Why Being From The Bronx is Simply Awesome

We know The Bronx is awesome and simply the best borough of NYC because we are, afterall, the one true borough where you can still get a taste of what New York City life is all about before the white-washing of gentrification took it over and made it into a mid-westerner’s playground.

So here’s why The Bronx is pretty amazing or as we say, dope:

Bodegas.

Do NOT come for our Bodega Cats!!!

Now why bodegas you might be asking yourself? Well, besides that on one block you can find four of them, each with their own feel and regular customers (and hopefully a bodega cat), these spaces usually can extend credit to local residents who might be in need.

Relationships are fostered here like true communities so not only do you get the local paper but you get the local gossip with that chopped cheese, cereal, milk and basic staples you need to keep you going or feed your family.

The bodeguero will often let regular customers keep a running tab when they need it. You can’t do that at your local Upper East Side Duane Reade or your Harlem Whole Foods.

Arthur Avenue.

We weren’t gonna put this one on this list because it’s so obvious but heck, we’ll put it just to make sure it makes it (and before you guys yell at us for not including it!).

This is New York City’s real Little Italy. It isn’t up for debate. It is not an opinion it is fact written in stone (at least for now).

Fresh baked bread from Madonia Brothers Bakery or Addeo Bakers, fresh homemade pasta from Borgatti’s (spinach and cheese or pumpkin ravioli anyone?), fine dining at Roberto’s or Enzo’s or any one of the awesome restaurants that line area all make for a special outing right here in our borough.

Food.

Heavenly delight at La Masa: Does this not look amazing? I had 3 empanadas: eggplant, mixed veggies, and broccoli rabe with sausage with a pineapple/passion fruit smoothie to wash it all down.

Speaking of fine dining, thanks to the diversity of our borough, you can enjoy cuisine from all over world right here in The Bronx. As a Puerto Rican kid from the South Bronx, I was able to not only relish in the culinary delights of Puerto Rico but also that of my Italian friends where I could eat REAL Italian cooking at their place on summer nights during school break, or Dominican mangu.

As I got older and the population began to change I was able to also try a plethora of Mexican dishes thanks to restaurants like Xochimilco, Mexicocina, and La Morada, each with their distinct style of home cooking and from different regions in Mexico. African food, like that at Bate, became more accessible as The Bronx became home to one of the largest African diaspora in the United States.

Then there’s Albanian burek, Salvadoran pupusas, Indian chicken tikka masala, Garifunan hudut, Colombian empanadas like La Masa’s ridiculously delicious varieties, Latin American and Cuban pastries at Capri Bakery, and of course, a nice Jewish pastrami on rye (perhaps the best in the city) from Liebman’s.


City Island.

One of the many, quaint beautiful homes on City Island

We can’t have a list of awesome Bronx places without talking about one of the most unique communities in NYC (ok THE most unique community in all of New York City).

With a population just over 4,300, this island neighborhood is quite compact on a 1.5 mile by .5 mile island that’s part of the Pelham Archipelago (sounds pretty exotic no?) in the Long Island Sound.

From end to end along City Island Avenue, the neighborhood’s “Main Street” you can find some of the best seafood restaurants in the city taking full advantage of this New England style nautical community.

Archie’s Tap and Table is one of my personal favorites and is run by Chef Alex Pertsovsky and offers what they all, “homemade comfort food with a modern American twist.”

Now with all these really good restaurants, you aren’t a Bronxite if you didn’t end up at the end of City Island Avenue at Tony’s Pier or Johnny’s Reef for some delicious fried fast seafood.

The New York Botanical Gardens.

The New York Botanical is truly a magical place

NYBG, founded in 1891, the 250 acre sanctuary is an oasis of carefully sculpted and designed gardens to the last “wild” and original forest that once covered NYC.

Living in a borough that is home to one of the premier and most respected institutions in the world of botany kind of spoils you because there simply isn’t anywhere else in the city that can compare to what you get here from world-class science and educational programs to entertainment and amazing yearly exhibitions like Frida Kahlo which broke attendance records and this year’s return of glass sculpture Dale Chihuly.

NYBG has always been a favorite of mine since a kid and as an adult in college it was one of my go to places to just get away from it all. In a borough of 1.4 million people, to have a place like this to escape to is just simply precious.

Wave Hill.

Wave Hill House

Although nowhere near as large as NYBG, at 21 acres, this landmark garden in Riverdale isn’t any less grand and packs a wallop for its size. This was another escape for me within the confines of The Bronx and NYC. To be able to wander along a country estate overlooking the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades is yet another unique Bronx experience. It is a place steeped in history just like our borough.

