This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Mott Haven section of The Bronx being named a Historic District and Alexander Avenue named a Historic Landmark. Although the borough has 12 historic districts today, Mott Haven was the very first bestowed with this distinction on July 29, 1969.
Like so many other critical Bronx local achievements and neighborhood accomplishments resulting from the hard work and commitment of Bronx residents, the founding and ongoing success of the Mott Haven Historic Districts Association (MHHDA) is yet another triumph by a proud Bronxite.
Calling Mott Haven home for most of his life, Sam Brooks is the driving force for the development of the MHHDA, for which he is president. According to Sam, “I got involved in the neighborhood associations out of passion for my neighborhood and being up on the happenings with regentrification throughout neighborhoods in New York City.”
As a proud Mott Haven homeowner for the past 18 years, Sam observed that many of his neighbors had tried to form an association throughout the past decade, but unfortunately, nothing actually materialized. That’s when Sam decided, six years ago, to transform his passion for his beloved neighborhood into the formation of a legitimate community association.
His initial efforts included taking charge to structuralize an organization as well as outreach to his neighbors about his vision. Then four years ago, Sam took the pivotal step of formally registering the Mott Haven Historic Districts Association. In total, there are three historic districts within Mott Haven that now comprise the MHHDA.
With a great deal of strategic thought, Sam purposely chose not to call the new organization a “homeowners association” as his intent was to make the MHHDA as inclusionary as possible regardless of homeownership or not. According to Sam, “my vision was to have all residents in the zip code feel they had something to offer to this historic community and at the same time provide a pathway for neighborhood involvement for the younger generation in the community for future preservation.”
But, what exactly sparked Sam’s desire to be an active community leader? Like so many before him, Sam emigrated straight to The Bronx as a little boy. Arriving from Honduras on July 14, 1974, he would soon fall victim to the raging apartment building fires of the 1970’s and 1980’s throughout the Borough and would be forced to relocate temporarily to a shelter and then to Mott Haven, where he would become a life-long resident. Sam attended local elementary school and would go on to become part of the second graduating class of South Bronx High School. Sam graduated from Stony Brook University and has enjoyed a successful career in both education and finance.
Needless to say, with a history of nearly 5 decades in Mott Haven, Sam has witnessed first-hand many changes throughout the years to the cultural fabric and demographics of the neighborhood. With a predominantly black population in the area upon his arrival in the early 1970’s, the neighborhood saw the addition of more blacks and Puerto Ricans from Harlem throughout the same decade. More population shifts occurred during the last twenty years, according to Sam, with the inflow of Domincans and Central Americans as well as Mexicans.
Perhaps the biggest changes in the neighborhood would begin to take hold roughly ten to fifteen years ago when developers, seeing great opportunities in Mott Haven, began to trickle into the area At around this same time, another shift was happening. “I began to see that the older generation, including many of my own neighbors who had been in the area for 50 years in homes that had been passed down from generation to generation, were either passing away or moving out,” says Sam.
As this was happening, the neighborhood began to reinvent itself with white professional Manhattanites buying the town houses, largely as a result of word of mouth. Folks who were coming from lower Manhattan would tell their former neighbors and friends about available properties and a trend began. “Thirteen years ago the price of a renovated townhouse was about $430,000. Today, the value has increased and on average, a town house that requires work will go for about $700,000. One of my neighbors just sold her place for $1million, so to me, with these shifts happening, it felt even more vital to have an association to establish a common thread between all the different folks living in the Mott Haven area,” notes Sam.
Of course, through the years dating back to the 1970’s there had always been a variety of tenant associations in the area, made up in general by blacks and Puerto Ricans, however, there was never any real structure or a board of directors to these groups. That’s where Sam has and continues to make a difference, accomplishing considerable inroads for the historic districts of Mott Haven.
Since registering the MHHDA, he has built valuable relationships with professionals in the area whose legal prowess will assist in Sam’s next goal of creating a non-profit. For Sam this insures having a firm structure in place for the newer generations to move up the ranks and continue the legacy. With the historic value of this area, it is of paramount importance to preserve both the history and the culture for generations to come.
In 2017, Sam made a submission to the Historic District Council for Mott Haven to be considered and celebrated. Their reply was a resounding yes with The Mott Haven Historic Districts celebrated in The Bronx, bringing tremendous notoriety to the area.
Most recently, on July 29, 2019 the MHHDA enjoyed the success of its massive endeavor to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Mott Haven being named a Historic District. Engaging the Mott Haven branch of the New York City Public Library, a lovely exhibit was installed to commemorate the event, which is on display through April 2020. The festivities included numerous officials, comprised of members of the Landmarks Preservation Committee, a commendation from United States Congressman Jose Serrano, massive media coverage by local news, including News 12 and the support of local businesses who supplied food, wine and beer for the celebration.
According to Sam, “We are thrilled that the Mott Haven branch of the NYC Library is featuring the Mott Haven Historic Districts exhibit. As a NYC Landmark itself, the library was built in 1905 and is the oldest library building in the Bronx and it is our sincere hope is that some aspect of the 50th Anniversary exhibit will remain on display permanently.”
With the momentum going, Sam Brooks has no intention of stopping. In fact, moving forward, one of his foremost goals is to see more signage added to the area to indicate the Historic District. “Unfortunately, many of the old signs have been vandalized or destroyed so we are working with the Historic Districts Council, the advocate for all of New York City’s historic neighborhoods, and the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission to achieve this objective” says Sam. “Signage is critical so you know you are walking through history as you walk through Mott Haven.”
What’s more, thanks to Sam and his commitment, a self guided tour map is now available to all visitors of Mott Haven. You can literally get off the subway and begin your tour of the 18 historic buildings within the historic district!
Till next time,
It is remarkable what can be created through the lens of a camera by a visionary photographer. Beginning on October 5, 2019 for three months, the Library Claude Lévi-Strauss in Paris is showcasing the photography exhibit “The Bronx-La Villette” by Parisian Italian artist Matteo Pellegrinuzzi.
This exhibition is a portrait of two areas in different parts of the world that share a similar story. Marked by a difficult past, a negative public image, working-class origins and a multicultural population that included large numbers of immigrants, both The Bronx in New York City and La Villette in Paris are today experiencing a deep urban renewal with an enduring spirit found in its residents.
