Stumbled upon this very interesting blog, make sure to check it out.

If you’re a New Yorker, you would know that these days there aren’t too many places the cool kids shy away from in New York City, and even more apparent is the trail they leave behind. The harbingers of gentrification have left their mark throughout the boroughs from Williamsburg through Bushwick and much of North Brooklyn, as well as Downtown Manhattan and even parts of Western Queens. Perhaps we have a problem with an army of yuppies colonizing our beloved neighborhoods, but it seems this is what it takes to get a neighborhood noticed by not just other New Yorkers and the world, but by developers who, we must admit, help make a neighborhood much more livable. The question however is if there could be, just maybe, a destination of equal glory and interest for these trendsetters or any other demographic in the misperceived, shadowlands of the Bronx? Hipster or not, allow me to introduce you to Mott Haven.

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Television studios, a coffee and tapas bar, a late-night lounge and an upscale liquor store could all be headed to a two-block stretch of Bruckner Boulevard that has seen a whirlwind of development in recent years. The coming attractions follow several eateries that arrived in the neighborhood in the past few years, fueling the area’s ongoing evolution from an industrial district into a hip hub.


The World Famous South Bronx

In Manhattan, the average two-bedroom apartment is selling for $1.8 million. Let’s ponder that for a moment: $1.8 million. For a lousy two bedrooms! Perhaps you can afford that. But, really, is that how your parents raised you?

Prices in the inner-ring neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens, which offer reasonable commutes to Manhattan, are also looking pretty crazy. All the convenient locations, it seems, are priced out.

Except for the Bronx. The South Bronx, with its 20-minute express trains to Midtown, is still cheap. According to Trulia, TRLA -0.06% the area’s average price per square foot is roughly $80, compared with $400 or so in Brooklyn and Queens and, God save us, $1,300 in Manhattan. Crossing the Harlem River is like stopping at a dream currency exchange: Suddenly, your dollar goes a lot further.

imageNatalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journa

A view of the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx at 138th Street and Willis Avenue. Below, a property on the market, on Kelly Street.

This may explain why, after decades of outflow, more people are moving into the Bronx than moving out. Long regarded as the final frontier, a sort of vast concrete Canada appended to the city’s north end, the Bronx is now looking like the sensible alternative.

Mott Haven is the most likely place to start looking. Since the early ’90s, it’s been touted as the next hot neighborhood. It even has its own yuppie-friendly name, SoBro.

Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal

A property on the market on Kelly Street.

Anyone expecting a burning inferno or an edgy bohemia will be disappointed. The most interesting thing about the nation’s most storied community is its hum-drum banality. It looks like any other working-class enclave, replete with 99-cent stores and barbershops. The big draw is its proximity to Manhattan. It’s three express stops from Midtown.

Sid Miller, a retired real-estate agent, saw the area’s potential in 1987, when he bought a massive four-story brownstone on East 138th Street for $50,000. When I met him earlier this month, he was trying to unload it for $875,000.

It’s a well-preserved building sandwiched between Isa’s Recovery Shop (“Recovery coins, gifts, chairs, wishing wells, umbrellas and helium keg rental”) and a combination Mexican bakery/electronics store. Mr. Miller was clearly in love with the place.

"Every apartment is like this," he said, gesturing about the top floor. "Center reception room, brick walls. Look at the floors! The woodwork! All original!"

He was just warming up. “Is this a big enough bedroom? Look at the closets! The original shutters are here! Tell me what you think of the craftsmanship of the radiator!”

He had nothing but praise for Mott Haven. The heroin dealers are gone, replaced by hard-working Mexican families. And just a block away, on 139th Street, the brownstoners are moving in. “Gays! Artists!” he said. “There’s an explosion of baby carriages on the street. They have crashes, there’s so many!”

Mr. Miller folded his arms and shot me a penetrating look. “I have only one question for you. When do you want to move in?”

If only buying in the Bronx was always that easy. The borough has adopted an ultra-casual approach to marketing. Calls to brokers go unreturned. Property listings are tersely worded, with free-form grammar and punctuation. Curious about a property’s square footage or number of bedrooms? That is a state secret. If the listing has photos, they are often blurry, or shot at night. But inevitably, there is a splendid close-up shot of the toilet.

