The Bronx Is The Friendliest Borough In NYC

Of all the Boroughs, the one I’ve barely touched in my career as a scout is the Bronx. Sure, I’ve scouted the Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens, and Riverdale, and all the other places people typically mean when they say “Oh, I’ve been to the Bronx.” But not the real Bronx.

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Photo by Flickr user *Bitch Cakes* – click for more!

Then, last March, I signed onto a movie that was planning to film exclusively in the Bronx, in neighborhoods with pretty rough reputations. I gotta be honest: I was uneasy about it. Walking around with a pile of bright neon flyers and an enormous camera around my neck, I knew I was going to stick out like a sore thumb. I’ve had some bad encounters scouting in places like East New York before, and I just didn’t know what to expect in the borough Hollywood likes to portray as the most dangerous place on Earth.

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I was originally going to title this post “Is the Bronx the friendliest borough?,” but you know what? After four months spent visiting just about every corner of the Bronx, I feel I can answer that question unequivocally: the Bronx is the friendliest borough in New York City.

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Let me be clear: I don’t mean that people in the other boroughs aren’t perfectly nice. Or cordial. Or polite. Or amenable. But I meet a LOT of people in my travels as a scout, and if there’s one trait that seems universal to the New York personality, it’s what I’d call an elevated level of suspicion.

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New Yorkers are infamously suspicious of one another – just try saying “How’s it going?” to a random person on the street and watch him or her brush past you like you don’t exist. And of course, it’s often for good reason, as anyone who’s accidentally answered the “How’s it going?” question (spare change? got a metrocard swipe? want a free stress test? give me money for whatever cause is on this clipboard?) knows full well.

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But something was different in the Bronx. From the first day I started scouting, I found that people would talk to me out of the blue without any hidden agenda. For example, as I’d pass someone crossing the street, they’d nod and say “What’s up?” to me…and that was it. Could people really just be asking “What’s up?” just to be friendly? It didn’t make sense! But before long, I actually found myself answering, and returning the query.

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Things got weirder and weirder. I’d be in a deli, and someone would ask about my camera, and before I knew it, I was having a ten minute conversation explaining about the differences between camera bodies and lenses. Or I’d be putting up flyers in a building lobby, and find myself chatting about the weather with an elderly tenant checking their mail. And I swear, the friendliest Dunkin’ Donuts employees in the country are in the Bronx, of all things. In a way, it reminded me of the first time I visited the midwest, and was completely disarmed by how random strangers just kept having friendly conversations with me.

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But it was more than just casual conversation. When I’d be taking pictures of some of the Bronx’s lesser known historic areas, residents would always come up out of nowhere and start telling me the full history. I’d knock on people’s doors out of the blue, and they’d warmly let me in, proudly showing off the home where many had lived for decades, having survived the Bronx at its worst. No one treated me like a suspicious outsider, as so happens just about anywhere else in the city; I was treated like I lived next door (In fact, the only creepy people I met in the Bronx were the property owners from Manhattan, who always seemed to make uncomfortable jokes about about us being the only white people for miles).

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This is not to say there isn’t a dark side to the Bronx, or that bad things don’t happen there, or that when you visit you shouldn’t be on your guard, just as you would be in any other neighborhood you’re unfamiliar with. But the past four months I spent wandering through the Bronx have to be among the most enjoyable of my career, not only because of the beauty I got to see, but because of the people I got to meet and the wonderful spirit I found that I didn’t know existed in this city.

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To the Bronx: Thank you for a great four months. I shall return soon.

Oh, and one more thing. One day, I was getting something at a corner deli in a pretty dilapidated neighborhood as a bunch of 10 year old girls were buying candy after school. Just as they were leaving, one of them looked right at me and said, with the utmost sincerity, “You have really beautiful eyes,” then ran out.

I had to blink. Where was I????

-SCOUT

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36 comments

  1. I agree! The much-maligned Bronx has the finest people. :-)

  2. I grew up in the Bronx, 138th st and St Ann’s Avenue. My dad had a deli there until 1964. We saw the neighborhood change from German- Irish to Hispanic. In the 80′s, 139th and St. Ann’s was the highest drug dealing corner of the city. The deli became something else. THe problem with the rehabing in the Bronx is there a lot fewer brownstones and more tenaments which are harder to rehab. But it is pretty varied borough from the beautiful and treed Riverdale, to the northeast Bronx of White Plains Rd, Pelham Parkway, residential Throggs Neck, Fordham Road with the Zoo and Gardens to Yankee Stadium. Improve the economy and the Bronx will come back.Would like locations along with the pictures. Good article.