“The Bronx - La Villette” project was conceived five years ago in cooperation with Alexandra Maruri, founder of Bronx Historical Tours in New York. The photographer and Bronx tour guide began a friendship through a chance meeting on social media. As an admirer and follower of Matteo's work on Instagram, Alexandra began chatting with the photographer and would soon become Matteo's tour guide throughout The Bronx during his 2015 visit to The Big Apple.
Conversing throughout the tour, the two realized that there were numerous similarities between The New York City borough of The Bronx and the artist’s Paris neighborhood, La Villette. With a history filled with struggle, neglect, abandonment and disinvestment in the 1980’s, both neighborhoods had come through these hard times as a result of a strong sense of community on the part of their respective humble and proud residents.
As they explored The Bronx together, Alexandra suggested that Matteo consider taking photos for a possible photography collection which paralleled their home neighborhoods in America and in France. Matteo agreed wholeheartedly with his esteemed tour guide, already snapping away and capturing Bronx locals and merchants in their native settings, just being their authentic selves.
Upon returning to Paris, Matteo’s attention would return to work deadlines, taking him several months to focus on the photographs he had taken during his Bronx trip. Looking at the image collection with fresh eyes a few months later, Matteo was intrigued by what he had captured in his simple portraits of the people who call The Bronx home, partaking in their ordinary, everyday lives.
He fancied the collection so much that he decided to embark on a similar endeavor, capturing the people of his own Paris neighborhood of La Villette in their natural surroundings and daily lives, in much the same way. While the two cities were thousands of miles apart, characterized by different cultures, Matteo saw them much the same and wanted to capture his vision in photography to share with others. And with this next step came the birth of The Bronx-La Villette project. According to Alexandra Maruri "One of the main goals of this endeavor was to capture the human side of these communities from two different parts of the world. Both of these neighborhoods faced adversity, challenges and evolution."
Located east of Montmartre, in the 19th District of Paris, La Villette possessed some similarities to The South Bronx, more than three thousand miles away. Interestingly enough, both of these neighborhoods, were situated slightly outside the city proper. The Bronx is an outer borough of world renowned Manhattan, the center of New York City. Likewise, La Villette lies in the outer district of the epicenter of Paris.
These two areas, though technically, part of their main city, have more "neighborhood" qualities of family, local businesses and hometown warmth, even though they are technically recognized as part of a bigger metropolis.
But perhaps the greatest commonality is their respective dark and gray reputation to the world at large as "dangerous" and "unsafe" places. The Bronx has long endured the negative view from the outside as being a bad place, full of undesirables and peril to those who visit. According to Matteo, La Villette suffered in much the same way, being portrayed on the world stage and in the media, as an unsafe area of Paris.
The globalized shadowy, somber and mirky reputations shared and promulgated in the news and by Hollywood has left a lasting impression in people's consciousness about these two neighborhoods, in particular The Bronx. However, Matteo's photography collection captures the humanity and down to earth aspects of the individuals that reside in The Bronx and La Villette.
With his introduction to the South Bronx by Alexandra, Matteo immediately found the similarities to his Parisian neighborhood, La Villette and endeavored to exhibit, in his own words, “the differences and similarities of these two places through my art and give them the dignity that they deserve.”
Born and raised in Italy, Matteo departed his homeland for the city of Paris a decade ago, where he currently resides and is proud to call home. His love of photography started at the tender age of four, taking his first photograph and soon thereafter, the proud owner of his very own camera at age six! Matteo established himself as a professional photographer, first working for news agencies and then moving along to the glamour of fashion photography for such renown publications as Vogue Italy and G.Q. Magazines, respectively.
Speaking about his technique, Matteo says, "For many years my photographic narrative was an interest in people and their relationship with their location showing current realities that could one day be forgotten. The means I employ are the portrait and reportage, often made of silver medium or large format. This allows me to freeze a moment, an emotion, a place, which becomes almost unique.”
During Matteo’s visit to New York in April 2018, I had an opportunity to speak with the artist in detail about his style and photography preferences. He shared with me that, in his opinion, and quite obviously to the trained eyes of a photographer, good, old fashioned film is the best method for optimum photographic aesthetic quality. This is precisely how he shot his photos for The Bronx-La Villette project, all of which are featured in black and white.
With successful exhibitions in Paris and New York, “The Bronx-La Villette” project continues its journey over the next few months in Paris once again, with the exhibition of 90 photographs on display, divided into three parts with a rotation of 30 photos each month.
Singing the praises of Matteo’s photographic creation, Alexandra adds,
“The topics for this project were carefully chosen to showcase the local community, the everyday people who live in The Bronx and La Villette, very dynamic working areas with strong community ties. This is an opportunity to bring transatlantic neighbors together!”
"The Bronx-La Villette" Exhibition Project will return to the Bronx, New York in 2020!
Till next time,
For your reference:
The Bronx-La Villette Project Exhibition
Dates: October 5 to December 31, 2019
Location: Library Claude Lévi-Strauss
41 Avenue de Flandre, 75019 Paris
(Metro Stalingrad or Riquet)
Considering the fact that The Bronx has been revitalized by the local community, organizations, activists and religious groups since the 1970’s, bringing it back from great destruction to the thriving borough that it is today, it should come as no surprise that sustainable tourism was first organized by a local Bronx business entrepreneur.
Committed to working within the guidelines and goals of sustainable tourism set by the United Nations, within the community, Bronx HIstorical Tours’ founder, Alexandra Maruri was not only the first to recognize the immense value in all The Bronx has to offer both locals and visitors from around the globe in what it possesses in historical sites, neighborhoods and cultural significance with the establishment of her company in 2011, but she was ahead of her time in making sustainable tourism her number one priority.
Like many other important things in our society today, “Sustainable Tourism” has become a buzz word for those looking to capitalize on the attention given to this topic. But, it’s up for debate as to how many businesses that offer tours throughout The Bronx really understand the basic tenets of approaching tourism in a way that puts the community first and equally important is whether or not their “commitment” is personally motivated because they are also residents of the community.
