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Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx

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Overview

Stretching over four miles through the center of the West Bronx, the Grand Boulevard and Concourse, known simply as the Grand Concourse, has gracefully served as silent witness to the changing face of the Bronx, and New York City, for a century. Now, to coincide with the boulevard's 2009 centennial, a New York Times editor brings to life the street in all its raucous glory.

Designed by a French engineer in the late nineteenth century to echo the elegance and grandeur of the Champs-Elys&eeacute;es in Paris, the Grand Concourse was nearly twenty years in the making. Over the ensuing century it has truly been a boulevard of dreams for various upwardly mobile immigrant and ethnic groups, yet it has also seen the darker side of the American dream.

Constance Rosenblum unearths the colorful history of this grand street and its interlinked neighborhoods. With a seasoned journalist's eye for detail, she paints an evocative portrait of the Grand Concourse through compelling life stories and historical vignettes as she follows successive waves of Jews, Irish, Italians, African Americans, and Latinos who called the neighborhood home. The book recounts the experiences of the Lower East Side immigrants for whom an address on the Grand Concourse represented the embodiment of the American Dream, and it traces the way that dream was transformed over the years. The story of the creation and evolution of the Grand Concourse is the story of New York-and America-writ large, and Rosenblum examines the Grand Concourse from its earliest days to the blighted 1960s and 1970s right up to the current period of renewal. Beautifully illustrated with a treasure trove of historical photographs, the vividworld of the Grand Concourse comes alive-from Yankee Stadium to the unparalleled collection of Art Deco apartments to the palatial Loew's Paradise movie theater.

An enthralling story of the creation of an iconic street, an examination of the forces that transformed it, and a moving portrait of those who called it home, Boulevard of Dreams is a must read for anyone interested in the rich history of New York and the twentieth-century American city.

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Editorial Reviews

Ada Calhoun
Rosenblum is an infectiously enthusiastic tour guide. You can almost feel her pulling you up and down the Grand Concourse…giddily pointing out the sights: the absurdly opulent Loew’s Paradise movie theater, say, or the daring, mermaid-bedecked Lorelei fountain.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The Bronx's Grand Concourse, with its Art Deco structures, is one of New York City's architectural delights, and its political and social history is the worthy subject of this new book by New York Times staffer Rosenblum, who edited the paper's now-defunct City section and now writes a column for its Sunday real estate section. Stretching over four-and-a-half miles, the thoroughfare designed by Louis Aloys Risse, an Alsatian immigrant, and modeled after Paris's Champs Elysées—was completed in 1909 and saw the arrival of upwardly mobile Jews in the first five decades of the 20th century, followed by waves of Irish and Italian immigrants seeking to pursue their culture and careers in a safe environment. While Rosenblum explores various aspects of Jewish communal life near the boulevard, she also dissects the rivalry between West Bronx affluence and the working-class East Bronx, and the racial tensions that led to white suburban flight and the decline and neglect of the area. The author also draws attention to the many noteworthy characters who lived on or near the Concourse such as Edgar Allan Poe and fallen NBA star Jacob Louis Molinas. A seminal recounting of the rise, fall and current revival of a major landmark, this book, with many archival photos and drawings, is a must for those interested in the cultural history of the Bronx and New York City. 43 illus., 1 map. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“For those of us to whom the neighborhood in the city was not just an idea, but a reality, its sweetness and sadness precious, Boulevard of Dreams is a book one must long reflect upon.”

-Haaertz,

“Rosenbaum has told a harrowing story of construction and destruction, ending with the realistic requirement for changes in attitudes to restore the happy days that once made the Bronx a desirable place to live.”-National Jewish Post & Opinion,

“For anyone who has ever loved a great street or neighborhood as change after change swept over it and dreams and challenges converged. So in fact this is a book for anyone who has ever lived anywhere. It’s a rich, sometimes wild ride through a century of history, beautifully written by a gifted observer.”-Tony Hiss,author of The Experience of Place

“A must read for anyone who cares about the history of the city. Rosenblum writes with deep feeling and an acute eye and the result is a rare, unsentimental look at a much maligned borough.”-Laura Shaine Cunningham,author of Sleeping Arrangements

“Constance Rosenblum’s account of the history of the street is evocative and informative.”-Jewish Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814776087
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Constance Rosenblum, most recently the author of the Habitats column published in the Real Estate section of The New York Times, was a longtime editor of the paper’s City section and a former editor of the Times’s Arts and Leisure section. She is the author of Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope Along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

I A Promenade for the Bronx

1 "A Drive of Extraordinary Delightfulness" 15

2 "Get a New Resident for the Bronx" 41

3 "I Was Living in 'a Modern Building" 59

II The Golden Ghetto

4 "Something That Everybody Had in Awe" 87

5 "An Acre of Seats in a Garden of Dreams" 125

6 "By the Waters of the Grand Concourse" 141

7 The Grand Concourse of the Imagination 159

III To Hell and Back

8 "The Borough of Abandonment" 177

9 Who Killed the Concourse? 201

10 "Bends in the Road" 215

Sources 229

Bibliography 243

Index 253

About the Author 267

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