Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Thu 10 Dec 09 07:20
Oh, I see what you're asking. The Art Deco and similar apartment houses endured partly because they were sturdily built, and partly because most, though not all, of the apartment houses on the Concourse proper were not victims of arson and abandonment. Even though many of the buildings declined in the 70s and 80s, they remained standing, and when the area began its recent upswing, improving and maintaining them was a reasonably doable task, especially as they became increasingly attractive to residents able to pay rents (or purchase prices) that made maintenance fiscally viable.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Thu 10 Dec 09 11:23
Thanks, Connie. I just wonder who was able to afford to rent or purchase the units during the '70s and '80s and also willing to live in a neighborhood surrounded by what was widely known (around the world, even) as a danger zone. I'd think the owners couldn't drop the rents, as the buildings were/are expensive to maintain at all (even with some decline), and taxes had to be paid. But i suppose this would be hard to figure out without going back and talking to the people there at the time.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 10 Dec 09 14:16
I read a book called Report from Engine Co. 82 about a firefighter in the Bronx. Fascinating stuff.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Fri 11 Dec 09 11:40
Hi, Sharon-- That book, by Dennis Smith, is terrific; I bet you enjoyed it. That was also one of the first books to give a close-up look at what it was like to be a firefighter in the days when the Bronx really was burning. After 9/11, there were various books by firefighters, who were such heroes during and after the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. But Smith's book is a hard act to follow. And jstrahl, good question about who lived in those apartment buildings along the Grand Concourse during their tough years. Many of the tenants were welfare recipients, and a portion of their rent was paid by government agencies. Especially starting in the 1980s, some of the buildings benefited from federal subsidies that made it slightly easier financially to maintain them. Many apartments simply went vacant. But only starting in the 90s did the economics of maintaining housing in this part of the city begin to improve. It's a tough problem and it's not yet truly solved.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 11 Dec 09 14:39
Connie, do you happen to know if there are any effects of a Puerto Rican equivalent of yuppies moving to certain parts of The Bronx? My brother's in-law family is an example of Puerto Ricans with some upward mobility, the parents and the oldest 4 kids (all girls, including my sister-in-law, the oldest), were born in Puerto Rico, moved to the Bronx in the '50s, lived between Claremont and Crotona Parks (where the father had a store, on Claremont Parkway), then moved to Clason Point, where they were living when my brother met his wife--to-be. At that point, they were complaining of Claremont Parkway being unsafe. All of the kids got good jobs, my sister-in-law became an RN, one of the sisters graduated college, even got a masters, did teaching. My sister-in-law moved to California with my brother in '69, a few years later they all moved, parents, the twins who were born in '68, and the other daughters, married at that point, all moved to the Orlando area,live within few miles of each other, they all had it with The Bronx. But i wonder how many of the kids' peers experienced upward mobility yet tried to stay in The Bronx.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Mon 14 Dec 09 07:43
Interesting you should ask. A wide variety of people are moving to the Bronx these days -- white, black, Latino, Asian. Many are middle-class or working-class, and the ethnic and racial variety that can be seen in many parts of the borough is considered one of its great strengths. It's not like the old days, when racial change tended to be accompanied by tumult and flight. So that's a good sign.
DavidWilson (dlwilson) Mon 14 Dec 09 11:07
When Tom Wolfe published "Bonfires of the Vanities" he captures a lot of different "worlds." The courts and that particular judge was larger than life. I asked my cousin who is a criminal attorney in Brooklyn about Wolfe's characterization. He said that Brooklyn was somewhat like the book, but that the Bronx was known for having all the characters. Did Wolfe have a particular judge in mind and what is your view of how those Bronx courts work?
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 14 Dec 09 12:19
Thanks, Connie, good to know that variety is being valued now, a great improvement from the late '60s. I was surprised to learn that Bronx Science is now about 60% Asian. Back in '65 i could count the Asian students on my fingers, just about.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Thu 17 Dec 09 15:01
Hi, David-- Thanks for mentioning "Bonfire," which by the way I recommend to any Well user who isn't already familiar with it. In many ways, the book is a roman a clef, and if you look back at the articles that appeared when the book came out, you can find the names of many of the people who inspired him. It's generally agreed that the irascible judge was based on Burton Roberts, and there are lots of other parallels. The more you knew the players in the Bronx and in the city in those days, the better you could figure out who was who. As to how the courts work, I'm no expert, and there was much corruption in the Bronx in the later part of the 20th century, but I suspect it's fair to say that as the city has grown (relatively) more prosperous and stable in the last decade or two, things are better when it comes to the criminal justice system. At the very least, it's slightly less overwhelmed. And yes, jstrahl, let's hear it for variety. Everyone says that ethnic and racial variety is one of the strengths of the "new" Bronx, and there's no reason why that shouldn't continue to be the case.
(fom) Sat 19 Dec 09 23:25
I'm glad you are continuing the conversation because I am still reading the book!
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