Tourists coming to The Big Apple are realizing through increased press coverage and articles about The Bronx, like this one, that there is more to the New York City experience than the island of Manhattan. They do not realize that blazing the trail and establishing The Bronx as a place that is filled with an abundance to see and experience was no easy task considering the negative and harmful press coverage this borough received for close to five decades since the 1970’s. What visitors desire is a way to see as much of the city as possible, including the newly, positively reflected Bronx.
Tour companies, namely those based in Manhattan, that offer bus service to tours in the quaint and historical Little Italy in the Belmont section, for example are gaining the attention of New York City tourists, capitalizing on the groundwork and success of Ms. Maruri and her foresightedness about Bronx tourism.
However, the question remains, do these companies know the neighborhood from first-hand experience? Are they committed to the growth and flourishing of the local businesses and establishments? Do they instill a sense of respect for the local culture and lifestyle of the residents and additionally, (but certainly not least) do they understand how to navigate mass tourism in an area that is not accustomed to it?
When it comes to Sustainable Tourism, the overriding factors are always steeped in Preservation and Economy, because without an understanding on how to preserve the community and stimulate the economy, tourism is only benefiting the tour companies.
Take for example the sudden and mass interest in the South Bronx with the release of the motion picture, The Joker. With many fans from all over wanting to visit the area that is featured in this movie, there has developed some controversy about how such mass visitations affect the community, which flows into the issue of sustainable tourism and the guidelines to its achievement.
Long before this recent interest in the South Bronx, Maruri was offering tours throughout this area, three of which are currently ongoing, An Insider's Guide to the South Bronx, Introduction to The Bronx 101, and South Bronx Historic Tour. Most importantly, two of her key business practices include first and foremost, setting standards for a responsible visitor and encouraging support for small businesses in the area.
And that is not all. Integral to her business are eleven principles of sustainable tourism set forth by the U.N., all of which she has built her business upon, with a growing commitment everyday, especially with the arrival of outside tour companies and experts who claim to understand the best way to bring sustainable tourism to The Bronx.
According to Ms. Maruri, “Since starting Bronx Historical Tours eight years ago, there was never a question about implementing the principles of sustainable tourism and I was the first to adhere to the requirements and goals set by the United Nations. I see myself as a champion for the local businesses and the community, and my goal is to help the economy of The Bronx flourish, all while highlighting the historical significance of the neighborhood.”
She goes on, “It’s all about respect for the community and preserving the culture, namely, the South Bronx, which has come under full view with the release of The Joker. So we always remain conscious of the effects of mass tourism, keeping the footprint minimized throughout our borough and in the process strive to change the perception of The Bronx.”
This approach is clearly working because Maruri has garnered the attention of many respected people in the community, including Samuel Brooks, President of the Mott Haven Historical Districts Association (MHHDA), with whom she has developed a working partnership for the past five years. “We partner with MHHDA to enhance the way people look at The Bronx - we are a community, not a movie set, but a historical and cultural place filled with very humble people.”
Mr. Brooks has also seen the Borough transform from the ruination of decades past to present day when there is a renewed interest in the history of the communities of The Bronx. He sees Ms. Maruri as the trailblazer for Bronx tourism. “Alexandra developed the model for sustainable tourism in our borough. From Little Italy to the South Bronx to Mott Haven and City Island, she knows everyone, and ties her tours into the local business community in an effort to build and expand their businesses.”
Maruri herself recounts how prior to beginning her tour business, she literally went door to door throughout the various Bronx neighborhoods, where she had grown up in and frequented since her arrival to the United States in the early 1970’s as a little girl and discussed her entrepreneurial vision for developing the first-ever Bronx tours. Wanting to create a mutually beneficial enterprise, she shared her goal of building awareness and appreciation of The Bronx’s unique history and culture while simultaneously bringing awareness and patronage to local businesses.
“It was important to me that I had their support, after all, these communities are my home and the local merchants were like family,” says Maruri, “and I expect nothing less than great respect from all of my tourists as they take the time to tour with me and learn about our rich history.”
Mr. Brooks recounted how Maruri single-handedly forged ahead with her vision, when many in The Bronx thought she was crazy to take on such a formidable endeavor on her own. “She is authentic about her concern and love for the communities of The Bronx and sharing that love with her clients. Many of her tours are one-on-one and her public tours never exceed ten people, out of respect for the area.”
Interestingly, almost all clients ask two similar questions when touring with Maruri - Are you from The Bronx and How long have you lived here, which is a clear indication that visitors are quite sophisticated and want the real deal when exploring the Borough. According to Maruri, “My clientele want to hear not only the facts about The Bronx and the places we visit, but also the personal stories of someone who has and continues to live The Bronx experience and is passionate about sharing it.”
Taking her childhood experiences in the places she built memories and sharing it to benefit the community with visitors from all around the globe is what sustainable tourism is all about!
Till next time,
Last weekend, Bronx Community College held their Diversity in Public Art event which celebrated artistic contributions made by and reflecting a multitude of cultural backgrounds, and above all to honor the historic first Hall of Fame in the United States.
Opened to the public, this event began on September 21st and will run through October 25th displaying a mix of exhibitions that include paintings, sculptures, films, digital art and various mixed media, with the focal point being to reexamine the Hall of Fame and focus on the importance of cultural diversity in public monuments.
Kicking off the commencement last Saturday in the Gould Memorial Library were some opening remarks by Luis Montenegro, BCC Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. A musical performance followed by the Hondurian Bodoma Garifuna Culture band to get the “party” started featuring inspiring rhythmic drum compositions and harmonized singing, which included colorfully dressed traditional dancers performing in time with the music.
Film screenings, poetry readings and performances filled the day culminating with an award ceremony and closing remarks.
For many in attendance, (and I count myself among this group) the tour of the Hall of Fame of Great Americans was the prominent highlight of the day. Considering the fact that the weather could not have been more cooperative and one of the most beautiful Fall days ever, our group tour was conducted by the esteemed Bronx Historian, Lloyd Ultan.
Both a Bronx native and a graduate of Hunter College and Columbia University respectively, Mr. Ultan has been the borough’s historian since 1996, having an illustrious career as a professor of history at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies and a member of the adjunct faculty at Lehman College. Needless to say, the tour was very illuminating!