One listing stood out: a “rare, 4 story white limestone designed by Dickerson.” You know, Dickerson. The architect behind the Longwood Historic District, a tiny, landmarked South Bronx enclave 30 minutes from Grand Central. Dickerson had a thing for turrets and stone trim. His homes look like cute little castles.

Citi Habitats broker Maria Ellis ran through the numbers. Assuming the home sells for $495,000, the rental income from two of the building’s four 1,100-square-foot units would easily cover the mortgage.

She was accompanied by Olie Burton, an analyst and bioethicist who lives around the corner and is selling the place for her 94-year-old grandmother. Ms. Burton rattled off the neighborhood’s advantages. There’s no Whole Foods, but the C-Town supermarket will order anything you can’t find on the shelf. Come summer, you’ll hear music on the streets. Plus, the I-95 runs right through the area. “You can get out of here very easy,” said Ms. Burton.

The home’s interior spoke for itself. With its big bay windows, lavish detailing and 13-foot ceilings, it was really quite grand. This deal struck me as a no-brainer.

But here’s the funny thing about South Bronx real estate. When you’re looking at an actual property, it all makes sense. Later, in abstract, the old fears kick in, and the very notion sounds even crazier than spending $1.8 million on a crappy Manhattan condo.

I had one more stop: a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom co-op on the Grand Concourse, a landmarked stretch of Art Deco apartment buildings. Halstead Property broker David Macaluso, who moonlights as an opera singer, is an expert on the area—he moved there himself after getting priced out of Manhattan. He knew all the right catch phrases: FreshDirect delivers; the nearby deli sells gluten-free bread; the Zipcar lot is blocks away.

It was a lovely apartment, with parquet floors, a sunken living room and enough sunlight to tan a volleyball team. Plus: Five closets! It would easily fetch $1.5 million in Manhattan. Mr. Macaluso wanted $245,000, but wasn’t expecting an easy sell. “The Bronx!” said Mr. Macaluso. “People get freaked out.”

I spent some time wandering the neighborhood, the heart of the borough’s civic district, and did not feel freaked out. It was bustling, not menacing. There were lots of pretty little parks. And the Grand Concourse resembles the spacious Parisian thoroughfare it was modeled after, with a few bodegas thrown in for good luck.

I am telling everyone who will listen: Buy in the Bronx! And what are the odds I’ll take my own advice? Zero. Like any true New Yorker, I’m looking forward to the day when I’m priced out. Then I can grouse about the crazy prices in Mott Haven.

Welcome to a slice of the borough that ranks as the city’s fastest-growing breeding ground for new businesses. Between 1991 and 2011, the Bronx saw a quadrupling in the number of new business incorporations to 4,690, according to a study by the Center for an Urban Future.

"Entrepreneurs big and small were realizing this was an untapped market," said the center’s executive director, Jonathan Bowles, who noted that adding to that momentum is the borough’s rapid population growth in recent years.

Others attribute the boom to everything from some of the city’s lowest rents for commercial space to, paradoxically, the borough’s high unemployment rate. Joblessness in the Bronx stands at 14.1%, far above the citywide average of 10.1%, according to the most recent, non-seasonally adjusted statistics from the state Labor Department.

"Because of the high unemployment rate, people feel it’s the right time to start something," said Jose Made, a loan consultant at Accion USA, which during the past year alone has provided microfinancing to 14 small business owners in the Bronx. "They have nothing to lose and something to gain."

The bulk of the new enterprises in the Bronx are not the cutting-edge tech companies launching in areas like Brooklyn’s Dumbo or Manhattan’s Flatiron district. Up in the Bronx, the newbies run the gamut from bars, barber shops and 99-cent stores to accountants, beer brewers and home-based day-care centers. But the bottom line is the same as it is anywhere else: a new crop of enterprises producing jobs, services and products for area residents, and income for fledgling entrepreneurs.

Bronx entrepreneurs are also benefiting from an influx of people who have been priced out of Manhattan and are looking for the closest affordable thing. Mott Haven—in particular, a small slice bordered by 138th Street and Bruckner Boulevard to the north and south, and St. Ann’s Avenue and Third Avenue to the east and west—is a prime example.

