How it all works.

I'm trolling New York City collecting maps from flyers, government reports, informational brochures and such with the notion that all these maps will all somehow join together to create a complete map of NYC. The maps have to exist in real life- no downloads and cannot be rescaled or cut to fit.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Arse-end of The Bronx- Mott Haven

I get the feeling that Mott Haven used to be a nice place to live. Walking to Bruckner Blvd from the 138th St station you pass several nice buildings, standing like good teeth in a rotten mouth and even a whole block or so given landmark status. What happened, Bronx? What made you so filthy and bedraggled? While searching for the answer I discovered several websites very similar to my own that cover this history and where you may also find about the nicer buildings and who the streets are named after and other remarkable things, the best of which is probably this;- So in the interest of keeping the internet as free from useless repetition as possible and lessening my research burden I will relay only first impressions; ignorant, shallow and uneducated as they may be.

I don't know The Bronx at all so I don't know where to walk to find maps. I've ended up walking pointlessly up the whole length of a road with nothing on it but mapless projects so to eliminate these dreary journeys I found I had to do a bit of research after all. Poor neighbourhoods generally map themselves with Chinese restaurant menu maps so, using Google, I plot a circuitous course around a given neighbourhood visiting every Chinese restaurant and seeing what there is to see in between, so...

Mott Haven is a poor, poor neighbourhood in the southern-most part of The Bronx. The area seems to be mainly Puerto Rican and a little bit black. Just over the 3rd Avenue Bridge is a few blocks of big factories developers and artists are and have been turning into lofts, the vanguard of gentrification. I picked up leaflets about the big plans afoot to redevelop South Bronx but I cut up the only English language one. 'El South Bronx esta volviendo a tener barrios activos y seguros y una economia creciente,' which is good news.

I met only one other white guy (outside the Bruckner/3rd Ave Green Zone) and he seemed disappointed to see me. He was collecting his dry cleaning which seemed important to note at the time although I don't know why now. In amongst the obvious idleness, poverty and neglect there are wee flowers of real community activism, inventive and imaginative ways to improve the neighbourhood and pass the time. Because of the reduced pressure for space, lower expectations for the people who live here and the fact that things have improved dramatically (the crime rate has gone down 80% in 15 years), the people here have far more licence to do things that would be unacceptable in other parts of the city; booze on the street, massive community gardens, build a rickety old ranch house on an empty lot and keep chickens. It's great while it lasts.

Mott Haven is still a sad little place to live- a cop on every third corner, unbeautiful housing, no bars, bad food and no access to the waterfront but all that will slowly change. I hope the chickens can stay

1 comment:

  1. The graffiti wall is awesome! Especially with the girls walking by.