Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Bronx? Yes, thonx.*

I was born in the City of Yonkers, the fourth largest city in New York (after New York City, Buffalo and Rochester) but given Yonkers' adjacency to the Bronx, have always had an affinity for that benighted borough.

The Bronx of my youth was a frightful place, the symbol--perhaps even moreso than Detroit--of urban blight, white flight and the end of the promise of America. Practically the whole of the South Bronx had gone in little more than a generation from working class, or even middle class white, to drug addled and impoverished horror

Tenement fires, often set by proxies sent by insurance scammers, ripped through the borough and one World Series in the Bronx's Yankee Stadium, Howard Cosell, seeing fires beyond the precincts of the stadium loudly declared to millions of viewers that "The Bronx is on fire."

After 9/11, I had hoped that the city and the financial moguls who run it, would decide to relocate Wall Street to the South Bronx. Not only is the area well-served by subways and close to New York's airports, it would have revitalized a blighted area of city that really needed revitalization.

Of course, the best laid plans of George and man ang gaft aglay, and no such beneficence occurred. However, as I travel through the South Bronx nearly every week, I see signs of life. Restaurants are opening, the streets are better paved and bustling, and new housing seems to be going up everywhere.

Even the gigantic old factories that once provided jobs for the neighborhood are slowly springing back to life. The warehouse building that held the iconic History Channel billboard for decades and decades--it used to be an ice factory--is missing the billboard now. The building is being renovated to the tune of $25 million.

I get off of 87 at the Third Avenue exit, drive past the tenements and housing projects on Alexander Avenue, then scoot over the Third Avenue Bridge to Manhattan and then onto the FDR and home. Underneath an overpass there's an abandoned car burnt up old Chevy on the back of an old truck. It's been there forever.  That's the old Bronx, in a nutshell.

But, there's a counterpoint. I spotted this beer--made in a brewery at East 136th Street--in a gourmet shop. No point here today. Just don't count people and places and institutions out. Most of them have more life in them than they let on.
* Ogden Nash famously wrote,

The Bronx?
No Thonx.

He recanted many years later: "I can't seem to escape the sins of my smart-aleck youth," he said in 1964, seven years before his death. "Here are my amends.

"I wrote those lines, 'The Bronx? No thonx!' I shudder to confess them.
Now I'm an older, wiser man. I cry, 'The Bronx, God bless them!"'

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