The Bronx (The Columbia History of Urban Life)

The Bronx (The Columbia History of Urban Life)

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by Evelyn Gonzalez
     
 

Home to the New York Yankees, the Bronx Zoo, and the Grand Concourse, the Bronx was at one time a haven for upwardly mobile second-generation immigrants eager to leave the crowded tenements of Manhattan in pursuit of the American dream. Once hailed as a "wonder borough" of beautiful homes, parks, and universities, the Bronx became — during the 1960s and 1970s

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Overview

Home to the New York Yankees, the Bronx Zoo, and the Grand Concourse, the Bronx was at one time a haven for upwardly mobile second-generation immigrants eager to leave the crowded tenements of Manhattan in pursuit of the American dream. Once hailed as a "wonder borough" of beautiful homes, parks, and universities, the Bronx became — during the 1960s and 1970s — a national symbol of urban deterioration. Thriving neighborhoods that had long been home to generations of families dissolved under waves of arson, crime, and housing abandonment, turning blocks of apartment buildings into gutted, graffiti-covered shells and empty, trash-filled lots. In this revealing history of the Bronx, Evelyn Gonzalez describes how the once-infamous New York City borough underwent one of the most successful and inspiring community revivals in American history.

From its earliest beginnings as a loose cluster of commuter villages to its current status as a densely populated home for New York's growing and increasingly more diverse African American and Hispanic populations, this book shows how the Bronx interacted with and was affected by the rest of New York City as it grew from a small colony on the tip of Manhattan into a sprawling metropolis. This is the story of the clattering of elevated subways and the cacophony of crowded neighborhoods, the heady optimism of industrial progress and the despair of economic recession, and the vibrancy of ethnic cultures and the resilience of local grassroots coalitions crucial to the borough's rejuvenation. In recounting the varied and extreme transformations this remarkable community has undergone, Evelyn Gonzalez argues that it was not racialdiscrimination, rampant crime, postwar liberalism, or big government that was to blame for the urban crisis that assailed the Bronx during the late 1960s. Rather, the decline was inextricably connected to the same kinds of social initiatives, economic transactions, political decisions, and simple human choices that had once been central to the development and vitality of the borough. Although the history of the Bronx is unquestionably a success story, crime, poverty, and substandard housing still afflict the community today. Yet the process of building and rebuilding carries on, and the revitalization of neighborhoods and a resurgence of economic growth continue to offer hope for the future.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In her comprehensive history of the Bronx from its bucolic origins in the 1840s to its 1960s decline and recent resurgence, Gonzalez (history, William Paterson Univ.) refers to New York City's northernmost borough as "a collection of neighborhoods." Its southern tip, only seven miles from Manhattan's City Hall, was the first section to develop housing, business, and public transportation; it was also the first area to deteriorate. The Bronx had the most multifamily homes of any city or county in the United States by the 1940s, claims Gonzalez, but a great deal of the crowded, older housing no longer met middle-class expectations. Low-rent projects replaced many poor but viable neighborhoods during the 1960s, which resulted in decline. In her final chapters, Gonzalez describes how effective grassroots networks helped to stabilize and rehabilitate many neighborhoods and lay the groundwork for the borough's comeback. Gonzalez's reporting and research are excellent, and scholars will appreciate the extensive bibliography. One drawback: the dense text could have benefited from better organization. Nonetheless, this is recommended for public and academic libraries.-Elaine Machleder, Bronx, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231121149
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
03/26/2004
Series:
Columbia History of Urban Life
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.58(w) x 8.78(h) x 0.91(d)

Meet the Author

Evelyn Gonzalez is associate professor of history at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

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