Grand Concourse, the Bronx’s most famous street, has been compared with Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, because of its concentration of Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture, and the Champs-Élysées in Paris, because of its grand proportions and its emergence from the City Beautiful movement.
The Grand Concourse was conceived by a French civil engineer, Louis Risse, in 1891. In the Concourse’s heyday, from the 1930s through the ’60s, the street’s handsome buildings attracted Jewish families who had been living in crowded Lower East Side tenements. An address on the Concourse became a coveted status symbol. .
The Concourse, a broad, four-mile-long thoroughfare, connects the North and South Bronx, ending at the 138th Street Bridge to Manhattan. Originally populated by Jews and Italians escaping tenement life on the Lower East Side, White Flight in the 1960s and 70s led to a dramatic population shift, and this area of the Bronx is now home mostly to Latino and Black residents.
Unfortunately, due to widespread neglect and blight in the Bronx-is-Burning 1980s, it has been a long time since the Grand Concourse has been referred to as the “Park Avenue of the Middle Class.”
But that is currently changing, as more attention is being paid to this stretch of the cityscape that tells a remarkable story of the Bronx’s history and culture. The Municipal Art Society and the Landmarks Preservation Commission are both advocating for the designation of a proposed Grand Concourse Historic District, which would secure about 73 buildings in this area that are exemplary of the Concourse’s history as a center for Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture.
Now, the New York Times proudly proclaims; “No Longer Burning, the South Bronx Gentrifies” on March 25, 2012 in an article by Joseph Berger.
More middle-class professionals, many of them white, are joining him, buying co-ops with sunken living rooms and wraparound windows for under $300,000 in Art Deco buildings that straddle a boulevard designed to emulate the Champs-Élysées.
The newcomers are attracted by real estate they can afford, an increasingly safe neighborhood where major crime has plummeted over the past 20 years, enhancements accompanying the new Yankee Stadium and a reasonable commute to jobs in Manhattan.
It does not hurt that the southern corridor of the Grand Concourse between 153rd and 167th Streets was declared a historic district last year, or that the city has fixed up the Concourse’s roadways and nearby parks, like Joyce Kilmer Park, named after the young poet who wrote the classic “Trees.
Five years ago, Lynn Loosier, a jazz singer raised in Georgia, bought a renovated two-bedroom apartment in a Renaissance Revival building on Walton Avenue, one block off the Concourse, for $250,000, granite countertops included. Now, she said, most of the 140 apartments in the building are occupied by lawyers, professors and other professionals, with whites making up 40 percent of the tenants. The residents, Ms. Loosier added, cleaned out the basement, hauling away four dump trucks’ worth of trash to open up space for the yoga studio, a gym and a room where she gives vocal lessons.
Where coops and condos are sprouting up, so are renovated no fee apartments. Most of the newcomers are single people or young couples. The quality of local public schools, some say, is not yet high enough to attract couples with children. But there are some families.
In the building pictured to the left, which is located on the Grand Concourse, a renovated 2 bedroom, rent stabilized apartment rents for $1,500 per month.
In the same building, a renovated 3 bedroom, rent stabilized apartment rents for $1,600 to $1,700 per month.
The building to the left has a Flexible 4 bedroom, 1.5 bath rent stabilized apartment available for $1,895. If three people share it, the rent comes out to $632 per month per person. Very affordable for New York City.
A studio in this building to the right, just off the Grand Concourse rents for $900 per month.