By Albert Samaha
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By Anna Merlan
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By Tessa Stuart
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Portions of this article have been updated.
During the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium, ABC Sports repeatedly cut to aerial shots of smoke rising from the South Bronx. Tax foreclosures and arson for profit had made the area resemble Hamburg in 1943. Nowhere is the transformation the South Bronx has since undergone more evident than in Hunts Point, where dramatic increases in building construction and rehabilitation have led to a remarkable renewal. According to Ebelín, a waitress at the local El Grand 97 restaurant, before, all the buildings were gutted and there was terror on the streets. "Now you can go back and forth. So different!" she says, adding that neighborhood residents come from all over Latin America, including Honduras, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala. Some fear that development may risk turning the arearumored to be the birthplace of salsa and break dancinginto another Williamsburg. "Art spurs investment, and then investment spurs displacement. That's a paradigm we have been trying very hard to avoid," says Paul Lipson, director of the Point, an area cultural center.
Boundaries: Westchester Avenue to the north, the Bronx River to the east, the East River to the south, and Prospect Avenue to the west, with the Bruckner Expressway bisecting the area
Transportation: Remember J.Lo's debut album, On the 6? Take the train to East 149th Street, Longwood Avenue, or Hunts Point Avenue and walk under the expressway; about 20 minutes from midtown.
Main Drags: Hunts Point Avenue cuts through the heart of the neighborhood and has many of its restaurants and businesses, while most locals duck under the expressway to Southern Boulevard to shop at the Lot Less Closeouts and the 10 Spot discount clothing outlet, both at 163rd Street and Southern Boulevard.
Real Estate: While much of the rental and sales in the neighborhood is by word of mouth, there are "for rent" signs up at 743 Hunts Point Avenue (718-220-4216) and 720 Hunts Point Avenue (718-522-1723), advertising $700 one-bedrooms and $900 two-bedrooms. Rent-stabilized apartments created through the city's Neighborhood Entrepreneur Program for low- to middle-income tenants also account for much of the stock. Krislen Management maintains 155 such units in four neighborhood buildings, where rents run from $210 to $525.
Cultural Institutions: "You can build a nice cultural life" in the neighborhood, says the Point director Paul Lipson. He describes the center as "an incubator for the arts." Located at 940 Garrison Avenue, it's home to the Graffiti Hall of Fame, the International Center for Photography, and a large number of weekly events, including dance, poetry, hip-hop, comedy, and theater. It featured a production of Jean Genet's The Blacks (March 14 to 29, 2003) and an r&b concert by the Delphonics (May 3, 2003).
Green Space: Hunts Point Recreational Center (765 Manida Street) offers a weight room, an indoor track, exercise machines, basketball courts, a playground, Internet access, and the adjacent Julio Carballo field.
Local Politics: Councilman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, assembly members Carmen E. Arroyo and Ruben Diaz Jr., Congressman Jose E. Serrano, and State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., all Democrats. While the neighborhood is the site of the Hunts Point Meat and Produce markets, which supply food to some of the nation's best restaurants and send 11,000 delivery trucks through the area every day, at present, locals have to leave the neighborhood to purchase any of it. There are plans, however, to develop a neighborhood retail outlet for the market's products. According to Lipson, Metro-North is interested in building a new train station next to the proposed market site, moving riders to what will be the new Penn Station in 11 minutes.
Landmarks: Corpus Christi Monastery (1230 Lafayette Avenue), Drake Cemetery (Oak Point Avenue, between Longfellow and Hunts Point avenues), the American Bank Note Building (841 Barretto Street)
Best Restaurant: At El Grand 97 (842 Hunts Point Avenue; "¡Que Dios te multiplique todo por el doble de lo que tú me deseas!" reads a sign inside), order the yellow rice, frijoles, and baked chicken ($5) and top it off with café con leche and cinnamon ($1.25).
Best Bars: Many adult bars have opened in the area since Times Square was made off-limits, including the dubious-looking Al's Mr. Wedge (673 Hunts Point Avenue) and the Sexy Dancer (1280 Oak Point Avenue).
Crime Stats: The 41st Precinct serves Hunts Point as well as North and South Brother islands in the East River.As of November 6, 2005 it reported 9 murders, 16 rapes, 206 robberies, 289 felony assaults, 183 burglaries. (The 41st Precinct serves Hunts Point as well as North and South Brother islands in the East River. As of January 12, it reported one murder, up one from last year; zero rapes, same as last year; 12 robberies, up six; 26 felonious assaults, same; and 10 burglaries, up three.)