"There’s an evolving demographic of people who are moving into the Bronx because they can’t afford Manhattan or Brooklyn," said Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. She boldly predicts the area around Mott Haven’s Clock Tower building will morph into "the new Williamsburg."

"It was standing room only on a Saturday afternoon in March at a South Bronx church known for its social activism streak, where residents came, hoping to hear the city’s mayoral candidates explain their positions on the issues.

There was only one problem: The three candidates considered frontrunners in next November’s election—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson—were nowhere to be found.”

At Camaguey Restaurant on 138th St. a few days after the forum, one resident said the highest-profile candidates’ failure to appear was a sad but familiar example of Manhattan power brokers trying to keep South Bronx voters in the dark.

"When the talking heads talk about the wonders Bloomberg has done for the city, they’re talking about Manhattan," said Marian Rivas, 69, during lunch at the restaurant, a few blocks from her home. “We have not benefited.”

Rivas is an MD with a specialty in genetics, who returned 15 years ago to live in the house where she grew up, after many years working in other parts of the country. In 2011, she helped create We Are Mott Haven, a group of local homeowners and renters who oppose what they say is the city’s unstated policy to place as many drug rehab and mental health programs here as it can, to avoid political blowback in wealthier parts of the city.

"Why do we have to have all those methadone centers where these kids and teachers have to pass?" said Antonia Vega, 69, whose autistic grandson travels by bus to a school several miles away. “Why can’t they put a special needs school in the neighborhood?”

Julio Rodriguez, 64, a retired MTA worker, said that “although there’s a lot of activism in the area,” and “there’s a group for everything,” the advocacy rarely translates into policy changes.

Like his neighbors, Rodriguez says he has been discouraged about the political process since joining the fight to prevent the psychiatric residence from being built.

"They’re taking us for granted. There’s no real political power here," said Rodriguez, adding he was not surprised the frontrunners ducked the mayoral forum. "There were going to be hard questions."

Rodriguez added that the community board system has been of no help in the fight to keep out the project.

"We really don’t rely on them anymore. The community board does not tell the people what’s going on," he said. "They are part of the problem. They’re selected by the borough president. If you don’t go their way, you’re out. Nobody’s challenging it from within."

For Rivas and her neighbors, one of the most important changes a new mayoral administration should bring is transparency in the decision-making process.

"People gave up when they saw all of their efforts were going for nothing," she said.

"That’s what bothers me the most. We’re the last ones to know."

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As far as residents of the Upper East Side are concerned, you don’t exist.

No one lives near the East River in the Bronx, according to those who are waging a last-ditch fight to stop the city from building a new garbage-handling facility on 91nd Street and the East River.

Jed Garfield, the real estate broker who leads the opposition to the waste transfer station, and who lives in an art-filled, five-bedroom townhouse on East 89th Street, told a reporter the city should put the facility near the Hunts Point Market, where “it would not actually touch any neighborhoods.”

Cocooned in their co-ops and townhouses, the opponents of the city’s plan to oblige Manhattan to share the burden of disposing of the city’s waste may believe that no one lives in the South Bronx, but they have now been joined by politicians who know better.

Can these flip-flop artists be more disingenuous? Do they think the scrap heaps and garbage plants of Hunts Point and Port Morris are perched on a hilltop?

They know that the residents of Hunts Point, Longwood, Port Morris and Mott Haven put up with thousands of trucks rumbling through their streets each day hauling nearly a third of the city’s refuse to 11 waste transfer stations in Hunts Point and six in Port Morris. And they know that Manhattan, whose offices, restaurants and residences generate 40 percent of the city’s garbage, has not a single transfer station.

They’re smart enough to know it is no coincidence that this unequal distribution of the city’s burdens falls on impoverished neighborhoods whose residents are people of color.

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Ceetay - Top Notch Sushi in the South BX

South Bronx No Longer Nation’s Poorest Congressional District — USA Today

At last, the South Bronx is free!

A recent USA Today analysis shows that the South Bronx is no longer the nation’s poorest congressional district.

—Poorest. Three Texas metro pockets were poorest: McAllen, Brownsville and Laredo. Income per person in McAllen: $21,260. Lake Charles, La., was poorest among metro areas having 200,000 or more residents.