Sharing both historical facts and pertinent pop culture information about the Hall of Fame itself and the individuals honored, Mr. Ultan’s charm and knowledge were matched only by his ability to sprinkle humor throughout the tour, making it captivating and entertaining.
The outdoor sculpture gallery that comprises The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is of course located on the grounds of Bronx Community College, but what many may not realize is that it is the first ever such hall of fame in the country.
Conceived by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University, the Hall of Fame was intended as a way to honor Americans who made a significant contribution to our society. According to The American Monthly Review of Reviews published in 1900, Chancellor MacCracken acknowledged that his inspiration was derived from the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) in Munich, Germany.
And while fame has come to mean more of “celebrity” these days, over a century ago, the meaning was more akin to that of “renown” which is ever apparent from the 96 (formerly 98) portrait busts that line the 630 foot open-air Colonnade of the Hall of Fame.
Originally built on the grounds of what was New York University’s University Heights campus, the school was forced to sell the campus to the City University of New York in 1973 when it then became Bronx Community College. What a lovely inheritance for BCC – an architectural masterpiece which had previously been designated a New York City Landmark on February 15, 1966 and would be added to the National Register of Historical Placed on September 7, 1979.
Mr. Ultan delighted our mesmerized group with fundamental facts about those individuals honored and a few tidbits of trivia which included how the Munchkins of Munchkinland mentioned the Hall of Fame in the 1939 feature film, The Wizard of Oz when they were honoring Dorothy.
The Beaux Arts structure was designed by the architect Stanford White (who, incidentally also designed the BCC Gould Memorial Library), was named for its donor Helen Gould and dedicated on May 30, 1901.
If you are curious like me, you may be wondering how it came to be decided who would be featured in the Hall of Fame. Well, as Mr. Ultan explained, there was a procedure and a number of requirements to the process. Each state was allowed to nominate notable persons for consideration, regardless of gender or race, however, individuals were required to be native born or naturalized (since 1914) citizens of the United States.
To avoid the prospect of self promotion, it was required that nominees be dead for 10 years from 1900 to 1920 and then it was increased to 25 years deceased in 1922. Lastly, a nominee must have made a major contribution to the economic, political, or cultural life of the nation.
I decided to embark on a little research myself about the election process and came upon a wonderful article written by Richard Rubin of The Atlantic Monthly, written in 1997, entitled “The Mall of Fame” which explains the election process beautifully:
“MacCracken wanted to make sure that the people enshrined in his Hall of Fame were truly famous, not just memorable. So he established a board of electors, composed of men and women who were themselves possessed of some measure of renown, ostensibly people of great character and sound judgment. Over the years that body would include the most respected writers, historians, and educators of their day, along with scores of congressmen, a dozen Supreme Court justices, and six Presidents…It was a truly democratic institution — anyone could nominate a candidate, admission would be free, and although NYU served as a
steward, raising funds and running the elections, the whole thing was technically the property of the American people.”
The Colonnade is well-designed and broken into categorized marked sections, that comprise fifteen classes and our delightful tour guide highlighted several individuals from each one, providing insight into their accomplishments and contributions. These classes include authors and editors, businessmen, inventors, missionaries and explorers, philanthropists and reformers, clergymen and theologians, scientists, engineers and architects, lawyers and judges, musicians, painters, and sculptors, physicians and surgeons, politicians and statesmen, soldiers and sailors, teachers and distinguished men and women outside of these classes.
Equally relevant are the sculptures who created the busts, who were as diversified in their backgrounds and native countries as the elected individuals whose likenesses fill the hall. Upon entering from the grounds of the campus, the first category featured are inventors and scientists, which was a great way to kick off the tour!
Here is a short list of those individuals featured on our tour. See how many you know!
In the case of Robert E. Lee, he is disliked today because he was a commander of the Confederate States Army, however, he was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and military engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. He also distinguished himself during the Mexican–American War, and served as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy.
As for Stonewall Jackson, he was also a Confederate general during the American Civil War and his military strategies are still studied today.
With my college years as a student at Fordham University decades behind me, I’m once again focusing in on institutions of higher learning with two teenage daughters who are becoming increasingly aware of the many options they will have to consider during the next few years.
In many ways, I took for granted just how amazing a school Fordham was when attending. However, now that I am beginning the college investigative process with my teenage kids with objectivity, it is no wonder Fordham is a much desired college to attend by kids around the country and the world!
Here are ten lesser known facts that you might not be aware of about this prestigious Bronx university.
1. Fordham ranks in Top 100 college and universities in 2019
In a ranking of all national universities, Fordham, private and co-ed, ranked #70. The university has some of the highest-ranked graduate programs in New York and the Northeast, from business and law to education and social work. The Gabelli School of Business, in particular, is recognized as one of the top business schools in the nation.
2. Top Ranking for Best Undergraduate Teaching
Based on a survey conducted in the spring of 2018, Fordham was ranked among the most prestigious universities for putting a particular emphasis on undergraduate teaching. The ranking were tallied from the most votes given by top college administrators and Fordham came in at #52 along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University.
3. Fordham University is the Oldest Catholic College in the Northeast
Fordham University was founded by the Catholic Diocese of New York in 1841 as St. John’s College, making it the oldest Roman Catholic institution of higher education in the northeastern United States. The vision began in 1840 when The Most Reverend John J. Hughes purchased the bulk of Rose Hill Manor, a private farm in the village of Fordham, now part of The Bronx. The administrators brought in Jesuit educators to run the college in 1845, establishing Fordham as New York City’s only Jesuit institution. The school is also the third-oldest university in the state of New York, after New York University and Columbia University.
4. Tuition at Fordham University is Slightly Higher Than Average
The undergraduate tuition and fees at Fordham University are slightly higher than the average amount of similar schools’ tuition. The 2019 undergraduate tuition & fees of Fordham University are $52,687 for their students and approximately an additional $17,969 for room and board.
Graduate school tuition & fees for 2019 are $34,363. On average, annual tuition for private 4-Year not-for-profit colleges and universities total about $50,900 for annual tuition and fees.
Incidentally, this is a far cry from what it cost when I was an undergraduate student back in the day at $10,000 with room and board!
