What’s the Deal With The Bronx

The Bronx’s inability to catch up with the rest of the city’s phenomenal economic growth has been disconcerting. In the early 1970s, the Bronx and Brooklyn had similar average household incomes. Since then, though, the gap has grown significantly. The average Brooklyn resident is now around 23 percent richer than the average Bronxite; people in Queens are roughly 32 percent richer. (Manhattan residents are 265 percent wealthier; Staten Island residents, by the way, are 55 percent richer.) What happened?

The Bronx may look troubled when compared with Brooklyn or Manhattan, but comparison with a Rust Belt city is probably more appropriate. “It looks good in comparison with Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis,” says Kenneth T. Jackson, the renowned New York City historian. Indeed, the borough has recovered remarkably from the 1970s, when the buildings were famously burned, and it still fulfills a crucial role in the city’s economic cycle. It remains the place, Jackson says, where many ambitious immigrants can “get started on the ladder of life and success.”

—I’ve lived in NYC for about a millisecond, and my concept of the city and its boroughs mostly comes from TV and movies rather than any actual experience or understanding of city history. What I know about The Bronx: There’s a zoo there and also Yankee Stadium; I passed through it on a train on my way upstate. That’s it, basically. I knew that it wasn’t even an option when I was looking for apartments, though I’m not sure how I knew that. But: This short Adam Davidson piece in the NYT contextualizes the borough in a short and simple way that makes sense to me. “Oh, it’s the Rust Belt of NYC.” Got it.

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