Saturday, November 3, 2018

Then and Now: East Burnside Avenue, The Bronx

Then and Now: Burnside Avenue at Valentine Avenue, the Bronx

Burnside Avenue the Bronx
Burnside Avenue near Valentine Avenue, the Bronx, mid-1970s.

In this episode of our journey, we are venturing a bit outside Manhattan for a change. The above picture of Burnside Avenue near Valentine Ave in the Bronx, taken in the mid-1970s, caught my eye. Primarily, this was because of the looming presence of 2000 Valentine Avenue, "Twin Parks South West" in the distance. I figured that such an imposing edifice might stir some gentrification in the area over the course of a few decades. Why not - much of the rest of the city has changed for the better, so why not this area? Thus, I compared Burnside Avenue at Valentine Avenue in the Tremont section of the Bronx in the 1970s with the same area in 2018.

My initial impression that there would be some local improvement due to the building of Twin Parks Southwest in 1973 was not really borne out by my research. A quick look at the recent photo taken from Google Street View at the bottom of the page shows a few improvements in the area, but not many. Twin Parks South West (Valentine Avenue runs directly in front of it) is composed of four separate apartment buildings and was built by the State Urban Development Corporation in combination with the city's Housing Authority. That makes it sound like "the Projects," but it is privately run. Richam (Echo) Park is right across the street, and it is an area notorious for murders. For instance, the NY Times wrote about the gruesome stabbing deaths of two young boys - 8 and 6 - on 22 February 1985. The article emphasized that there are armed guards at the building constantly watching the surrounding area. It was that kind of neighborhood.

Burnside Avenue the Bronx
NYPD still keeps a close eye on the Echo Park area. That is Echo Park at left-center, and Twin Parks South West at the extreme left (Google Street View).

Without delving into the state of crime in the Tremont section in recent years, the Tremont area itself hasn't really changed that much over the past 45 years. A quick glance at the recent photograph at the bottom of the page shows that the street lamps, road layout, and several buildings (such as the white one to the right) are still there just as they were in the 1970s. That isn't all that unusual - there are many places in Manhattan just like that - but this section of the Bronx could have stood some improvement at some point.

The recent addition of 269 East Burnside Avenue and the surrounding buildings is the sole major change in the area since the 1970s.

The most major change in the area since the 1970s is the addition of some mundane brick buildings at 269 Burnside Avenue and across the street. They just so happen to block the view from our 1970s location toward the central massif of Twin Parks South West, but the closer approach above shows that, yes, it's still there. To say that these brick behemoths on East Burnside are simply mundane would do them an injustice - they actually are reminiscent of Stalinist Russia worker's quarters, at least from the outside. The only surprising thing about these newish-looking buildings is that they were only built in 2010, showing how slow the pace of change is in that area of the Bronx. Until then, the neighborhood really was like it was in the 1970s. The buildings' newness, however, does not make them attractive, just... not old. Yet. Still, there are condos there going for over a million dollars, so someone appreciates the area. Never underestimate the value of New York real estate.

Overall, I was surprised how little had changed in this neighborhood over time, but the South Bronx is like that. Areas that don't get a lot of development money tend to just stay the same, year after year, decade after decade, with only incremental changes. The biggest saving grace in the area is that Twin Parks South West (I don't know why they don't just call it "Southwest," but they don't) is still in very fine condition. Someone is looking after it, and it is the rock of the neighborhood.

Thanks for stopping by my "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. I hope you found it interesting.

Burnside Avenue the Bronx
East Burnside Avenue, the Bronx, ca. 2018 (Google Street View).


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