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South Bronx in orange; the rest of the borough is in yellow.
"The Hub" is the retail heart of the South Bronx.
976 Simpson Street in the South Bronx. (Building conserved by the City of NY)
The Bronx's P.L.A.Y.E.R.S. Club Steppers performing at the 2007 Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival in Brooklyn. (Note the T-shirts' inscription "I ♥ BX" [Bronx], echoing the ubiquitous slogan "I ♥ NY" [I Love New York] ).[1]
Lorelei Fountain in Joyce Kilmer Park overlooking Yankee Stadium.

The South Bronx is an area of the New York City borough of The Bronx. It strictly refers to the southwestern portion of the borough, and should not be confused with the southern Bronx. The true South Bronx, which was a legal designation through the 1960s, was a very small area which extended from the southern tip of the borough north to 149th street. The neighborhoods of Tremont and University Heights, Highbridge, Morrisania, Soundview and Castle Heights are often incorrectly considered part of the South Bronx.

The South Bronx is part of New York's 16th Congressional District, one of the five poorest Congressional Districts in the United States.[2] The South Bronx is served by the NYPD's 40th,[3] 41st,[4] 42nd,[5] 44th,[6] and 48th[7] Precincts.



The Bronx was once considered the "Jewish Borough," and at its peak in 1930 was 49% Jewish.[8] Jews in the South Bronx numbered 364,000 or 57.1% of the total population in the area.[9] The term was first coined in the 1940s by a group of social workers who identified the Bronx's first pocket of poverty, in the Port Morris section, the southernmost section of the Bronx. After World War II as white flight accelerated and migration of ethnic and racial minorities continued, South Bronx went from being two-thirds non-Hispanic white in 1950 to being two-thirds black or Puerto Rican in 1960.[10] Originally denoting only Mott Haven and Melrose, the South Bronx extended up to the Cross Bronx Expressway by the 1960s, encompassing Hunts Point, Morrisania, and Highbridge. In the 1970s significant poverty reached as far north as Fordham Road. Around this time, the Bronx experienced some of its worst times ever. The resultant chaos as related by the media brought the term "South Bronx" into common parlance nationwide.


1960s: Start of decay

The South Bronx has been historically a place for working class families. Its image as a poverty-ridden area developed in the latter part of the 20th century.[11] There have been several factors contributing to the decay of the South Bronx: white flight, landlord abandonment, changes in economic demographics, and also the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway.[12]

The Cross Bronx Expressway, completed in 1963, was a part of Robert Moses’s urban renewal project for New York City. The expressway is ironically thought to be a factor in the extreme urban decay seen by the borough in the 1970s and 1980s. Cutting straight through the heart of South Bronx, the highway displaced thousands of residents from their homes, as well as several local businesses. The already poor and working-class neighborhoods were at another disadvantage: the decreased property value brought on by their proximity to the Cross Bronx Expressway. The neighborhood of East Tremont, in particular, was completely destroyed by the inception of the expressway. The combination of increasing vacancy rates and decreased property values caused some neighborhoods to become considered undesirable by homeowners.

In the late 1960s, the area's population began decreasing as a result of new policies demanding that, for racial balance in schools, children to be bussed into other districts. Parents who worried about their children attending school outside their district often relocated to the suburbs, where this was not a concern. In addition, rent control policies are thought to have contributed to the decline of many middle class neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s; New York City's policies regarding rent control gave building owners no motivation to keep up their properties.[13] Therefore, desirable housing options were scarce, and vacancies further increased. In the late 1960s, by the time the city decided to consolidate welfare households in the South Bronx, its vacancy rate was already the highest of any place in the city.[12]

1970s: "The Bronx is burning"

The phrase "The Bronx is burning" uttered by Howard Cosell during a Yankees World Series game in 1977, refers to the arson epidemic caused by the total economic collapse of the South Bronx during the 1970s. During the game, as ABC switched to a generic helicopter shot of the exterior of Yankee Stadium, an uncontrolled fire could clearly be seen burning in the ravaged South Bronx surrounding the park, leading to Cosell's surprised quip.

In the early 1970s, with property values continuing to plummet, property owners who tried to sell off their assets and escape the area found that much of the property in the South Bronx had been "redlined" by the banks and was unmarketable at any price. As burglary and robbery rose to national record levels, insurance companies began refusing to issue new policies to South Bronx businesses and massively increased the premiums on existing policies. With housing vacancy at an all-time high, business reduced to a trickle and rock bottom rent control making low-income letting unsustainable, desperate landlords and business owners began burning their buildings down for the insurance premiums. Often, prior to being set on fire, the building would be sold off to a "finisher" who would strip the buildings of wiring, plumbing, metal fixtures, and anything else of value so as to retain some of the owner’s investments.

The arson epidemic accelerated throughout the 1970s as crime intensified and residents continued to flee the area; by the time of Cosell's 1977 commentary, dozens of buildings were being burnt in the South Bronx every day, sometimes whole blocks at a time and usually far more than the fire department could keep up with, leaving the area perpetually blanketed in a pall of smoke. By the end, over 40% of the South Bronx's buildings had been burned or abandoned, giving it the appearance of a bombed-out and evacuated European city during the Blitz.[14] During this period, the NYPD's 41st Precinct Station House at 1086 Simpson Street became famously known as "Fort Apache, The Bronx" as it struggled to deal with the overwhelming surge of crime. By 1980, the 41st's station had been renamed "The Little House on the Prairie", as fully 2/3rds of the precinct's 94,000 residents had fled and left the station house as the only building on the block that had not been abandoned, burnt by arson, or both. [15]