  3. Thank you for shedding light on a place most people feel is dark. As someone born, raised and currently still living in The Bronx this touched me in many ways.

  4. Lovely story! Thanks for sharing your experiences in The Bronx, it’s exactly opposite of the stereotype. Now, we need a picture of those eyes!

  5. Great article. Scouting in the Great White North ( a strange phrase, considering our weather is the same as New York’s), I have the pleasure of this type of reception almost every day.
    Damn Canadians.

  6. I’ve always said and known the same. I’m currently in BK but making my way back to my old borough. I always say The BX is the only part of NYC that is truly still NY. I guess I’ve been in BK too long because I still marvel at how friendly everyone is when I visit Da BX and how people randomly start conversation with me. I thought I was “special”! I guess it ain’t me, it’s them!
    Thanks for finally give The BX it’s due!

  7. As a Bronxite I have to commend you on this posting. The Bronx is fantastic! But you should keep it down. We don’t want it to turn in to Williamsburg. SHHH!!

  8. I’m from Pelham Parkway originally but have lived in DC/Maryland since I graduated college in 1977. My mom is still there, 93 and living alone. Complete strangers help her up the 3 steps to get into the building, when she has passed out in the street, again, complete strangers have given her water, stayed with her until the EMS arrives. I can’t get her to leave. Check out the row house on Muliner Ave between Lydig Ave and Pelham parkway South. It puts the house in My Big Fat Greek Wedding to shame except it is Italian. Statues, stones, gardens. Absoltuley covered in stuff. I will be visiting the Bronx next week — my favorite part — the pizza!

  9. Great article. During the past twenty years I have had many opportunities to share my knowledge of my Grand Concourse community with hundreds of visitors to New York City. Stepping into numerous buildings with a hoard of people often does provoke conversation with those who happen to pass. Let it be known that in every case not only are we welcome, but in some cases we have actually been invited into an apartment, if for no other reason, simply to see how beautiful so many Grand Concourse dwellings really are. You have to know that this kind of hospitality would never happen in Manhattan.

  10. As the Executive Director of The Bronx Tourism Council, I am truly delighted you had such a wonderful experience and I can’t agree with you more…The Bronx is an exceptional place. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’d love to share your blog with my mailing list.

  11. Hey Scout, I’m gonna chime in with everyone else here and agree – loving the Bronx. We lived up in Norwood for three years – two white folks in a sea of Dominicans. I say that only to set the scene, for we were as welcome there as anyone who lived in the neighborhood. Everyone was friendly, much more so than in Yorkville, where I live now. And we love Yorkville, too, it’s just different. There was no pretense in the Bronx, there was a true community feel. I’ll miss it always.

  12. You’ve gotta let us know the locations of the photos though, Scout!

  13. you also a dude. if you a chick, you’d be met with a ton of cat calls and comments about your body parts.

  14. Scout, I like your blog and loved it on blogionaire.com

  15. As the president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation I work daily to overturn the preconcieved notions of tourists and other borough residents about my beloved Bronx. These notions have until recently adversely impacted who is willing to move their businesses here. With the stroke of a couple of keyboard keys and some wonderful pictures, you have done more than I have in three years. While I have yet to see your beautiful eyes, I have certainly taken a heaping look at your soul. It IS beautiful. Needless to say, y’all come back now real soon and stay another while.

  16. Born, raised, educated, and still live in the green and leafy north Bronx; as does my adult son. This is our city, this is our home.

  17. I was born in the Bronx and lived there for the first 9 years of my life. I have always known that it was a very special place. It will always be home to me.

  18. I was born and raised in the Bronx and I will never forget where I come from. I moved out when I was in my early thirties,and let just say this no place is like the Bronx. Always find one or more of your friends, go to the corner store, or eat at your favorite restaurant at anytime of the day or night. Nothing beats the food either. I will never find friends like the ones I have in the Bronx. I will always miss the Bronx.

  19. I love the blog. I love the post. I agree with the earlier post…please let us know the locations of the photos!

  20. What a lovely post! I was born and raised in the Bronx and visit it a few times a year to go shopping on Arthur Avenue. You photographed some gorgeous buildings and really showed the heart of a borough that most think doesn’t have one.

  21. I have been saying it for years! I grew up in Brooklyn, and moved to the Bronx about five years ago. There is no comparison, The Bronx is a much friendlier place to live and work.

