The Real Deal New York

Bronx should look away from Manhattan to capture share of city’s rising wealth

July 10, 2012 02:30PM

The rapid rise in Manhattan real estate value has forced residents and businesses to look to Brooklyn and parts of Queens, increasing wealth in those boroughs. But why has gentrification largely left the Bronx — which once had similar average household incomes to other outer boroughs — behind?

According to a column in the New York Times, it’s because of the borough’s longstanding dependence upon Manhattan. Whereas Brooklyn and Queens were once comprised of independent towns with homegrown economies built up by local elites, the Bronx has for more than a century been a haven for immigrants who arrived to be close to Manhattan.

Therefore, as Brooklyn and Queens businessmen were building beautiful housing stock from money earned serving the local economy, Bronx residents were living in immigrant housing and building businesses to serve Manhattan. Even Hunts Point, which today has become a magnet for new businesses in the borough, serves Manhattan. For example, its produce market stocks supermarket shelves throughout Manhattan while the neighborhood doesn’t have a single such store itself.

The Times suggested the Bronx forge a separate path from that taken by Brooklyn and Queens to replicate their successes. It can look to revived Rust Belt cities, such as Pittsburgh, that improved by embracing its place as a “solid second-tier educational and research center.” Borough advocates are quick to point out the presence of many colleges and universities and the research arms of the New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo. Those organizations spend heavily on service jobs, which would help put money back into the local economy. [NYT]