Parks.

Local kids enjoying game night at Virginia Park for Bronx artist Lovie Pignata’s ‘Daylighting’ installation as part of Uniqlo Parks Expressions program with NYC Parks.

On the subject of these green spaces, parks is what makes The Bronx pretty dope. We are the greenest borough with 25% of our land dedicated to parks and we are home to NYC’s largest park, Pelham Bay Park (home to The Bronx’s Riviera aka Orchard Beach), Van Cortland Park (which is probably one of my favorites but don’t tell anyone), the city’s 3rd largest.

But from big parks like the aforementioned or smaller parks there’s something to do like Virginia Park in Parkchester where Bronx artist (and Morris Perk coffee entrepeneur) has a year-long art installation called “Daylighting” with retired canoes completely repurposed and the Bronx River painted along the asphalt surface along White Plains Road section of the park.

In collaboration with Loving The Bronx run by Nilka Martell, this tiny .92 acre park is offering programming like movie nights, game nights and so much more on Fridays from 6PM to 8PM.

So you see, whether it’s a giant park like Pelham Bay at 2,772 acres or a small park, there’s something always going on for everyone across this great borough.

The Grand Concourse.

Fitness, biking, arts, and pedestrians take over The Grand Concourse for one Sunday a month during the summer thanks to Boogie on the Boulevard. Wouldn’t it be amazing to shut the entire center lanes permanently and convert it into parkland?

The Bronx’s ‘Boulevard of Dreams’ The Grand Boulevard and Concourse is yet another reason why The Bronx is so awesome. With one of the largest collection of art deco buildings in the world, this 4 mile long, 180 feet wide thoroughfare winds through a diverse bunch of Bronx neighborhoods of all socio-economic walks of life but somehow still manages to have a rather cohesive feel to it.

In recent years, thanks to Boogie On The Boulevard, for one Sunday a month during the summer, the center lanes of this huge boulevard are closed to traffic and opened to pedestrians on foot, bike, rollerblades. There are also art and fitness programs happening on any of these given Sundays (the next and last one is on September 10th).

Community Gardens.

Hundreds gathered at Rincon Criollo in 2015 after the sudden passing of Jose “Chema” Soto, considered one of the first to ever found a community garden Casita in NYC.

What do you do with empty lots filled with rubble and garbage during the turmoil of the 1970s and 80s? You jump in, begin to clean them and turn them into little garden paradises! At least that’s how it started with the late Jose “Chema” Soto of Melrose in The Bronx.

Around 1975 or so, he couldn’t stand walking by one of the many abandoned lots in the South Bronx and began to clean one up by himself.

By the end of the day, he was joined by 50 other community residents inspired by his actions. Soon after, they built what is considered to be one of the first garden casitas at Rincon Criollo (aka Casa de Chema aka La Casita) the little houses that dot many of these gardens in Puerto Rican communities inspired by the old shacks that once dotted the countryside across Puerto Rico.

In The Bronx, community gardens are an important part of the fabric of our communities where activism intersects with so many other aspects of daily life whether its guerrilla urban farming like Libertad Farm run by Tanya Fields or Friends of Brook Park with their army of youth volunteers that are gardening, farming and even canoeing, collectively these gems provide and fill in the many gaps for our children and communities where the city has often failed and short-changed us.

People.

Beautiful tapestry of people of The Bronx from all walks of life, ethnicities, cultures just barefoot dancing together in Van Cortlandt Park.

The Bronx’s most precious resource is its people and that’s where the beauty is. We wouldn’t be awesome without this diversity that we have whether it’s a celebration of Puerto Rican culture at Rincon Criollo or Ferragosto celebration of all things Italian or simply one of the dozens and dozens of other ethnic groups in our borough, we are only as amazing as our people are.

We live mostly in harmony alongside each other.

I live in a neighborhood filled with Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Africans, Blacks, Christians and Muslims and so many more and everyone is getting along fine. No DRAMA. That’s what The Bronx is about, it’s a borough of immigrants where everyone can work together for the greater good and that’s what ultimately makes this a truly wonderful place to live and raise your family. I mean, do you want to live in isolated homogeneous communities that are rather bland or would you rather be in a vibrant, thriving community composed of people from everywhere?

This is why we are so vocal against gentrification and it’s white-washing brush that destroys communities and turns them into Midwestern paradises. That’s simply not who we are.

What makes YOUR Bronx awesome? We want to know. This list is by far complete and perhaps will never be complete. We’ll revisit it in the future sure, but let us know what makes it awesome to live in The Bronx to YOU!


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