  22. Peggy Mooney Ferguson

    Thank you for seeing the real spirit of the Bronx, the wonderful people who live there . I was born and raised a Bronx girl on Kingsbridge Road that’s 192nd Street. At 21 I moved to Florida to get married and raise a family. I always missed the community I grew up knowing in the Bronx. I am so glad to see from other comments that it is as true today as it was when I was growing up, from elementary school at Our Lady of Refuge on Briggs Ave , to a teenager in HS at St Simon Stock on 172nd St Valentine Ave one block from Grand Concourse. yes so glad you were able to experience for yourself our great Bronx heritage and the legacy we leave behind.

  23. Well, you do have lovely eyes. ;-)

  24. One of Prez’s (Lester Young) best lines was, “nice eyes”. Looks like you hit a chord with this one.

  25. I spent the first 39 years of my life living in the beautiful Bronx. I continue to work there, in the South Bronx. Every now and then I walk through the projects where I grew up. It’s still a nice place!

  26. Aww I love this post! My husband is from the Bronx and he is friendly and wonderful and amazing.

  27. Riverdale is a lot more varied – in terms of housing, income, and ethnicity – than people seem to realize.

  28. I have lived in Riverdale, Morris Park, and Pelham Bay and I think they are the best kept secrets almost in NYC. Everyone focuses on living in Manhattan or parts of Brooklyn and they pay astronomical rents, but in the upper parts of the Bronx you can find cheaper alternatives that give you the best of both worlds, city and suburban feel. Riverdale and Pelham Bay I believe have two of the biggest parks. Pelham Bay has easy access to 95, City Island, Wescthester, while Riverdale has beautiful million dollar homes, and has Metro North service. Morris Park has amazing Italian restaurants, loads of hospitals and good schools. The downside to these parts are that they are located at least 40-60 minutes from Midtown (59th street) via subway.

  29. Nice article. I’m interested to know what the movie is.

    One gripe with the article though… the Zoo – Botanical Gardens – Riverdale (and I’d throw in City Island and Country Club) are ALL the REAL Bronx. That’s part of the problem – the “good” parts are separated from the – seen by media – not so good. When the Lower East Side was a slum – no one said “that’s the real Manhattan” as opposed to the Upper East Side.
    It’s sad how the mainstream media treats the Bronx and I’m glad you recognized what is myth and what is fact. It’s definitely true that the Bronx was a very dangerous and run down places (some places never fell apart though). I was driving up University Ave. the other day from Burnside to the Jerome Park Resevoir and saying to myself “these buildings and this street are just as nice looking as West End Ave. – just with less moneyed residents”.

    Aside from that – great work!! I’ve seen some places in your photos that I didn’t even know existed! You have talent!

  30. Joseph – if plans go through – Pelham Bay and Morris Park will be getting Metro North Service in 2019! Making them even more desirable.

  31. JS50- you are right about that corner… It’s certainly improved since the 80′s and 90′s. There is a community garden/ farmers market there now.

  32. I moved to the South Bronx two years ago when I moved from Chicago because I didn’t know any better. It was a wonderful twist of fate. My friends in Brooklyn think I’m crazy, but I don’t mind. I pay half the rent they do for three times the space and I love my neighborhood. We don’t have nearly as much stuff as a lot of Brooklyn or Queens, but we have what we need. Now a few great restaurants have moved into the hood, I’m perfectly content.

  33. The Bronx IS the friendliest borough! You’re welcomed back ANY TIME.

  34. I was born, raised and still live in the Bronx and I fully agree with this article-it actually made me tear.This article nailed it Oh my goodness!Although we may not have the luxury stores like Manhattan and the trendy neighborhoods like Brooklyn, we have a rich and powerful history that has cultivated an inner city culture and movement that CAN’T be replicated.The Bronx has constantly struggled with poverty and a bad rep,but having less income does not make people criminals.Like my moms says, “we poor and ghetto,but that don’t mean we bad” LOL. People in the Bronx have less money due to residential segregation,gentrification and racism-but I won’t rant too much.So I guess we friendly cuz we know struggle.
    God Bless Da’ Bronx!!!

  35. Thank you for pointing out that the Bronx is one of the best places to Live and Work.
    Being born in the Bronx and having worked here for such a long time, I can attest to the fact that the Bronx is one of the best places to live. We are home to Yankee Stadium, The Bronx Zoo, The New York Botanical Garden, Arthur Ave which has some of the best Italian Restaurants in NYC, City Island which has some of the best Seafood and with massive investments being made by Government and Big business, The Bronx is the place to be.
    Let’s spread the word, The Bronx is Building!

  36. I am transferring to Bronx NY, from Indianapolis Indiana in August. Would love any suggestions on places to live under $1000 in a safe neighborhood, pet friendly.

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