The South Bronx is an area of the New York City borough of The Bronx. It strictly refers to the southwestern portion of the borough, and should not be confused with the southern Bronx. The true South Bronx, which was a legal designation through the 1960’s, was a very small area which extended from the southern tip of the borough north to 149th street. The neighborhoods of Tremont, University Heights, Highbridge, Morrisania, Soundview, Hunts Point, and Castle Hill are sometimes considered part of the South Bronx.
The South Bronx is part of New York’s 16th Congressional District, one of the five poorest Congressional Districts in the United States. The South Bronx is served by the NYPD’s 40th, 41st, 42nd, 44th, and 48th Precincts.
The Bronx was once considered the “Jewish Borough,” and at its peak in 1930 was 49% Jewish. Jews in the South Bronx numbered 364,000 or 57.1% of the total population in the area. The term was first coined in the 1940s by a group of social workers who identified the Bronx’s first pocket of poverty, in the Port Morris section, the southernmost section of the Bronx.
After World War II as white flight accelerated and migration of ethnic and racial minorities continued, South Bronx went from being two-thirds non-Hispanic white in 1950 to being two-thirds black or Puerto Rican in 1960. Originally denoting only Mott Haven and Melrose, the South Bronx extended up to the Cross Bronx Expressway by the 1960s, encompassing Hunts Point, Morrisania, and Highbridge.
In the 1970s significant poverty reached as far north as Fordham Road. Around this time, the Bronx experienced some of its worst times eversource?. The media attention brought the South Bronx into common parlance nationwide.
The South Bronx has been historically a place for working class families. Its image as a poverty-ridden area developed in the latter part of the 20th century. There have been several factors contributing to the decay of the South Bronx: white flight, landlord abandonment, changes in economic demographics, and also the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway.
The Cross Bronx Expressway, completed in 1963, was a part of Robert Moses’s urban renewal project for New York City. The expressway is ironically thought to be a factor in the extreme urban decay seen by the borough in the 1970s and 1980s. Cutting straight through the heart of South Bronx, the highway displaced thousands of residents from their homes, as well as several local businesses. The already poor and working-class neighborhoods were at another disadvantage: the decreased property value brought on by their proximity to the Cross Bronx Expressway. The neighborhood of East Tremont, in particular, was completely destroyed by the inception of the expressway. The combination of increasing vacancy rates and decreased property values caused some neighborhoods to become considered undesirable by homeowners.
In the late 1960s, the area’s population began decreasing as a result of new policies demanding that, for racial balance in schools, children to be bussed into other districts. Parents who worried about their children attending school outside their district often relocated to the suburbs, where this was not a concern. In addition, rent control policies are thought to have contributed to the decline of many middle class neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s; New York City’s policies regarding rent control gave building owners no motivation to keep up their properties. Therefore, desirable housing options were scarce, and vacancies further increased. In the late 1960s, by the time the city decided to consolidate welfare households in the South Bronx, its vacancy rate was already the highest of any place in the city.
The quality of life in the Bronx took a sharp decline during the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. In addition to a high rate of crime and gangs, the borough was plagued by a wave of arson… the burning of buildings mostly in the South Bronx. Many landlords decided to burn their buildings in an effort to collect insurance money.
Significant residential development has occurred since the mid-1980s stimulated by the city’s “Ten-Year Housing Plan”. This in addition to the 90s job growth and a sharp reduction in crime has steadily risen the quality of life in The Bronx. Signifying its comeback from the decline of the 1970s, in 1997 the Bronx was designated an All America City by the National Civic League. The New York Times reported that “construction cranes have become the borough’s new visual metaphor, replacing the window decals of the 1980s in which pictures of potted plants and drawn curtains were placed in the windows of abandoned buildings.” Between 2002 and June 2007, 33,687 new housing units were built or were under way and $4.799 billion has been invested in new housing. In the first six months of 2007 alone 5,187 residential units were scheduled to be completed. Chains such as Target, Staples and Marshalls have opened stores in the Bronx.
In 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the borough’s population on July 1, 2007 was 1,373,659, which ranks fourth of the five boroughs.