Photos taken 09 April, 2001
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It had been at least 35 years, and the broad streets of the old South Bronx had shrunk in the meantime. The wholesale destruction of buildings by the drug sub-culture had the residents of the late '60s and '70s living in the same sort of fear that chased out the European immigrants... but an amazing regrowth has occurred since!
The apartment buildings at right (north side of 141st Street, near St. Ann's Ave) used to have Brownestone-style stoops in each of the porticos which are still present - but the old "railroad flat" apartments inside are obviously gone; a number of such individual buildings now share an interior "courtyard" entrance - which used to be the "back yard" -and a single street entrance to the entire complex.
One feature common to almost all occupied buildings today is that the brickwork of the first floor is painted a reddish brick color to discourage graffiti - or to make its clean-up easier.
There are changes, to be sure - but the buildings which weren't destroyed by arson, vandalism, or abandonment have been reconditioned in unusual ways; grand old courtyards have been built over, enlarging some apartments, or in some cases, creating new ones (in old buildings), where none had been before. Security appears to be a VERY important part of the "new" Mott Haven - much more so than the "Fox Police Locks" and retailer's gates which began appearing in the mid-1950s.
Everywhere, in the old South Bronx, there is devastation of commercial properties. This factory, at the corner of 141st Street and Jackson Ave. gives mute testimony to the industrial decay. Within the past 40 years, that slim tree has grown from nothing - and the truck garage which used to dominate the opposite corner now provides sunlight for it... via its absence.
While few local people worked in these industrial places - even 50 years ago - the loss has to be a burden upon the economy of the borough. Gone, too, are the once-thriving "taxi garages" which dotted the area, and which contained permanent "help wanted" signs for more drivers.
A greater problem, I would think, is the loss of many small shops (and at least one major supermarket, the A&P) which used to serve the needs of people in the neighborhood. The bakeries, delicatessens, mini-markets (like the three-store "chain" operated by the Pryor family) and candy stores are ALL gone. At right, the obviously-renovated, but tightly-shuttered Kipp's deli, operated for decades by the Binder family (at Beekman Ave. and 141st Street) is no more. There isn't a single sign identifying the shop's purpose; but it doesn't matter - it is locked down.
But it isn't all bad news! Interesting new housing - completely unlike the ghastly high-rise projects you might expect (and which helped destroy the neighborhood in the first place) - is rising everywhere in the South Bronx. Familiar corners and streets have been forever changed, in a quite-unexpected way: two story row houses!
Please continue onto the individual pages, containing the REALLY GOOD stuff; I promise some surprises (and a few chuckles) - especially if you once lived in the affected area. The 138th, 140th Street and St. Mary's Park pages will be of particular interest to anyone from the old neighborhood - even if I ran a little bit toward excess in chronicling where I grew up!
138th Street 140th Street St. Mary's Street Tiny Bronx tour Return to the Tapestry Project
Photographs and content © 1998,1999, 2001 John P. Tomany