“The Yuppies Are Coming? How To Know When the Bronx is Being Gentrified”

“The Yuppies Are Coming? How To Know When the Bronx is Being Gentrified”

by Mark Naison

During the last month, I have had the opportunity to lead walking tours and bus tours of Bronx neighborhoods for at least 6 different groups. I always enjoy these tours, not only because it gives me the opportunity to play some of my favorite music, eat my favorite foods, and talk about the rich history of the communities were are in, but because there is so much new construction taking place in neighborhoods which were once written off by most of the world.

However, one of the concerns that I have, along with many of the people I have led on these tours, is whether the Bronx neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment are going to remain affordable for their residents. Are neighborhoods, like Morrisania, Hunts Point, Melrose, Mott Haven, Tremont and Morris Heights going to eventually go the way of Harlem, Williamsburgh and the Lower East Side and experience spiraling rents and an influx of wealthy newcomers who will ultimately push out working families and people living on fixed incomes?

While I do not rule out some gentrification occurring in the Lower Concourse area or the neighborhoods adjoining Yankee Stadium, I would say, based on what I observed, that much of the Bronx will remain immigrant and working class for the foreseeable future.

As someone who lives in a neighborhood- Park Slope Brooklyn- which has been dramatically transformed from a multiracial lower middle class community into a wealthy white enclave in the last twenty years, I have learned to identify certain visual markers of gentrification. I am going to share these markers with you and then ask you to make your own judgment of whether Gentrification is transforming the Bronx

1. Yellow cabs. When I moved to Park Slope in 1977, you could see almost no yellow cabs in the neighborhood. Now, thirty years later, they are a regular presence at all hours of the day and night, taking people to and from work, and to and from Manhattan theaters and restaurants. During my six tours of the Bronx, lasting approximately 15 hours and encompassing almost every Bronx neighborhood South of the Cross Bronx Expressway and west of the Bronx Rive, I DID NOT SEE ONE YELLOW CAB!

2. Outdoor cafes. When you go to Park Slope, or for that matter Harlem, Williamsbugh, Fort Greene and the Lower East Side on a summer evening, you will see hundreds of people sitting in outdoor cafes eating dinner or socializing over drinks. These range from small places with three or four tables with larger restaurants with 50 to 100 people sitting outdoors. There may be some outdoor cafes in Mott Haven, but I did not see a single one in Morrisania, Tremont, or Morris Heights.

3. “Designer Dogs.” Neighborhoods like Park Slope, or Dumbo, where my daughter lives are filled with obscure and expensive dogs that you once only saw in the Westminster Kennell Club Dog Show- Bichon Frisees, English Bulldogs, Greyhounds, Weimeraners, Portuguese Water Dogs and the like. I have nothing against these dogs personally, but you will never see them in working class communities because they are incredibly expensive and make terrible watchdogs. When you have a critical mass of these dogs, the next step is the creation of dog parks where these dogs can socialize under the doting eyes of their owners. Are there any dog parks in the Bronx? Please tell me because I love to see Bichon Frisees and Chihuahuas play with pit bulls!

4. Sushi Bars” When I moved to Park Slope, the only bars we had were for drinking. Now, there are four sushi bars within ten blocks of my house. My dear friend and colleague Dr Natasha Lightfoot told me that a sushi bar just opened two blocks from her apartment in Harlem. Perhaps that is why she and her husband just bought a co-op in the Yankee Stadium area. Will the sushi will follow her to the Bronx. It hasn’t yet!.

5. Health Food Stores and Restaurants. I am all for healthy eating ( though I must say I like BBQ-especially Johnson’s BBQ- better than Tofu!), but there is no question that the opening of health food stores and restaurants is one of the markers of gentrification- they are all over Williamsburgh, the Lower East Side and Park Slope. As an intellectual exercise, I asked one of my tour groups to count the number of health food stores and our bus drove on Tremont Avenue from Southern Boulevard to Sedgwick Avenue, a distance of over three miles. The total-ZERO

6. Starbucks: No self respecting up and coming neighborhood is complete without its Starbucks. The coffee bar is a fixture of life for the young professional class, many of whom can’t imagine a day without their Latte. Needless to say, I did not see a single Starbucks in any of the Bronx neighborhoods I walked or drove through. Six years ago, Starbucks opened a store on Fordham Road four blocks from Fordham. Within a year, it closed.

Now that I’ve given you these markers of gentrification ( and perhaps you can give me others) make up your own mind. Is the Bronx gentrifying? Are its longtime residents- and new arrivals- being pushed out?

My own journeys have left me hopeful that our borough, even as it develops will remain a place that welcomes immigrants and striving families priced out of other sections of New York. The Bronx may not have Starbucks and Sushi bars, but it is full of mosques and churches, bodegas and ethnic groceries, hair braiding salons and travel agencies, and restaurants and take out spots where working class people can eat inexpensively. If we protect the borough’s supply of affordable housing, it may remain that way for the foreseeable future

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8 thoughts on ““The Yuppies Are Coming? How To Know When the Bronx is Being Gentrified”

  1. Hi, you must visit PeaceLove Cafe in the Bronx. It is owned by South Bronx Native and it is the Bronx First Health Food Cafe with Organic Coffee, Teas,Sandwiches, Soups,Salads Desserts….. With Internet/Computer Services. It also has Poetry Thursday 5pm-8pm, Fri & Sat Live Jazz, from 8pm-11pm. Visit peacelovecafe.com, PeaceLove Cafe on -Facebook. The Yuppies may not take over however they and anyone who wants a positive cafe to relax, relate and have a healthy good time should visit PeaceLove Cafe located 617 Melrose Avenue between 151st & 152nd Street. 347-577-6397tel. email peacelovecafe@gmail.com. Bring your tour group to this historical venue. See You Soon!

  2. Hi. I’m sorry to break it to you but there is unfortunately a Starbucks in the Bx. It is located in the Parkchester area but it was somewhat to be expected as it is a block away from Macy’s and one other thing you can add to your list as a gentry attractor is places with historical status which in that neighborhood happens to be the old movie theater. They always seem really drawn to that. I think they like that the place they are going to reside in has some kind of history they can impress people with lol. I myself have just moved back to the Bronx where i was born and raised. I lived here 24 years then returned after just 4 years and it was extremely hard for me to find affordable rent and I moved back to a poorer neighborhood! This has to stopped. I am already starting to notice “the presence” as i call it in my own hood.

  3. I see so many new developments in the Bronx. I think it is a good thing. And it’s about time. The Bronx deserves better. Why do I always have to travel to the other 4 boroughs and Westchester to live and and get more quality out of life? I often have to travel outside the Bronx to get something of quality. Trader Joe, Red Mango, Victoria Secret, etc exist everywhere else but the Bronx. Why should we deprived just because people are being afraid of change? Embrace it change is good. The Bronx with its topography can an attractive place for gentrification, new developments and old.

  4. There are about 6 Starbucks in the Bronx. Two of them are at Target stores. The other four are at the following:
    1. Johnson Ave in Riverdale
    2. Kingsbridge Road
    3. Parkchester
    4. Eastchester Road in the Montefiore or Albert Einstein hospital areas.

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