I have long contended that some backwater southern community had to rank poorer than the Puerto Rican South Bronx. Texas and Louisiana can have all that goes along with that miserable appellation.

Take note Rep. Jose Serrano and a legion of South Bronx grantwriters.You will need to use a new phrase in order to justify continued federal and private philanthropic largess.

Maybe my “homeland” will throw off the yoke of “development aid” like so many Third World areas are now doing. (Wish we could discover shale gas beneath Hunts Point or Port Morris.)

Bronx Wedding Photographer Couple Redo Their Ceremony to Get Perfect Pics

PARKCHESTER — The second time around, Danielle and Wilfredo Rivera decided on a different type of wedding.

For starters, it would be a surprise — friends and family arrived at a South Bronx bar Sunday afternoon expecting to celebrate Danielle’s 30th birthday.

Also, it would be fun.

She donned a $5 thrift store dress over hot pink tights. He sported pink suspenders, which matched the hue of his high-top laces. Guests wore purposefully cheesy 80s attire.

The surprise ceremony unfolded on the sixth-floor roof of the Clock Tower building in Port Morris, which houses the Clock Bar. Pastel balloons, standing in for flower arrangements, blew in the wind.

The couple exchanged homemade vows. Hers were a greatest hits compilation of vows she found online. His were straightforward — “You’re awesome!”

After they kissed, they danced to Adele.

“It was a perfect day,” Danielle said.

But it wasn’t their official wedding day — it was the one-year anniversary of the original ceremony.

The Bronx couple, a husband-wife wedding photography team, staged the picture-perfect wedding redo Sunday to correct a painful mishap that occured last November — their official wedding photos turned out awful.

“We did everything we had wanted to do last year, this year,” Danielle Rivera said.

The two New York-natives met at a salsa-dancing convention in Atlanta a few years ago. They were engaged on New Years Eve, during the first moments of 2011.

Danielle created a bridal blog that February to document her wedding-planning saga and, before long, it averaged 15,000 page views per month, she said.

Finally, the wedding day arrived. Everything appeared perfect.

“The dress was to die for, the flowers were just right and the reception details were the perfect blend of the two — a little bit she, a little bit he,” Danielle wrote on her site.

But as the day went on, she got a sinking sense that the photographer friend she had hired wasn’t capturing the hundreds of details the couple had spent months obsessing over, or their spontaneous moments of joy that day.

When she saw the photographs after the wedding, her fears were confirmed.

“I got the pictures back, and my heart broke into a million pieces,” she said.

Shots were out of focus or poorly lit. There were no group portraits. Nothing was retouched.

Out of 1,700 pictures the photographer sent her, Danielle could not find 100 worth including in an album. The week after the wedding, she hired another photographer to retake the bridal portraits.

“That experience was everything that fueled my decision to go into wedding photography,” she said. “I try to take the pictures that I would have wanted on my own wedding day.”

Her decision was reinforced by the fact that, not long after the wedding, she was laid off from her job as a hospital dietitian.

This January, she turned to her blog readers. For five months, she wrote, she would photograph their special occasions free of charge as she honed her craft and built up a portfolio.

Before long, she was shooting three to five events a week. At her home in Parkchester, a particularly pretty plant and her husband served as models for nightly practice sessions.

By May, she felt ready to launch her own wedding and event photography business, which she called Danfredo — a mash-up of her and her husband’s names.

As she developed the business, Danielle attended networking events and enrolled in online photography classes. She also assists wedding photographers that she meets online and in person.

Twah Dougherty, owner of the photography company Style Art Life, hired Danielle earlier this year to help shoot weddings when she was shorthanded. Before long, she elevated Danielle into an associate photographer who handles weddings when Dougherty herself is booked.

“She’s one of the few photographers who I felt like I could truly trust with my business,” Dougherty said. She described Danielle’s style as “quirky, charismatic photojournalism.”

Since May, Danielle has helped photograph 32 weddings in New York and beyond, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and even Mexico.

Wilfredo, who works at a law firm in Manhattan, accompanied Danielle to some early shoots to offer support. Soon he was taking photos with her.

