THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE
The development of the Bronx depended upon the nature and timing of public improvements. To compete with suburbs in New Jersey and Brooklyn, the new wards needed streets, schools, parks, mass transit, and other urban services. If planned well, these amenities enhanced land values and generated positive growth. If not, they burdened neighborhoods with inadequate installations for years. In either case, local promoters expected to profit from New York City's growth and did all they could to establish urban services in the newly annexed wards. This bias is markedly revealed in the struggle for street plans, parks, and rapid transit, features that abetted and reinforced the urban landscape of the future Bronx borough. In the end, Bronx boosters laid the foundation for a city rather than a suburb.
Initially, street plans, road construction, and other public improvements were put in the hands of the Central Park Commissioners and their successor, the Department of Public Parks. The former Westchester towns received little from the department at first. With no coherent street plan or procedures for street openings during the tenure of the Parks Department, the new wards had few roads, sewers, and bridges and scant repairs on those that existed. These conditions changed radically after 1890 when the wards took charge of improvements and street layouts. The pace of public improvements quickened, helping to impart to the Bronx an image of progress and modernity that lasted well into the twentieth century.1
The Parks Department controlled the western Bronx between 1869 and 1890. An early advocate of New York City's expansion, Parks Commissioner Andrew Haswell Green believed one agency could better plan the street layout of both upper Manhattan and the district north of the Harlem River