded parts of the neighborhood, forcing residents from their homes and delaying trains for hours. Emergency crews managed to shut down the main at 9:20 a.m. but, between 10 and 40 businesses were affected by water damage and officials told WNYC the clean up could take several days.

And half the post offices targeted for closure are in the Bronx: In an effort to cut costs, the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing 34 post offices in New York City. It looks like the Bronx will be the hardest-hit area — 17 post offices in the borough may be shut down, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. rallied on Wednesday to protest the closure of 17 post offices in the Bronx. Courtesy of City Hall News

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was disappointed by the news, he told the New York Post. “I am extremely concerned that 17 postal locations in the Bronx are being studied for potential closure… the Bronx cannot afford such a considerable loss of both jobs and commercial activity, and the federal government must seriously reconsider enacting any post-office closure plan that would have a serious negative impact on Bronx communities.”

 

  • Jordan Moss

    It’s nice that Crain’s is finally noticing the Bronx beyond its obsessive fixation on the Dec. 2009 defeat of the mayor’s plan of putting a mall in the landmark Kingsbridge Armory. Your post here refers to one key reason why the borough president and local residents fought the plan so hard: low-paying jobs. So I guess it makes sense that Crains’ discovery of the Bronx as a place worthy writing about with slightly more complexity connotes some kind of benchmark to the rest of the media. But how about all the other benchmarks of a resurgent borough — a continually blossoming art scene, rebuilding efforts that have filled virtually all of the lots emptied by arson (take a look at Melrose), and the relative vitality of small businesses (many fewer vacant storefronts than when I moved here in the early 1990s). This is not to ignore the problems, but the good news is still good even when Crain’s doesn’t notice.
    -Jordan Moss, editor, Bronx News Network (www.bronxnewsnetwork.org)

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