“I never thought I’d like it,” said Wilfredo, 34. Now, he hopes to work full-time with his wife within a few years.

The couple’s photographs look thoroughly modern — naturally lit, candid shots that seem equally suited for glossy bridal magazines or Instagram.

While that style is all the rage many places, it has yet to catch on in The Bronx, the pair said, where more formal, posed pictures remain popular.

Though most of their work so far has been out of The Bronx, the couple said they are intent on developing a clientele in their home borough.

“I grew up in The Bronx — I want to keep it here,” Danielle said. “I’m hoping we can be that breath of fresh air.”

Mexicocina opening 3rd Location

MOTT HAVEN — At Mexicocina, a relatively new Mexican eatery, two things keep multiplying — the number of locations and the taco options.

The tacos start at $2.50 each and can be served in doubled-up soft tortillas or in hard shells, topped with the traditional onion-cilantro-sauce combo, or “American style,” as the owner puts it, smothered with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream.

They can be stuffed with chicken, steak, sausage, tongue, ear, pineapple pork, cactus, squash or huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn — more than 30 filling options crowd the soon-to-debut expanded menu.

And now, customers have three choices of where to buy the tacos, all within walking distance of each other — the original space at 800 E. 149th Street, which opened four years ago; a larger location at 503 Jackson Avenue, which debuted last month; and a third space at 444 E. 149th Street, which will launch this month.

“I know there’s a market for it over here,” said the chain’s owner, Antonio Vilchis. “I have tried all the restaurants around here — there’s no good food.”

Vilchis, 38, moved from a small town in Puebla, Mexico, to New York 15 years ago. He worked at a series of American, Italian and Mexican restaurants in Manhattan.

For nearly a decade he dreamed of starting his own restaurant. Then in late 2008 he did it, opening the small storefront restaurant on E. 149th St., just two blocks from the 6 train station.

“It took me a long time,” Vilchis said, “but it finally happened.”

For the first few months, he and two friends were the restaurant’s only staff. Workdays lasting 20 hours were not uncommon.

Then business took off and, in 2010, Vilchis opened a pizzeria at the space on Jackson Ave., two blocks south of 149th St. But as demand for his tacos kept growing, Vilchis decided this August to convert the pizzeria into a second Mexicocina outpost.

Beginning this month, the original restaurant will do away with its tables so that it and the new location can focus on take-out and delivery taco orders. The Jackson Ave. space, which can seat 40, will serve as the chain’s sit-down spot.

Vilchis decided to differentiate the locations by varying the fourth-to-last letter in their names. From oldest to not-yet-open, they are called Mexicocina, Mexicosina and Mexicozina.

At each location, homespun Mexican is the theme in both décor and dish.

From the live cacti to the paintings of the Virgin Mary, and from the Mexican pop music to the Day of the Dead shrines with painted skulls and candles, the atmosphere is authentic south-of-the-border.

Culinary imports include the giant cemita sandwiches, the yolk-filled albóndigas meatballs, and the chiles en nogada, stuffed green peppers in a white walnut sauce sprinkled with red pomegranate seeds — the colors of the Mexican flag.

Vilchis borrowed the recipes from the master chefs of his hometown — that is, the women who lived there.

“When you’re poor, you are your own restaurant, in a way,” he said, adding that, “If there’s something we’re not sure how to make, we’ll still call our mothers.”

On Monday afternoon, one couple ventured into the Jackson Ave. location hankering for pizza, only to find that it now served Mexican. They tried the chicken tacos.

Another group chatted in Spanish during lunch, then ate tres leches cake for dessert. One of the diners, Maria del Carmen Can, 40, from Queens, finished her meal with a smile.

“This is delicioso,” she said. “Very good.”

$30 Million for Bronx Facility

California-based Public Storage is purchasing a 410,000-square-foot building in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx for roughly $30 million, the New York Observer reported, but couldn’t immediately confirm. The property is located at 385 Gerard Avenue. This will be Public Storage’s third location in the Bronx. Massey Knakal’s Bob Knakal led a team to represent the property’s seller, R Squared LLC.

As previously reported, self-storage companies were found to be the best real estate investment over the past 10 years.

