NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Neighborhoods around the city have seen a real estate boom, but the Bronx has lagged behind.
Even so, change is happening in the most unlikely places.
Boutique hotels are a dime a dozen in Manhattan, but you might not expect to find one in the Bronx. As a matter of fact, there is one — and business is booming.
The Opera House on 149th Street is attracting tourists from around the world CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.
“If you build it, they will come,” general manager Julio Vargas said.
And they built it in the Bronx, which is sometimes called real estate’s final frontier.
The borough is home to new hotels, shopping malls, future ice rinks, even a Donald Trump golf course. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has plans to add four Metro-North Railroad tops.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. told CBS 2’s Brennan that the Bronx is the place to be.
“This is not the Bronx of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s,” Diaz Jr. said.
The borough is home to some of the city’s most beautiful boulevards. Historians say the grand concourse was patterned after the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and once attracted movie stars and athletes.
“What about this building here, Babe Ruth lived here,” Lloyd Ultan explained.
Oddly, it was a Yankees World Series game in 1977 that went a long way towards bruising the Bronx’s reputation. A camera shot from a blimp caught an out-of-control fire raging blocks from the stadium.
“The whole world and Hollywood painted us in one broad stroke, and just said the whole Bronx is burning, and that is just unfair,” Diaz Jr. said.
Diaz Jr. said that nowadays the Bronx is not burning, but booming. But the hipsters who have invaded Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan and sent real estate soaring haven’t gotten the message in the Bronx, and some are wondering why.
“I think many people have an image of the Bronx that is incorrect, and that image has hurt us,” said City Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D-13th).
Vacca said that the Bronx was left behind by the city’s economic surge.
“I see middle class residents leaving, and I see them leaving for the other boroughs,” Vacca said.
The tough question as always is, what is the key to turning an area around? And how do you convince people that the Bronx is now the place to be?
“Make a safer Bronx. That’s how you do it,” Anthony Acevedo said.
Acevedo works on 149th Street in the South Bronx.
“Tackle the crime, tackle the drugs, tackle everything, then after you do that then you put up the big buildings,” Acevedo said.
Diaz pointed out that despite some problem areas crime is actually at a 50-year low in the Bronx. he also feels that the recent re-zoning of parts of the waterfront will draw young people.
“The land mass of the Bronx — that’s 42 square miles, as big as Paris and San Francisco, has 25 percent park land. Nobody knows that,” Ulton said.
The borough president said that in recent years some $7-billion in private dollars and equity has been invested in the Bronx.
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