Friday, October 31, 2008

Just Where the Hell is the South Bronx Anyway?

BoogieDowner has another question (and accompanying poll) for you all... What do you designate as the northern border of the South Bronx?

How did this all come about? Well, BoogieDowner covered a story about the Discovery Channel reality show "Bronx-911," which chronicles daily life in the emergency room at St. Barnabas Hospital.

BoogieDowner just had a little issue with the designation of St. Barney's (located at 183rd Street and Third Avenue) as being in the South Bronx. We received a comment from the editor of the website we linked to with the following defense of the designation of St. Barnabas being in the South Bronx:

Hello, I am the creator and writer of:
Indeed St. Barnabas is considered the South Bronx. I just called and spoke to two of my physician friends that work there and they confirmed this with me. Both of them are actually in the 3rd episode that aired yesterday. Dr. John Zambito who has a lot of airtime in the series is actually in Las Vegas right now with his colleagues from St. Barnabas at a medical convention.

BoogieDowner's official take on the northern boundary of the South Bronx is that it is the Cross Bronx Expressway. Part of the reason we hold this position is that the creation of this highway ushered in a lot of the really negative things that were associated with the South Bronx in the 70s and 80s.

Being residents of Bedford Park, we definitely do not live in the South Bronx, but we definitely believe the anything south of the Cross Bronx is the South Bronx. I know some peoples place the border as far north as Fordham Rd. and some as far south as 161st Street. So we ask you, "Where does the South Bronx begin and end?" Vote on the poll we've set up in the upper right hand corner of the homepage.

Yet another neighborhood boundary that is eluding the BoogieDowner...

*Photo courtesy of Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times*



Anonymous said...

i always thought everything below 180th was considered the south bronx.

Anonymous said...

everything south of woodlawn is the south bronx.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the Bronx and we were South Bronx when we lived on the Concourse and 174th and no longer South Bronx when we moved to 198th and Decatur. I was always under the impression that the cut off point was the low 180s possible 183rd like a prior poster said. Fordham Road was NEVER considered to be part of the South Bronx.

Unknown said...

Haha I had friends in Riverdale who thought everything outside of Riverdale was the South Bronx!

Anonymous said...

I am curious to know everyone's opinion and if there is actually a factually documented boundary for the South Bronx designation.

Gregory Lobo Jost said...

I think it's safe to say that the "south Bronx" is a construct that shifted over time. There never has been any neighborhood called "South Bronx". Rather, it was a term created to refer to a collection of neighborhoods that were devestated by arson and abandonment. the boundaries were constantly in flux, and I've heard they've floated as far north as Fordham Road in the past.

The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition has always used the Cross Bronx as the southern border of their area, and this is based on the boundaries of the Northwest Bronx Vicariate of the Catholic Church, since the coalition was deeply connected to the parishes. I'm not sure, but my guess is that the South Bronx Vicariate goes only as far north as the Cross Bronx.

Since the term "South Bronx" in the 21st century conveys a variety of notions, some negative but at the same time a certain mystique, you can see why there'd be some disagreement as to where the borders lie.

Check out this strain to see some other discussion on the topic from last year:

It's an interesting subject, though, since very few Bronx nabes are clearly definied and folks often just associate themselves with a block, street or avenue. Skipping over real neighborhood names to "the South Bronx" is a convenient shortcut but is too geographically vague -- but it does convey a sense of place that transcends place and time. Hence, cities as far away as France and New Zealand have tough neighborhoods that they refer to as their own "south bronx".

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Gregory's definition - it jives with what a lot of long time Bronx residents have claimed. The term was more a vague and loose geographical determination (rather than an area with specific universally agreed upon boundaries) that included under its umbrella many of the neighborhoods that suffered so badly during the days of arson and blight.

I wasn't aware that there were areas in other countries that had their own South Bronx specifically, but I do know in French there is the expression "C'est le Bronx". Translated loosely - something that is horrible and dangerous, or that something is a terrible mess, etc.


Unknown said...

Gregory is almost agreeing with my friend who said that the South Bronx is a social, not a geographic, location.

But I think we should institute a geographic definition, one that doesn't include any of the areas I would call the West Bronx (starts with Highbridge) or the East Bronx (everything east of the river) and that leaves room for a Mid-Bronx.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with the last three posters---that the "South Bronx" is more of an idea that came to signified certain things to certain people, then actually a real place with boundaries. I grew up in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx in the fifties. The first time I heard the term South Bronx in conversation, was around 65 when I was working for the department of welfare. One of my co-workers said he was raised around 138th street, and referred to that area as the "South Bronx". A few years later, when a friend referred to Yankee Stadium as being in the South Bronx, I was startled. I often travel through the Bronx (I am a tutor) and have arrived at my own boundaries. I would say that the southern end of the zoo is one northern boundary, and despite what people have wrote, I have always considered Fordham Road, west of Third Avenue, to Sedgewick, the boundary of the west part of the Bronx. However, I would not include the Little Italy section as part of the South Bronx, it has its own identity, but its northern border, around 182street, almost immediately becomes the South Bronx. Atleast these are my feelings re the subject. Glad somebody brought it up. Bob

Anonymous said...

Anything south of the cross bronx, and west of the bronx river.Hunt's Point is in the south bronx. Soundview and Castle Hill are not.