7
THE SOUTH BRONX

By the 1940s, the South Bronx no longer met middle-class expectations. It was too old, too crowded, and too inconvenient, and for the most part did not offer the option of individual home ownership. More man ever, families had to leave the neighborhood and often the entire borough to improve their standard of living. Although this outward flow of population had been going on for years, sharp demographic changes and pro-suburban government policies further motivated residents to leave and provided them with the means to do so.1 Meanwhile, the continuance of wartime rent controls lessened the attraction of apartment house ownership. Declining real estate investment, a growing incidence of crime, and an aging housing stock spread the “South Bronx” name beyond its original neighborhoods of Mott Haven, Melrose, Morrisania-Claremont, and Hunts Point-Crotona Park East to everything south of Fordham Road, from Highbridge and the lower Concourse to Tremont, University Heights, and lower Fordham. By the late seventies, this newly denned South Bronx had become the “most extensively abandoned piece of urban geography in the United States.”2


THE POSTWAR YEARS

After World War II, the most important change in the Bronx was the coming of thousands of Southern blacks and Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans. Early slum clearance in black and Spanish Harlem reduced the housing available to African Americans and Puerto Ricans just when they began arriving in greater numbers. In the segregated city of the forties, they had nowhere to go but along the subway and the el into the low-rent part of the Bronx, which already had small pockets of blacks and Hispanics and had the least desirable housing.3 By 1950, there were almost 160,000 African Americans and Puerto Ricans in the borough, 91 percent of them in the

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