As The Real Deal previously reported, CubeSmart, a self-storage company, recently made a $59.27 million purchase of a Bronx storage facility — the largest property sale since the Lehman collapse.

Limited Edition Bronx Beer!

MOTT HAVEN — Get ‘em while they’re hot — or, hopefully, cold.

The Bronx Brewery introduced a new beer this week — only the second draft the company’s turned out since starting production last fall — but it’s being offered for a limited time only.

Beer-makers Damian Brown and Chris Gallant brewed just one batch, or about 140 kegs worth, of their new Bronx Rye Pale Ale, and they will deliver it to bars and restaurants in The Bronx and Manhattan for as long as supplies last.

The new brew, which will join the Bronx Brewery’s flagship Bronx Pale Ale, was made with Chinook and crystal hops to give it an herbal and woodsy flavor, according to Brown, the team’s head brewer.

"It’s a very, very rye-dominant ale," Brown said. "It has a very distinct, sharp rye spice to it."

The Rye Pale Ale debuted to rave reviews Thursday night at Randolph Beer on Broome Street, where passersby sipped on free samples.

"I don’t usually like hoppy beer, but this is good," said Mark Lewis, 37, who was visiting the city from Toronto. "[It’s] nice and light."

Several tasters praised the flavor of the new beer, which was served from a cask rather than a keg, making it less carbonated and a little warmer than regular draught beer.

"I like the flavor — very smooth," said Mark Makary, 54, who was visiting his daughter in the city from Miami.

Brown said the new ale is the first of many special-edition brews the company plans to release every few months, each just for a short time. The limited supply, he said, is partly because the brewers don’t want a new beer to outshine their regular Bronx Pale Ale, but also because of the capacity of their current brewing space.

Though the Bronx Brewery is based in Mott Haven, the company’s actual beer brewing takes place at a brewery in Connecticut, where they’ve installed their own equipment. The space allows them to brew only a certain amount at a time, and specialty batches mean they can’t turn out as much of the regular Bronx Pale Ale, Brown said.

"We really want to focus on the true flagship beer," he said.

Brown and Gallant hope to break ground on their own brewing space closer to home by the end of the year. They are fundraising and searching for a space between 7,500 and 10,000 square feet, hopefully in the South Bronx.

Eventually, Brown wants to add a second permanent beer to the brewery’s menu. 

But for at least the next few weeks, the Bronx Rye Pale Ale will be on tap at a number of bars in the Bronx and Manhattan, and the brewery will host a series of tasting events.

The Bronx Rye Pale Ale will debut in its namesake borough Sept. 5, at the Bronx Ale House in Kingsbridge, and will also be on tap Sept. 6 at Tosca Cafe on East Tremont Avenue, where $4 pints will be paired with Tosca’s specialty pizzas.

"I like the beer," Brown said. "So I’m excited to get out there and see what people think of it."

The City Council hopes to snuff out shootings in some of the city’s deadliest precincts by pouring $4.8 million into innovative anti-gun violence programs there, including one in the South Bronx that will hire former gang members to break up neighborhood beefs before they turn bloody, New York has learned.

Adam Davidson wrote a short piece titled “The Bronx Is Yearning” which appeared on July 15, 2012 in the New York Times Magazine. As a resident of the south Bronx, I instantly was drawn to this article. In it, Davidson focuses on the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, which bills itself as “the first City-sponsored, privately operated incubator, created to bring entrepreneurs to the south Bronx.”

As I investigated this interesting project, I also encountered some curious discrepancies. The article that I had read in the Sunday Magazine under one title also had been published five days earlier under the title, “Why Can’t the Bronx Be More Like Brooklyn?” Adding to this curious title change is the fact that, in August of 2009, Sonya Chung had written an article for The Millions under the same title as Davidson’s second piece: “The Bronx Is Yearning.” Chung’s article was more a meditation on being a writer in the Bronx, in which she concludes that the Bronx, as a “crossroads,” actually is a great place for a writer to live and gather material, even if it lacks those quaint wi-fi coffee houses of Brooklyn.