5. Students Enjoy the Experience of Urban Living and Inter-Campus Travel
The school motto says it best with “New York is my campus. Fordham is my school.” In the heart of The Bronx, the Rose Hill Campus offers both its outdoor gardenesque grounds and the ultimate urban setting outside its gates. With its second residential campus at Lincoln Center, in the cultural heart of Manhattan near Central Park, transportation between the two is easy and accessible via the school’s Ram Van shuttle that runs every half hour. The college’s third campus in Westchester’s Harrison can also be reached by means of the Ram Van.
6. Campus Life versus City Apartment Living
Fordham University offers resident students the chance to select their preference for living quarters all four years. Even Freshmen do not have to live on campus, if they choose, taking advantage of the Bronx apartment life. However, any student who is promised housing upon admittance to the school is guaranteed a room for four consecutive years.
7. Fashion Law Anyone?
Fordham School of Law, is home to the first Fashion Law Institute in the country. With the help of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, it’s the world’s first center dedicated to the law and business of fashion teaching the four pillars of this specialty which include Intellectual property, Business and finance, International trade and government regulation, including sustainability, privacy, and issues related to wearable technology and Consumer culture and civil rights.
8. The Opportunity to Live on a Biological Field Station
Ever imagine what it would be like to reside in a log cabin and study your natural surroundings? Each year, this becomes a reality for twelve lucky graduate students who are able to live in log cabins allowing them to be closer to their research. Graduates and undergraduates alike may take advantage of the Louis Calder Center, a biological field station where environmental studies courses and research are conducted.
9. It’s Not Greek to Me
Although co-ed with many activities, clubs and academic studies, this Jesuit university does not offer a Greek life (fraternities or sororities).
10. Students Love Fordham
It’s a good sign that students love their school when retention and graduation rates are high. At Fordham University, the rate of student retention is very high at 91%, which is well above New York average. The graduation rate at Fordham University is very good too at 81%.
11. A Fordham Education is Mark of Distinction
According to recent government data, 42,811 applications were submitted to Fordham University by students wanting to attend and 20,366 were accepted, so it is pretty difficult to be accepted at this school. On the flip side, if you or your loved ones are lucky enough to be accepted and earn a degree from this prestigious Bronx college, then you should be very proud.
Till next time,
This year marks the thirty-ninth year of World Tourism Day with the theme “Tourism and Jobs, A Better Future for All.”
Beginning in 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization began the annual celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27 with the purpose of raising awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
Each year, a new theme is chosen and as per the UNWTO General Assembly decision at its Twelfth Session in Istanbul, Turkey in 1997, a host country is designated each year to act as the Organization’s partner, and this year, excitement abounds in India, this year’s World Tourism Day host!
Getting down to brass tacks, what does this year’s theme really mean in practical terms. Well, it would appear that there are three basic components to successfully launch initiatives moving forward. These include Education, Skills and Jobs, regardless of geographic area.
From a global standpoint, international travel has never been bigger and it continues to grow. In essence, the world has gotten smaller because of technology, social media and overall growth socio-economically during the last half century. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that internationally there were just 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950. Just 68 years later, in 2018, this number has increased to 1.4 billion international arrivals per year. This is a 56-fold increase.*
People have become more interested in the far-reaching corners of the globe - which is relative depending on where they live - and with the growth in the international tourism industry, travel has never been more accessible. However, with this increase in demand comes the need for better educated tourism professionals, with honed skills that include not only knowledge of the places to which they are either assisting people to visit, but also an appreciation and respect for the communities within which they are creating tours and travel opportunities.
The skills required for travel professionals are increasingly under the global microscope with the need to be more sophisticated as a result of the plethora of online rating sites that can make or break a business’ reputation.
The Bronx, New York, is an example of a New York City destination which is becoming increasingly recognized as an important tourist focal point. Through growing internet exposure and word of mouth, curiosity is on the rise for this outer borough which is home to national historical sites and unique cultural neighborhoods and nuances and joins the ranks of many other formerly less visited places around the world.
As a result, the necessity for qualified local tour guides with a keen knowledge of the area, relationships with local business owners and a commitment to sustainable tourism has never been more critical.
Whether it is The Bronx or any international locality, a vital aspect of being a well educated and skilled tourism professional is the incorporation of sustainable business practices which show a greater respect for the local residents, the community at large and the native culture and social components that make up the area. The result is that it impresses a sense of consideration and local awareness on their visiting clientele.
These sustainable businesses practices include using public transportation and walking through neighborhoods and villages, keeping tour group sizes small and manageable, supporting small businesses and local vendors (which brings economic growth to individual neighborhoods) an insistence on respect and polite interaction with community inhabitants and a commitment to preserving the culture and strong sense of history for the tourist area.
New York City is taking action by creating a pathway to promote sustainable practices. The Big Apple aims to make the city carbon-neutral by 2050 and buildings more energy efficient.
When it comes to jobs, consider the fact that travel and tourism provide employment to nearly 300 million people in the world either directly or indirectly. This number equates to 1 out of 10 jobs in the world being provided by the Tourism sector. In fact, when it comes to small nations like Bhutan, Maldives and Cambodia, to name a few, 40% of the people earn their livelihoods from the travel and tourism Sector.
What’s more, this sector of the jobs market affords equal opportunities for both men and women with relatively accessible skills unlike other professions that may require advanced degrees and technological knowledge. Tourism jobs are quite diverse as well, considering the comprehensive nature of the travel industry. Building a career can range from becoming a travel agent and planner, to hotel industry professional, tour operators, event planner, tour guide and even fringe craftspeople such as chefs, public relations executives writers and online critics and webinar teachers.
It would seem obvious that this could become a growing field of study for institutions of higher learning around the globe and a career choice worth considering.
Till next time,
By Diego Robayo
The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD) was founded in 1998 and started out as an association to promote artists that belonged to minority groups whose rights at that time were still unrecognized by many in society by dancer Arthur Aviles and writer Charles Rice-Gonzalez, two LGBT rights advocates, and artists that leverage art to prompt societal development.
Although their professions are different, they both use art to promote inclusion of groups that have traditionally been excluded from society.
In 2013, BAAD left the South Bronx and settled down in the Westchester Square neighborhood of the East Bronx in a historic landmark building that was built between 1882 and 1883.
