Why the South Bronx is (still) the hottest up-and-coming NYC location

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-03 18:39:53-04

With Manhattan apartment availabilities at an all-time low, our Kaity Tong asked real-estate broker Linette Semino what neighborhood might be the next Williamsburg-like hot-spot.

“Where are the neighborhoods that you recommend I look at right now?” Kaity asked.

The answer? The South Bronx.

Wait just a minute, the South Bronx, a hot up-and-coming neighborhood? Haven’t we heard that one before?

“That story’s been going for the past 10, 15 years,” said Gregory Lobo Jost  who works for the University Neighborhood Housing Program.

This is the trendy loft apartment complex known as “The Clock Tower.”

During the housing boom prior to 2008, renters scooped up the apartments located just across the street from the entrance to the Third Avenue Bridge.

And businesses started to follow into the neighborhood.

In 2007 the Times even wrote an article dubbing the South Bronx, “SoBro”.

But since the bubble burst, it’s like time and development have stood still.

“All the money that was being allocated for development in this neighborhood was basically turned off because they had to fund other projects or get rid of funding all together,” said Michel Brady.

But Brady, like many other people who moved to the area before the boom, had fallen in love with the South Bronx. So he stayed. Last year he opened his own restaurant, The Clock Bar, in the same Clock Tower building where he lives.

“We’re fiscally healthy, we’re solvent, and we’re getting ready to open up another spot.”

Vanessa Polanco considered herself a Brooklyn girl, so she was reluctant to move to the South Bronx when she did more than a decade ago.

“My husband said that this was the “it” place probably about 11 years ago. And he said this is it, we have to get in now,” said Polanco.

Polanco has since moved out of The South Bronx, but still has her business Verde Flowers in the neighborhood.

And she says it’s because of the location that her business has had a number of opportunities, including becoming a florist for the New York Yankees.

“We have Manhattan, we’ve got the 6 train, we’ve got the tri-borough, we’ve got the GW [George Washington Bridge], so we’re most places much quicker than most people.”

Jost says Brady and Polanco are exceptions to the rule.

While The Bronx continues to see population growth, it’s not the type of growth investors originally expected.

“The folks moving in make less than the folks who already live here,” he said.

So a lot of the South Bronx development has been affordable housing.

In fact, 50% of households in the South Bronx are paying more than half of their income in rent.

Because of that, more and more people are forced into already overcrowded homeless shelters.

So the City is now paying landlords $3,000 a month to house families regardless of the size of an apartment.

“What they’re able to pay the landlords and the service providers is much more than what a tenant would be able to pay.”

“That’s not good news for existing tenants because who wants to be living in a building as permanent housing that’s being converted into a shelter?”

So developers have shied away.

But Brady says that might be a good thing, giving people who live in the neighborhood and opportunity to invest in the community and develop at a responsible pace.

“You have places that we’re just, okay here’s a $40 billion investment. And then the residents are priced out of the neighborhood. I like the fact that my bus boy can live down the block if he wants to.”

He hopes this way the neighborhood will be able to keep the charm and character that made it appealing in the first place.