After reading Davidson’s article, I decided to supplement it, particularly for readers not familiar with the Bronx: thus this blog post.  The first thing to note is the location of that Sunshine Bronx incubator.  Davidson makes no mention that it is housed in the BankNote Building. Even though there may be plenty of nondescript architectural stock scattered around the Bronx, the BankNote Building is hardly one of these.

BankNote Building, Bronx, Hunts Point, view from southwest Everyone who has driven north on the Bruckner Expressway has seen, off on the right, its hulking mass of red brick piers and industrial-scaled, segmental arched windows. This is not a building one can ignore. For almost seventy-five years since its completion in 1911, it produced stamps, bonds, stock certificates, checks, and even the new American Express Company “Travelers Cheques;” and its customers included China, Cuba, and several South American and European countries.   The BankNote Building was designed in 1909 by the New York architectural firm of Kirby, Petit & Green, among whose many other designs were the Bush Terminal Company, the Hearst Building in San Francisco, and Dreamland in Coney Island. 

I decided to wander up to Hunt’s Point and see if I could find Sunshine Bronx in the BankNote Building.   I took the #6 Subway to Hunts Point Avenue Station, crossed under the Bruckner, and walked south on Garrison Avenue (see map).   As part of my supplement to Davidson’s article, I detoured onto Barretto Street, which borders the BankNote on the north. Barretto Street has many great murals, sponsored by The Point, and the one pictured here actually shows the BankNote Building looming in the distance behind the painted wall.
Bronx, Hunts Point, Barretto Street, Mural, 2004 BAAD! ASS WOMEN Festival I intend to write a future blog post featuring the many murals of Hunts Point, so for now this single image will do as an example of the wealth of street art to be found in the vicinity of the BankNote Building. It was done in 2004 as part of the BAAD! ASS WOMEN Festival. 

BAAD! stands for the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance.   It was founded by Arthur Aviles and, with the help of the Point Community Development Corporation, it has converted some 9,000 square feet of the BankNote Building into its performance and workshop space.

Upon entering the BankNote Building, I saw a directory and recognized the name of a painter friend of mine, Robert Seyffert, so I first visited him in his studio.  There are several studios like this one, all well-lit by those old, industrial monitor windows. I found him at work on a painting and left him after getting directions to Sunshine Bronx.

Robert Seyffert in his studio, Bronx, Hunts Point, BankNote Building Because the BankNote is a complicated, multi-storied, T-shaped structure, getting from Robert’s studio in one section to Sunshine Bronx in another necessitated first going down a floor, then across to a different section of the building from where I took an elevator up to the top floor.   On my way, I passed The Wine Cellarage.   It provides retail sales of fine wines with climate controlled storage for its customers. It moved from its original location in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to the BankNote building in 2005.  

The Wine Cellarage, Bronx, Hunts Point, BankNote Building

The Wine Cellarage stores wines for private collectors, retail shops and clients of Christies, among others, and boasts “more than 20,000 cases of the rarest and priciest glories of the vinous world, residing in a 150-foot-long, temperature- and humidity-controlled vault.”   Who would have thought!

When I finally located the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, it was in a brightly-lit wing (of course, most of the BankNote is well-lit) in what I think is the taller, Lafayette Avenue section of the building.  It is an elegant, well-appointed space offering a variety of modern work areas.  I talked to one of the young entrepreneurs there, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is the founder of the Brook Avenue Press. The goal of her press is to develop urban stories for kids, whether in the Bronx or in other cities, such as Chicago.

Alexandria does not yet have a webpage for her press, but here is a brief presentation that she has placed on YouTube.   She also told me that she has found her experience at Sunshine Bronx quite worthwhile and rewarding.   Unfortunately, Sunshine Bronx preferred that I not to take my own photographs of their space, and they never sent me photographs as promised, so the best I can do is offer this web site, the photographs of which don’t do their space justice.

Davidson had followed a different entrepreneur at Sunshine Bronx, 
in his article, Miguel Sanchez.  In it, he quotes Sanchez as saying “finding lunch in the neighborhood is a big problem.”  This is true, at least if the neighborhood is defined as a radius of a few blocks.  I think that one would have to walk north to Hunts Point Avenue to find lunch places; the only place nearby is a McDonalds at the corner of Garrison and Tiffany

And this is where my supplement of Davidson’s article takes us a little further south, to Mott Haven.  We Mott Haven residents certainly do have more choices in eating establishments, and our standard for years has been the Bruckner Bar and Grill.  

