By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Portions of this article have been updated.
Bronx natives of, ahem, a certain age may remember Parkchester as a prime date destination and a throwback to a time so idyllic as to seem anachronistic, with Saturday nights spent necking at an endless supply of movie theaters or strolling beneath the verdant foliage lining Metropolitan Avenue. You can almost hear Connie Francis playing in the background. Hard to believe that such a cuddly scene could take place in the gritty Bronx, but Parkchester's 129-acre building complex has always been considered one of the borough's not-so-hidden jewels, an oasis of green space and upward mobility.
Boundaries: East Tremont Avenue to the north; Purdy Street, St. Raymond Avenue, and Olmstead Avenue to the east; McGraw Avenue to the south; and White Plains Road to the west. The area is divided into four quadrants by the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue and Unionport Road at the Metropolitan Oval, a landscaped area with flowers, a fountain, and monuments to fallen war heroes.
Population: Parkchester was conceived in 1939 as a working- and middle-class "gated community wonderland," as one resident puts it, and recent immigrants hail from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Dominican Republic. The complex had fallen on hard times in past yearssuccumbing to the crime and disrepair also plaguing neighboring Soundviewbut is rebounding in a major way: A $130 million top-to-bottom renovation has been completed, sure to increase the stampede of young professionals making Parkchester home.
Main Drags: Although only one movie theater remains (East Avenue's venerated American, the oldest in the Bronx) in the neighborhood, Parkchester's Metropolitan Avenue is home to Macy's first branch store, a Hollywood Video, a Children's Place, and even (gasp!) a Starbucks. Unionport Road offers smaller-scale shopping. Not a bad place for dinner and a movie.
Public Transportation:Take the 6 train to East 177th Street or the midtown express bus to Hugh Grant Circle; about 45 minutes by train and an hour by bus from Union Square.
Average Price to Rent/Buy Condos:One-bedroom, $750 to $900/$50,000 and up; two-bedroom, $900 to $1,100/$65,000 and up; three-bedroom, $1,000 to $1,200/$95,000 and up
Restaurants: Belmont and nearby City Island dominate the Bronx culinary scene, but the traditional American fare at Metro Oval Diner (58 Metropolitan Oval) and Ellie's Coffee Shop (1322 Metropolitan Avenue) stand out.
Best Bar: Take in the quiet atmosphere and the lovely view of Hugh Grant Circle available at the Step In Lounge (1309 Metropolitan Avenue), but be warned: The bartender controls the music, so prepare for a steady stream of old-school r&b. A bonus: If you get hungry, you can sample the wares of Step In's adjoining restaurant.
Community Organizations: The R.A.I.N. Parkchester Senior Center (1380 Metropolitan Avenue) offers tax preparation and housing assistance to seniors as well as art, dance, and yoga classes. The Parkchester Enhancement Program for Seniors (1525 Unionport Road) provides health screenings and benefits assistance for the elderly.
Green Space: One of the Bronx's leafiest nabes, Parkchester doesn't want for foliage. Besides a host of small playgrounds, the tree-lined Wood Park, a triangle at the intersection of the Cross-Bronx Expressway and Thieriot and Wood avenues, offers a pleasant and quiet sitting area despite the surrounding traffic. Hugh Grant Circle serves as a pleasant, verdant entry point to the area.
Cultural Institutions: Now in its 65th season, the Parkchester Chorus (based at the First Lutheran Church of Throggs Neck, 3075 Baisley Avenue, parkchesterchorus.org), the oldest choral society in the Bronx, performs two concerts per year.
Public Art:Terra-cotta sculptures as diverse as stags and accordion players leap out from the facades of neighborhood buildings. Highlights include a WPA-style relief of two working men, as well as three classical dancers who grace a wall behind the American movie theater.
Crime Stats: The 43rd Precinct serves Parkchester, Soundview, and Castle Hill. As of November 6, 2005, it reported 12 murders, 30 rapes, 471 robberies, 427 felony assaults, 352 burglaries. (The 43rd Precinct serves Parkchester, Soundview, and Castle Hill. As of March 30, it reported one murder, down four from last year; 20 rapes, up five; 128 robberies, down 14; 96 felonious assaults, down 16; and 109 burglaries, down 12.)