Queer artists and artists of color have been able to express their ideas and feelings in the welcoming atmosphere of BAAD. This was an extraordinary social advancement at the time the organization was founded, considering that in 1998 the foundations of gay rights were still fragile.
However, several events that occurred that year strengthened them. For instance, the first open lesbian, Tammy Baldwin, was elected to federal office in 1998.
Aviles is a world-known performer who has been awarded with the highest distinctions in dance. In 1996, he established his own dance company in Paris, called Arthur Aviles Typical theatre, and one year later, he moved it to the South Bronx, the place where he was raised. He then teamed up with Charles Rice-Gonzalez to create BAAD.
Rice-Gonzalez’s writings highlights the humanity of the South Bronx, which has been largely overshadowed by the neighborhood’s “messed-up reputation.” His debut novel, El Chulito (2011), was deemed as the first queer Puerto Rican novel set in the U.S.
Although they both focus on different forms of art, they posses the common passion of advocating for gay rights, and this inclusion has been the core foundation of BAAD, which today presents empowering work of women, people of color and LGBT community.
The Bronx has been an incubator for many cultural movements, setting models to follow for new artists. For instance, in the 1970s, the borough was credited for conceiving what ultimately became known as Hip Hop.
This cultural efflorescence in The Bronx allowed BAAD to advance its cultural initiatives, despite how irreverent they were considered by some people.
Despite being a borough that has been a cradle of progressive cultural movements it is also home of religious communities that may perceive BAAD’s presence with scorn. Compared to other ethnic groups, Latinos have one of the highest rates of affiliation to Christianity, and their connection to Christianity tends to come with derision towards ideas or movements that challenge their values.
One of BAAD’s most recent arts initiatives is called Trasnvisionaries and it features cabaret dancers, poets, musicians, dancers and performers who identify themselves as Transgender. It is a courageous process that has brought about expressions of ostracism from community members that disapprove BAAD’s progressive and liberal thinking.
However, the overall acceptance from the public has been favorable, even among traditional and conservative groups.
When BAAD moved to its current location in 2013, it organized a welcoming event, inviting community representatives that included a sister from the Episcopal Church which owns the building where they are located.
The event included a performance of half naked men with hefty bodies kissing each other and by the end of the show the sister thanked BAAD for the evening after having enjoyed the show.
BAAD’s relation with the Episcopal Church illustrates how art unites people of contrasting ideas, in a way that other forms of expression cannot. Arthur Aviles is a widely acclaimed dancer whose performances transmit such beauty that other aspects of him, which are more controversial, are faded into the background of puritan minds.
In 2003 The New York Times wrote: “If you don’t know Mr. Aviles, you haven’t seen one of the great modern dancers of the last 15 years.”
By Diego Robayo
Encouraged by subsidy programs that offered zero-down mortgage payments on houses in other counties, most of the middle-class had left The Bronx by the 1970’s. The borough became an enclave for working- class immigrants, African Americans and Puerto Ricans, many from East Harlem or El Barrio.
Unfortunately, an unwanted visitor was also making its debut.
An almost invisible visitor in the form of a white powder that filled people’s lungs with an acrid smoke, crack, called by some the “fast food” of drugs, brought with it an epidemic of additional poverty and crime.
In the midst of this gloomy time, Mike Amadeo found the perfect conditions to start a business. He established a store that would maintain the spirit of Latino culture in the same place where another Latino music store, called Casa Hernandez, had been functioning since 1941, before Mike took over the place. Mike named his new store Casa Amadeo, and since the 1960s until today, it has been in the same place in the South Bronx. It remains the oldest Latino music store in New York City, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Mike Amadeo’s affinity for music began when he was a little boy. He made a living out of this passion when he arrived to New York City from Puerto Rico. As a member of a salsa music group called Los Tres Reyes, he recorded his music with a company called Compañía Alegre (The Happy Company), which was located in the same building as Casa Amadeo. In his lifetime, Mike has composed over 200 songs.
Mike moved to the South Bronx in 1969 when he rented a shop at 786 Prospect Avenue (also known as 850 Longwood Avenue) for a price much lower than the average rent of the city. At the time, many of the longtime residents were fleeing the area, which was starting to feel more like a war zone than a neighborhood, but Mike was lured by the cheap rent and the increasing Latino community.
New York City has always been the home of diverse cultures and values, and this diversity created the perfect place for Mike to prevail and establish a profitable enterprise. The Hispanic population was becoming the majority in the South Bronx, and they became Mike’s most distinguished customers. He filled up the stalls of his store with Latino music.
Latinos love to dance, and all the countries that comprise South and Central America have their own original rhythms with the same festive cadence. They all are danced vividly, and give Latino countries a cheery ambience. This cultural bliss was sustained by Casa Amadeo, as Mike was providing the community with the most iconic salsa discs.
Large numbers of Latinos began to arrive to the South Bronx in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and they encountered a bleak atmosphere infested by drugs and decay. To uphold their culture, Latino nightclubs began to prosper, and they became a shelter for the joyous identity of immigrants coming from South and Central America.
Soon enough, these nightclubs became Mike’s privileged customers. Mike was supplying jukeboxes in Latino nightclubs with compact discs, and his customer base continued to grow, while at the same time he was paying a very low rent in a depressed neighborhood.
Only a few people had Mike’s determination to stay in The Bronx at that time. In the 1970’s, this borough lost one in five residents, and its population declined from 1.472 million to 1.169 million. As The Bronx continued to be neglected, the circumstances for Mike became harder, but his determination to stay remained strong. .
For more than two years, the building where his store is located was abandoned and no one was collecting the rent. Junkies constantly broke into the building, and sometimes into his store. Utilities were shut down, and Mike had to get water from the fire hydrant outside his building which he carried with a bucket into his space. He eventually convinced ConEdison to reconnect the utility supply.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter visited The Bronx and walked along Charlotte Street, just some blocks away from Casa Amadeo. The New York Times covered this visit by saying that the president “viewed some of the country’s worst urban blight, rubble‐strewn lots and open fire hydrants, and people shouting ‘Give us money!’”
Amongst this bleak landscape, Mike’s business was flourishing. The store became a gathering place for Latino culture and his creativity grew delightful songs written by him on the counters of the store. The entire borough was falling apart, but the interior of Mike’s store was radiating colorful beams of imagination that united the community.
