8
THE ROAD BACK

Just when it seemed that the South Bronx would overrun the entire borough, community groups began working to stem the devastation. A coalition of residents, neighborhood organizations, and clergymen came together in response to the increasing severity of conditions. Suddenly realizing what was going on, the newly politicized residents began to say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, I live here.” Up through the sixties and seventies, most just moved away as the area deteriorated, but the continuing decay and the high cost of housing in the rest of the city made that more difficult. “There is no place left to move to,” recalled Margaret Terry, a South Bronx resident, “so we have to do it ourselves and make this place work.” As Charles Orlebeke has written, borough residents “permanently changed the chemistry of urban politics” by creating grassroots community networks and coalitions and innovative strategies that revitalized Bronx neighborhoods.1

They didn't do it alone. As abandonment spread, city officials and downtown interests began to fear for the entire city. They were motivated to find new ways to deal with decay in a time of declining federal support. Abandonment itself, meanwhile, created the conditions that allowed for the turnaround. The abundance of city-owned vacant land and abandoned buildings, along with a multitude of public and private initiatives that had been devised, enacted, or ineffective during the height of the destruction, now made it possible to rebuild whole areas. In addition, a spurt of new black and Spanish-speaking immigrants revived the housing market in the areas where similar groups lived, in this case, the South Bronx. Thus, from the mid-1980s on, public-private housing partnerships, City Hall, the Bronx Borough President, and community groups joined together to improve conditions and build affordable housing. As the neighborhoods stabilized, city initiatives that had failed before because of me extent of the devastation began to work. These efforts rebuilt the South Bronx and saved the borough.2

-130-

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The Bronx
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps ix
  • List of Tables xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1: The Bronx and Its Neighborhoods 1
  • 2: Early Beginnings 19
  • 3: The Changing Landscape 41
  • 4: Emerging Neighborhoods 59
  • 5: Boosting a Borough 80
  • 6: Urban Neighborhoods 94
  • 7: The South Bronx 109
  • 8: The Road Back 130
  • Notes 169
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 265
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