Loft Living

Is the South Bronx the New Williamsburg?

That stigma is the only thing keeping the South Bronx from becoming the city's newest yuppie enclave, at least for the time being. "Frankly, I don’t think people will be able to overcome the reputation of the South Bronx," states local artist Tia Phillips, who co-owns Storage Art Space gallery on Bruckner Boulevard, soon to relocate to 121 Lincoln. "It’s going to be a certain kind of person who would be willing to settle [here], someone who wants the space, not the trendiness. I think there will be a slew of people who will take advantage of the storage space but it will only go so far."

In addition, the area's current lack of amenities, coupled with its decidedly industrial feel, have not helped the would-be boom. Even as the neighborhood's art scene grows, many downtown artists still regard it as a curiosity, and are content to show there but not to live there. Some who do reside in the area use their homes as little more than a mailing address, to the chagrin of the artists who call the South Bronx home.

"Most people are still very Manhattan-centric, attracted to the cheap rent here and still doing shows in Manhattan," says Bubbins. "It's very important for conscious people to reach out to each other. You have people holed up in their loft space, creating insignificant art and are only out for themselves. It's happening already."

On the other hand, Phillips, who herself found Williamsburg overpriced and "really out of hand with the trendiness" finds her home of three years to be charming and romantic. "The people here were really nice. It was just people, not just a scene."

"I was scared when I first moved here, because you hear so many things about the South Bronx," says Storage Art Space co-owner David Graham. "But the people here were so nice and encouraging, supportive and fantastic." Often, he says, lines have formed around the block for shows at Storage, complete with salsa blaring (on request) from an upstairs window. Hopefully, such community interaction will be the hallmark of a partnership between socially aware artists and a neighborhood long in search of creative stimulation.

"Living in Williamsburg is basically all about saying you live in Williamsburg, sort of like a label that people wear now," says Phillips. I think [the South Bronx boom] will be a small boom, a nice little community. It’s going to be a positive thing, a more sincere thing, because there will be more artistic integrity."

"It’s just starting," says Lum. "This is a real up-and-coming space."

"This is not a gentrification," says Graham plainly. "This is a revitalization."

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