Today, Mike has a deep bond with his store, even though it does not provide him with the necessary income to cover his expenses. However, the emotional reward of having overcome those dark times is ample satisfaction.
Mike blames the decline of his store on two reasons : the disruption caused by digital music and the Giuliani administration. Most traditional businesses had to reinvent themselves in the last decades due to the arrival of the digital platforms. Mike’s business was in the center of this wide-reaching turmoil.
Additionally, in the 1990’s, Mayor Giuliani’s administration required that specifically zoned “cabaret” business apply for license renewal every two years for a fee up to $1,300. This requirement got rid of many informal nightclubs that were operating without any license. Mike believed that by doing so, Giuliani criminalized the city’s nightlife.
Casual buyers of music could now access to all the music they wanted online, and many nightclubs with jukeboxes that demanded Mike’s compact discs are now on the verge of disappearing or are gone, but Mike’s determination has remained strong. From Monday to Saturday, he arrives at 11:00 in the morning to keep his store running.
At the age of 84, he is energetic enough to pull up the heavy gates of his store, answer the phone, offer interviews, and attend to his customers; most of whom are seniors that spend a great deal of time walking around the store, staring at compact discs of old salsa orchestras that trigger a sense of nostalgia.
That same nostalgia, and perhaps melancholy, is also present in Mike, as he shows an LP record that contains the music of his father, who also was a prominent musician, and abandoned Mike when he was a little child living in Puerto Rico. Mike talks of his father with both admiration and sorrow. He proudly played the music of his father, while saying “What kind of affection could I have for someone who abandoned me when I was a child?”
My first visit this past week to Wave Hill, the absolutely gorgeous Bronx public gardens, was truly breathtaking.
Although the foremost reason for our visit was to spend the evening in the Aquatic Garden within this 28-acre venue for their weeklyTwilight in the Garden, my teenage daughter, Gianna and I were mesmerized by the beauty of our surroundings upon entering and enjoyed our brief time exploring.
We could not help but take our time strolling and stopping for photos along the way to the Aquatic Garden where the evening’s events were taking place.
The onsite parking facility has been closed due to construction, so all visitors were directed to temporary off-site parking down the road. Fortunately, there were complimentary shuttle buses provided for guests as to avoid the hilly six minute walk back and forth, with friendly drivers to get one’s visit off on a positive note.
As I mentioned, this was my first visit to this garden oasis located in the Riverdale section of The Bronx. Although the estate had been either owned or leased to a number of notable people since the original Wave Hill House, a gray fieldstone mansion, was built in 1843 by lawyer William Lewis Morris, it was eventually purchased, along with the adjacent property, in 1903, as a private estate by George Walbridge Perkins, a partner of J. P. Morgan.
The estate stayed in the Perkins-Freeman family until 1960, when it was deeded to the City of New York, with the development of its lush and flourishing gardens in the mid-1960’s.
As of 1983, the estate was added to the roster of the National Register of Historic Places and it’s no wonder why.
This place is absolutely gorgeous and quite a natural refuge and sanctuary in the middle of an otherwise urban setting
Although I had anticipated being blown away by the beauty and tranquility of this place from photos that I had seen and research I had done, it was everything and more than I had expected. Moreover, I was ever grateful and pleasantly surprised at Gianna’s reaction to its beauty!
She was so eager to take photos and pose with the backdrop of flowers and the view of the Hudson River in the background, that we both realized immediately, we had planned our visit to arrive a bit too late in the day.
Between the hand map and signage throughout, in conjunction with a very navigable layout, we made our way around with ease and found ourselves stopping to admire the magnificently laid out exquisite plantings as we traversed the grounds.
Our destination was the Aquatic Garden for the evening’s Twilight in the Garden event featuring Gamelan Dharma Swara.
Dharma Swara is a 25-person ensemble founded in 1989 and is one of the leading Balinese gamelan and dance ensembles in the United States.
After a rather leisurely stroll through the grounds and stopping to take numerous photos, we arrived about five minutes into the performance.
As we approached the lovely Aquatic Garden, we joined other visitors who were comfortably seated around the outdoor garden “stage”, forming a circle of onlookers both on the cool summer grass and comfortably seated on adjacent benches.
Gianna and I walked around, garnering numerous views, as we felt like we had been transformed to Bali with the soft, mesmerizing music that filled the air. The soft, ethereal music filled the evening air.
With the sounds of the enchanting music, we watched most of the show, but left the area a few minutes prior to its completion to continue investigating the Wave Hill grounds before the sun set. There is really just too much to take in to fully enjoy this spectacular place that one must visit often and spent several hours roaming about each time.
Me and my girl did manage to visit the Cafe and snag a few iced teas, which we sipped relaxingly on the outdoor patio before departing for the evening.
In a few words, this visit was both enchanting and invigorating. We will be returning for sure in the Fall, at which time I am looking forward to seeing the seasonal transformation throughout the gardens.
And while I was worried about whether my 15-year old would find the outing enjoyable, I was pleasantly surprised at her excited reaction from beginning to end about how beautiful it was!! The musical performance was not necessarily her thing, but she did take it in and was open to the experience and eager to return.
I highly recommend making time for Wave Hill’s Twilight in the Garden series next summer. I will leave you with a few suggestions for upcoming events this coming Labor Day weekend and beyond. Mark your calendar!
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1 at 2:00PM
Garden Highlights Walk
This public tour of the seasonal garden highlights will be led by one of Wave Hill’s knowledgeable Garden Guides.
Free with admission to the grounds.
Meet at Perkins Visitor Center
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2 at 2:00PM
Labor Day Garden Highlights Walk
Open on Labor Day for visitors to join a Wave Hill Garden Guide for a public tour of seasonal garden highlights.
Free with admission to the grounds.
Meet at Perkins Visitor Center
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3 at 2pm
Tour Glyndor Gallery with Wave Hill’s Curatorial Assistant or Gallery Greeter for a view of the current exhibition Figuring the Floral features artists who apply this symbolism to their work—touching on race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, aging and other facets of identity.
Free with admission to the grounds.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 8 at 9:30AM
Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of diverse bird species and their behavior on these walks through the gardens and woodlands. Observe the plants, insects and habitats at Wave Hill that make it so appealing for such a wide variety of birds. Birders of all levels welcome! Ages 10 and older welcome with an adult.