Bruckner Bar & Grill, Bronx, Mott Haven, seen from 3rd Avenue bridge on-ramps

Here is the place to encounter all one’s friends as well as, with some frequency, our local councilwoman and her family.  It has a back room for special occasions, and there, on Monday evenings, a group of local artists meet to draw from the model.  

However, two new venues have recently opened their doors and offer Mott Haven residents expanded choices of good places to eat. 

A block from The Bruckner Bar & Grill is The Clock Martini Bar and Bistro, which opened for business on March 1, 2012.  It is located within “The Clock Tower” on Lincoln Avenue, a building built in 1886 that once was home to the Estey Piano Company Factory.  

The Clock Martini Bar & Bistro, Bronx, Mott Haven, Lincoln Avenue and Bruckner Avenue

The A.I.A. Guide to New York City calls this the oldest remaining of the Bronx piano factories, “the grande dame of the piano trade; not virgin, but all-together and proud.”  The Clock Tower is now residential lofts and houses many artists and their studios. 

The Clock Martini Bar & Bistro, Bronx, Mott Haven, Painting by Sofia Bachvarova

This photograph of the interior of The Clock shows one of ten paintings by the artist, Sofia Bachvarova in a show curated by another Bronx artist, Jeanine Alfieri.  The title of this painting is She Often Found Herself Tethered between What Wasn’t There and What Was to Be.  Her work evokes a surreal and mystical environment in which ancient myth, literature and a suspension of time create a compelling and personal iconography.  The Clock hangs new shows each month done by local artists, and its owner, Charlie Said, is intent upon “bringing a little of downtown uptown.” 

Another block further on is Ceetay, which opened two months ago. Its owners, Alex Abeles and Amir Chayon, call it Asian Fusion, but I find their sushi, sashimi and hand rolls so wonderful that I have yet to try those fusion dishes.  

Ceetay, Sushi Bar & Asian Fusion Restaurant, Bronx, Mott Haven, Alexander Avenue

With Ceetay right here on Alexander Avenue, there is no need to look for sushi in Manhattan; and if you did, you wouldn’t find better anyway.  Here (below) is sushi chef, Dorgi Tsheiring, preparing some of his wonderful dishes. 

Ceetay, Sushi Bar & Asian Fusion Restaurant, Bronx, Sushi Chef Dorgi Tsheiring

Finally, a four block walk up Alexander Avenue from Ceetay brings us to the Bronx Art Space, an artist-run collaborative gallery space with an active schedule of art exhibitions, festivals and special events.   It is located at 305 East 140th Street in a five-story industrial building, the top four floors of which have been converted into condominium lofts. 

Bronx Art Space, Bronx, Mott Haven, 305 East 140 Street, Visions/Re-Visions exhibition, July 2012

When we consider Sunshine Bronx and the many other activities accommodated in the BankNote Building, the on-going contributions to community development at The Point (its neighbor to the north), and the proximity of Hunts Point to Mott Haven and the latter’s developing amenities, I think that we can say with some confidence that the Bronx is neither burning, nor is it yearning. The truth is, it is turning.


Bernard L. Stein from Mott Haven Herald Responds to NYT.

"What’s wrong with the Bronx? We are. Those of us who live here are the problem, according to a widely-circulated piece of punditry in The New York Times.”

"Davidson may not remember it, but in the early 1970s, when that income gap began to grow, the Bronx was on fire, and the fires were in no small measure the result of deliberate public policy.

Robert Moses pushed the poor out of Manhattan, building Lincoln Center in what had been a working class neighborhood, for example. He pushed them into the towering Housing Authority complexes that are so plentiful in Mott Haven.

Then, first Washington turned its back on cities, and then City Hall turned its back on the Bronx. In 1973, Moses told The Times that the South Bronx was a slum, “beyond rebuilding, tinkering and restoring.” It must, he advocated, “be leveled to the ground.”

Davidson and the many others in the city’s elites who share his point of view think the only way our borough will prosper is if many of us move out, to be replaced by people of greater wealth and more sophisticated taste.”

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