Close-Up on Woodlawn


Portions of this article have been updated.

Take the No. 4 train uptown to the very last stop and you’ll think that, by some freakish MTA oversight, you’ve actually been dropped off in Westchester County. Woodlawn, a tiny neighborhood full of quaint small-town homes and businesses at the northern tip of the Bronx, is surrounded by open space, a lot like its suburban neighbors. Lifetime resident Collette Mooney describes the area’s dichotomy simply: “You live in the city but you don’t live in a city.” The other thing that will strike passersby as they cruise Woodlawn’s one commercial street is the Chinese food place. There isn’t anything particularly distinctive about it, mind you, but it stands out because Irish-owned businesses and Irish and Irish Americans compose the majority of Woodlawn. Immigrants flock here for a variety of reasons, including a change of pace or, as one of the friendly bartenders at a local pub put it, “because every Irish guy wants to come to America.”

Boundaries: Yonkers/McLean Avenue to the north, Woodlawn Cemetery to the south, Metro-North tracks/Bronx River Parkway to the east, Van Cortlandt Park to the west

Population: Woodlawn’s close-knit, primarily Irish community has recently enjoyed an influx of twentysomethings, both Irish and American, that Albert Cukaj, of C. Lazer Realty, considers a good thing. “It has made it a little more mixed,” he says.

Public Transportation: Take the No. 4 train to Woodlawn and transfer to the Bx34 or Bx16 bus to Katonah Avenue, or ride the Metro-North Harlem line to the Woodlawn stop.

Average Price to Rent: Studio, $800 to $900 ($750 to $850); one-bedroom, $950 to $1100 ($900 to $1000); two-bedroom, $1100 to $1275 ($1000 to $1250); three-bedroom, $1400 to $1800 ($1500 to $1800)

Average Price to Buy: Two-bedroom co-op, $175,000 to $250,000, four-bedroom co-op, $500,000 to $600,000. (One-family house, $275,000 to $400,000; two-family house, $400,000 to $670,000)

Main Drags: Technically, the neighborhood has only one main drag all its own—Katonah Avenue—but no one from the area thinks Woodlawn without thinking McLean Avenue, just across the county line in Yonkers.

Best Nightspots: Woodlawn’s 20-plus bars within a few-block radius make it a prime spot for bar-hopping. Best bets? Rory Dolan’s (890 McLean Avenue) has a “comfortable, friendly” feel, according to patron Jim Hurley, and offers a boisterous, spacious pub atmosphere. Hit Rockin’ Robins (942 McLean Avenue) to mingle with a younger, more upbeat crowd or the Rambling House (4292 Katonah Avenue), a bigger, newer version of Rory’s that’s popular for both happy hour and late nights.

Best Eats: Most of the aforementioned pubs double as restaurants, offering typical Irish American dishes and American pub fare. Sunday-morning favorites Eileen’s Country Kitchen (964 McLean Avenue) and the Irish Coffee Shop (946 McLean Avenue) cook up a steaming Irish breakfast.

Best Stores: Prime Cuts butcher shop (4338 Katonah Avenue), with its corned spare ribs and Irish sausages, and the Traditional Irish Bakery (4268 Katonah Avenue), with its scones, soda breads, and wall of Cadbury’s candies, carry Irish products immigrants miss most, explains bakery clerk Helena Connolly.

Community Organizations: Aisling Irish Center (990 McLean Avenue) offers services for immigrants and the needy, as well as Irish language, dance, and music lessons for children. The Woodlawn Heights Taxpayer and Community Organization addresses community issues, and Wood-Lean organizes youth athletic leagues. Mooney says these programs helped combine Irish and American cultures when she was growing up. “Sure, we had traditional Irish step-dancing lessons, but we also went to softball practice,” she says.

Green Space: Woodlawn sidles up to the mother of all Bronx parks, Van Cortlandt, which overlooks the Hudson River and boasts a public golf course, riding and hiking trails, and fields for every sport imaginable, including rugby, Irish football, and cricket.

Famous Residents: There are quite a few, but most of them didn’t move here until they were looking for a roomy final resting place. Woodlawn Cemetery became a très chic burial ground with elaborate mausoleums designed by world-renowned artists after its establishment in 1863, and is home to celebrated New Yorkers Robert Moses, Joseph Pulitzer, Duke Ellington, and Herman Melville.

Local Politicians: Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Congressman Eliot Engel, and State Senator Jeff Klein, all Democrats

Crime Statistics: As of November 6, 2005, the 52nd Precinct, which covers Bedford Park, Fordham, Kingsbridge, and University Heights in addition to Norwood, listed 13 murders, 30 rapes, 418 robberies, 343 felony assaults, 523 burglaries. (The 52nd Precinct serves Bedford Park, Fordham, Kingsbridge, Norwood, and University Heights. As of March 2, it reported one murder, down two from last year; six rapes, down three; 92 robberies, down 34; 71 felonious assaults, down nine; and 97 burglaries, down 39.)