Free with admission to the grounds. NYC Audubon Members enjoy two-for-one admission. (Meet at Perkins Visitor Center)
Nothing warms my heart more than the news of yet another Bronx site getting its proper and well deserved recognition for what it offers not only to the Borough or the City of New York, but to the world.
Last week, there was fun and festivities to celebrate the publication of Nature Into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill, a new book from Timber Press. Written in an eloquent manner by Thomas Christopher, with exquisite photographs by Ngoc Minh Ngo, this book is a testament to the beauty of one of the best public gardens in our great state and country.
Initiated by Timber Press, who has brought other public gardens around the United States to the forefront with previously published books, Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill was made possible through a collaborative effort of an enthusiastic publisher, an eager Wave Hill and two talented creative artists.
As the author of several books with Timber Press, and a horticulturist himself, Thomas Christopher was asked to pen a glorious narrative and detailed description of the history and unique features of Wave Hill and its expansive Gardens.
Having spent a great deal of time in The Bronx training as a horticulturist at The New York Botanical Gardens in the 1970’s, Mr. Christopher has always loved the beauty of Wave Hill, visiting frequently throughout the years, and was happy about being a part of this project.
He weaves an engaging story, taking the reader through history, and of course, bestowing a plethora of information about the Gardens and their seasonal transformations. From the 18th Century, when it was home to a number of successive American notables, even hosting the Queen of England, to the early 1900’s when it became the expansive 28 acre estate of financier, George W. Perkins, whose family would reside there through 1960, when it was donated to the city of New York, the book is an interesting and enjoyable read.
Complementing the delightful text are an assemblage of photographs capturing the myriad of plantings of the Wave Hill Gardens and their diversity in each of the four seasons with spectacular perspectives taken by Ngoc Minh Ngo.
One could say that the birth of the Wave Hill Gardens that exists today, came about during the 1960’s under the direction and loving care of its then-horticulturist, Marco Polo Stufano and his small staff of three gardeners. These individuals created an oasis of plantings, the likes of which this country had never seen.
According to Mr. Christopher’s text, “The country had never seen a public garden like this: intimate, personal, rich, and dynamic. And Wave Hill remains unique. The gardeners there practice a kind of classic horticultural craftsmanship unrivaled among other public gardens in the United States. The skill and commitment to detail of the Wave Hill staff is legendary.”
Marco Stufano was determined to create a garden on par with the great American and English gardens and he succeeded in his mission. Wave Hill is one of the last surviving country estates in all of New York City’s five boroughs, containing acres of glorious retreat.
Amidst the harried metropolis of The Bronx that surrounds Wave Hill, one can find peace and solace in these diverse gardens which are situated in one of the most scenic of locations in the city, overlooking the Hudson and the Palisades, offering locals and tourists alike, an opportunity to experience a totally different glimpse into The Bronx and city beyond.
The first to arrive on the scene for this creative project was Ngoc Minh Ngo, who began photographing the plantings and their surroundings eighteen months prior to the book’s author beginning his writings. Generally speaking, Ms. Ngo advised that it is the writing that precedes the photography on her projects, but in this instance, it was imperative for her to begin sooner than later since she was charged with capturing the gardens during each of the four seasons.
Having had two books published on flowers, her challenge with Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill was to capture the unique nuances of the landscape and floriculture of Wave Hill, which can literally change overnight. With a lead time of 18 months, Ms. Ngo was afforded two Springs and two Summers with which to photograph. And that’s exactly what she did. In her own words, “I photographed what I saw.”
Ms. Ngo was no stranger to Wave Hill either, having previously visited for her love of flowers and when contacted by the Wave Hill team to join this project, she remembered well the location and gardens and happily accepted. According to the photographer, “One of the nicest things was to be able to explore in-depth over time, as that’s what gardens are about – not the single moment. It’s about the seasons and they change constantly and it was wonderful to go back to the same place and see the changes.”
Mr Christopher credits the beauty and ongoing success of the Wave Hill Gardens with the continuity of its gardening staff. Beginning with the hands-on training by Stufano, so too did he create a sense of family among the gardeners that still exists today and is one of the factors that has led to their long employ. As a result of this continuity and the development of a true craft for horticulture, the consistency has proven tremendously beneficial, according to the book’s author.
One may ask what makes Wave Hill different from say, The New York Botanical Gardens? Christopher himself, who began his horticultural training there, sings its praises, but points to a few key differences that make Wave Hill unique.
Wave Hill invokes a more “flexible” philosophy and its location lends itself to doing things a bit differently. For example, they are very clever in exploiting the micro climates at Wave Hill. That is, the features in the landscape that create their own climate. Up on the hill over the Hudson, it is breezy and dry, which allows for growing things that wouldn’t necessarily grow elsewhere at Wave Hill.
Another example of Wave Hill’s uniqueness is their allowance of volunteer seedlings, which is essentially letting the garden replant itself, not imposing as much control as many gardeners employ. Not imposing such control allows for a non-planned out garden, which adds new variety all the time and creates a avery lush feel – a very flexible approach.
“It was a wonderful assignment,” says Mr. Christopher, “having visited Wave Hill through the years and admired it, here was a chance to visit more regularly to see how it changed through the seasons and be able to follow the gardeners around, so it was a real education for me. I learned so much and they were so patient and answered all my questions “
Ms Ngo added that while she has photographed many gardens and has enjoyed meeting many gardeners from all over, she found Wave Hill’s gardeners to be some of the most talented of all with their work exhibiting “beautiful combinations and beautiful plants” making the book project a great pleasure with which to be a part.
In speaking about the collaboration between himself and Ngoc, Mr. Christopher said, “it was fun working with Ngoc. Sometimes there can be an unwritten competition between writers and photographers, however, this was far from the case. Ngoc brought out beauties and features of the gardens of Wave Hill that I had never seen from her tremendous insight and talent.”
Till next time,
For Your Reference
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675 West 252nd Street (mailing)
Bronx, NY 10471-2899
Elisa is a travel blogger and freelance writer. She is co-founder of TravelinCousins.com travel blog and writes a weekly column for ThisIsTheBronx.info.