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Published: April 14th 2014
Lots of bodegas, all sell lottery tickets and some even have outside windows for purchasing. Food stamps aka EBT are prominent and to my surprise, so are fresh vegetables and fruit.
When we returned from China, and after a short visit back home in Vermont, we decamped to a spacious loft in New York (Mott Haven, South Bronx.) This has been an invigorating period as I have had a chance to immerse myself in some of the urban activities here in the metropolis. Visiting museums (Museum of the Chinese People in the US illustrated the changing nature of prejudice and discrimination against this "favorite" minority. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Chinese became allies in the fight against Japan, a struggle they had been engaged in for 11 years at that point. Life magazine printed an article
that alleged to give instructions on how to distinguish the Japanese from the Chinese), attending plays ("All the Way" on LBJ and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 was illuminating , LBJ to Senator Richard Russell "I love you but if you get in my way I will crush your balls"), films (Ilo, Ilo, about a Filipino domestic worker in Singapore in 1997, top rate!), eating out (we found new sources of both Ethiopian and Bengali cuisine in very modest settings), and walking the streets have made up most of my
Connections to the home country
This is a largely immigrant area, Caribbean, Central America, West Africa are major home regions of residents.
activities. Ellen has been not so engaged in these pursuits as her ear has been pinned to the phone, her fingers to the keyboard, and her backside to an airplane seat so this is mostly my report.
For this post I will rely on some photos taken in the neighborhood where we are living. When we mention that we are living in the South Bronx, our country friends ask, "Is it safe?" My impression has been very positive, although in our first few weeks here I was wary, escorting young women to the nearby subway station until I was oriented. Looking at crime here in the 40th Precinct we see the following:
Murder is down 89%!a(MISSING)s compared to 1998 (2013 total of 8), rape down 69%!((MISSING)2013- 25 total), , robbery down 71%!((MISSING)2013 total 454), felonious assault down 56%!,(MISSING) and grand larceny down 51%! (MISSING)
These figure make the area safer than most other cities in the US; in fact, looking here
NYC is not even in the top 100 for crimes of violence (note Oakland, East Palo Alto, and Richmond are three SF Bay cities that do make the list!) Indeed, I have been treated
This one combined with a Subway, one of the few chain stores in the area. Mc Donalds has a presence as does Foot Locker, go figure.
with almost unctuous respect in my commercial and street interactions. After shopping for a week or two at the nearby supermarket I was no longer asked to show my photo ID when I use my credit card and I am warmly greeted as the person who always shows up with canvas bags. I get chatted up in the locker room at the nearby Planet Fitness by body builders with cantaloupe biceps, volunteers in community garden are eager to explain their plans for the year, and I have seen certain gray haired women offered seats on subways. And there is the not unknown practice of being addressed as "Boss" by other men who apparently regard me as not working class (this as reported to me by another owner in our building.)
65% of the population in the area is classified “Hispanic”, whatever significance that imparts. I hear Spanish from people of all shades and hues; cotton candy, peach, cafe au lait, caramel, espresso, etal) and in the mash-up of things it is common to hear parents talking to their children in sentences that alternate between Spanish and English. Over 50% of the residents speak a language other than English at
A fact of life
Banks have largely deserted poor areas of the city, leaving residents to use cash checking services which prey on them, but they are open 24 hours!
home and a third of residents were born outside the US (the many Puerto Rican natives would not be considered in this total.)
Real estate is a topic of great interest in New York; much of Brooklyn has fallen to gentrification, Queens is next on the list and the steady northward march of the Upper East Side and West side is transforming Harlem. One has to ask, where do the people without means go? There is a great interactive here
that shows median incomes along subway lines (we are the first stop on the 6 in the Bronx.) The process in this part of the Bronx is undoubtedly slowed down by the presence of many public housing high rises. Mostly built in the 1960's, and in respectable exterior condition, they guarantee some bulwark against Stokke Cruiser Strollers
There is also the matter of Robert Moses, the despoiler of urban life, the champion of the automobile, and the most under scorned urban planner of all time. Looking at a map of the Bronx
you can see that the southern part is encircled in expressways, the Bruckner, the Major Deegan, the Cross Bronx and the Sheridan. In their construction, neighborhoods were divided,
Sunday morning, passing in front of the many churches in the area, you are serenaded by the choirs within
housing and streets were destroyed, and what was created is an area encircled by auto conveyances and all the attendant noise and pollution.
The Bronx expressways turned out to be Moses' last hurrah; his plan to bulldoze a 10 lane elevated highway across Canal Street, destroying parts of Soho and Little Italy were defeated in 1962 after a loud community resistance. At the time a member of the NY governing body said: Except for one old man , I've been unable to find anyone of technical competence who is for this so-called expressway. And this old man is a cantankerous, stubborn old man who has done many things which may have, in their time, been good for New York City. But I think it is time for this stubborn old man to realize that too many of his dreams turn out to be nightmares for the city. And this board must realize that if it does not kill this stupid example of bad city planning, that the stench of it will haunt them and this great city for many years to come
Despite excellent subway access to Midtown (I can be at Union Square
What is it going to take for me to put you into an MRI this afternoon
I assume that the many storefront medical facilities are medicare and medicaid mills, although this population is undoubtedly sicker than average
in 20 minutes) the highways have you hemmed in. Perhaps some new dynamic could be utilized here, one that avoids the trifecta of US urban development which leads to either decay, Disneyfication, or decadence. A slow upgrading of things, some commitment on the part of city and state officials to support this upgrading while keeping people in place, and a small earthquake that could do for the Major Deegan what Loma Prieta did for the Embarcadero Expressway in 1989.
And with that, I leave you to the photos...
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