The Bronx is Booming, But For Whom?


Photo by PhillipC

With the MLB All-Star Game placing The Bronx once again on the world stage this evening, different groups are fighting to control the message of the oft-reported Bronx “boom.”

On the same day the Urban Justice Center released a report charging that the much ballyhooed Bronx revival has done little to help its neediest residents, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion issued a competing study, “The Bronx is Booming: 1977 to 2007.” Carrion’s study highlights various economic and public safety advances made in the borough that became the national symbol for urban blight after Howard Cosell decreed, “Ladies and gentlemen, The Bronx is burning,” over a shot of roaring fires during the telecast of the 1977 World Series.

Carrion points to safer neighborhoods, increased housing stock and a single-digit unemployment rate as clear signs that his hometown has shaken the image of a burned out, crime-ridden wasteland.

“This week’s All-Star Game is a chance to acknowledge The Bronx’s new reality,” said Carrion. “Over the last 30 years, The Bronx has seen dramatic positive changes take place in public safety, housing, population growth and the local economy. It is a story of struggle and redemption, of a community that refused to quit, of immigrants and long-time residents working together, of people of many backgrounds who call themselves neighbors.”

While Carrion crows about a rebuilt Bronx others are arguing that those famous fires are, in some ways, still burning. A second report issued today, this one a joint project of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, finds that major investments in The Bronx have done little to change the lives of its residents, who remain largely poor, unemployed and uneducated.

The report, titled “Boom for Whom? How the Resurgence of the Bronx Is Leaving Residents Behind,” focused largely on the northwest quadrant of The Bronx and finds, among other things, that a sizeable minority of those surveyed are unemployed, that the borough’s unemployed remain so for longer periods of time and that those with a high school education or less have a difficult time earning a living wage. The report, found here, concludes by offering six specific policy goals, such as increasing wages and attracting green industry to the borough, that could turn around the struggling Bronx economy.

“Despite its proximity to tremendous affluence, the Bronx remains the poorest urban county in the United States,” states the report. “Although great amounts of money, including city and state funds, are being poured into these major redevelopment projects, people in the community aren’t experiencing lasting economic benefits. If this trend continues, residents will not break out of dead-end, part-time, and low-wage work that perpetuates poverty.”