Renewal, gentrification, and subsequent decay

Beginning in the late 1980s, parts of the South Bronx started to experience urban renewal with rehabilitated and brand new residential structures, including both subsidized multifamily town homes and apartment buildings.[16] Many of the newer residents are of the lower income strata who have been displaced from other low income sections of the city, are born in the South Bronx (due to a higher birth rate), or are immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean (primarily the Dominican Republic and Jamaica). This is because a significant percentage of New York City's most affordable housing is being built in the South Bronx. While some parts of the South Bronx have been renewed, many others have fallen into more severe decay as of the late 2000's. Crime is rampant,[17] abandoned buildings are a common site, and the poverty level seems to be rising. Even some of the structures renovated as a result of gentrification have deteriorated and/or have been abandoned. This phenomenon has been attributed to the current recession.[18]

Art scene

Since the late 1970s the South Bronx has been home to a renewed grassroots art scene. The arts scene that sprouted at the Fashion Moda Gallery, founded by a Viennese artist, Stefan Eins, helped ignite the careers of artists like Keith Haring and Jenny Holzer, and 1980s break dancers like the Rock Steady Crew. It generated enough enthusiasm in the mainstream media for a short while to draw the art world's attention.[19]. Modern graffiti is also prominent in the South Bronx. The Bronx is home to many of the fathers of graffiti art such as Tats Cru. The Bronx has a very strong graffiti scene despite the city's crackdown on illegal graffiti. The rise of rap and hip-hop music (and the South Bronx avant-dance band ESG) helped put the South Bronx on the musical map in the early 1980s. The South Bronx is now home to the Bronx Museum of the Arts on the Grand Concourse.[20]

South Bronx Campus, home of Village Prep School at 701 St Ann's Avenue

Construction of the new Yankee Stadium has stirred controversy over plans which, along with the new billion dollar field, include new athletic fields, tennis courts, bicycle and walking paths, stores, restaurants as well as a new Metro-North Railroad station, which during baseball season might help ease overcrowding on the subway.[21] There is hope that these developments also will help to generate residential construction. However, the new park comes at a price: a total of 22 acres (89,000 m2) in Macombs Dam and John Mullaly Parks were sacrificed to build it. Developers say they have plans to create fields on top of parking lots and will replace the old stadium with new parks.[21] The new stadium was completed in time for the start of the 2009 baseball season. However, the expected completion date of the promised athletic fields and other green space have yet to be revealed. Many in the local community oppose the stadium due to its effects on pollution, traffic, and a massive loss of the community's limited green space.[22]

The population of the South Bronx is currently increasing.[23][24] Although strides have been made since the days of arson, the South Bronx is still a long way from a real recovery. It is situated in the poorest congressional district in the country,[25] and contains over half of the Bronx's housing projects. Almost 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Drug trafficking, gang activity, and prostitution are all still common throughout the South Bronx. Its precincts record the highest violent crime rates in the city and are all NYPD "impact zones."


Vehicular: Major Deegan Expressway (I-87); Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95); Bruckner Expressway (I-278); Sheridan Expressway (I-895); Triborough Bridge; Grand Concourse.

Mass transit: The 2, 4, 5, 6, B and D New York City Subway trains all travel through the South Bronx.

Notable natives

Jason Lopez born in soundview raised in florida, new york, pennsylvania. Puerto Rican Cuban and Dominican descent


  1. ^ 2007 Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival website. See also the photograph album of the 2007 Festival
  2. ^ The Tax Foundation - Federal Individual Income Tax Burden by Congressional District, 2004
  3. ^ 40th Precinct, NYPD.
  4. ^ 41st Precinct, NYPD.
  5. ^ 42nd Precinct, NYPD.
  6. ^ 44th Precinct, NYPD.
  7. ^ 48th Precinct, NYPD.
  8. ^ :: Bronx County Clerks Office ::
  9. ^ Bronx Synagogues - Historical Survey
  10. ^ The New Bronx: A Quick History of the Iconic Borough
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95, I-295 and US 1)
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ South Bronx rises out of the ashes: Grass-roots efforts, government funds revitalize NYC community
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Hope Is Artists' Medium in a Bronx Neighborhood New York Times, December 27, 2000
  20. ^ Bronx Museum website
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^ New Yankee stadium
  23. ^ The (South) Bronx is up: a neighborhood revives"
  25. ^ The Tax Foundation - Federal Individual Income Tax Burden by Congressional District, 2004
  26. ^ Recognition to Tony Santiago from the Puerto Rican Senate
  27. ^ El Boricua
  28. ^ A medal, a debt, both of honor

Further reading

Kozol, Jonathan (1995); Amazing Grace; Crown Publishers.

  • Berman, Marshall; Berger, Brian, eds (2007). New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg. Reaktion Books.  
  • Berman, Marshall (1988). All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. Penguin.  
  • Gonzalez, Evelyn (2006). The Bronx (Columbia History of Urban Life). Columbia University Press.  
  • Jensen, Robert, ed (1979). Devastation/resurrection: the South Bronx. New York: Bronx Museum of the Arts.  
  • Jonnes, Jill (2002). South Bronx Rising: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of an American City. Fordham University Press.  
  • Office of the Borough President (Bronx, New York City) (1990). Strategic policy statement. New York: Office of the Bronx Borough President.  
  • Twomey, Bill (2007). The Bronx, in bits and pieces. Bloomington, IN: Rooftop Publishing.  

Pictorial Works

  • Kahane, Lisa (2008). Do Not Give Way To Evil: Photographs of the South Bronx, 1979-1987 (Miss Rosen ed.).  
  • Twomey, Bill (2002). South Bronx. Charleston, SC: Arcadia.   (Pictorial work on historical social life and customs in the South Bronx)

External links


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