Saturday, November 3, 2018

Then and Now: Burnside Avenue, the Bronx

Then and Now: Burnside Avenue at Valentine Avenue, the Bronx

Burnside Avenue the Bronx
Burnside Avenue near Valentine Avenue, the Bronx, mid-1970s.

We are venturing a bit outside Manhattan for this examination of the evolution of a city. The above picture of Burnside Avenue near Valentine Ave in the Bronx, taken in the mid-1970s, caught my eye because of the looming presence of 2000 Valentine Avenue, "Twin Parks South West" in the distance. I figured that such an imposing edifice might stir some gentrification in the area. So, I compared Burnside Avenue at Valentine Avenue in the Tremont section of the Bronx in the 1970s with the same area in 2018.

My initial impression that there would be some local improvement due to the building of Twin Parks Southwest in 1973 was not really borne out. A quick look at the recent photo taken from Google Street View, below, shows a few improvements, but not many. Twin Parks South West (Valentine Avenue runs directly in front of it) is composed of four separate apartment buildings and was built by the State Urban Development Corporation in combination with the city's Housing Authority. That makes it sound like "the Projects," but it is privately run. Richam (Echo) Park is right across the street, and it is an area notorious for murders. For instance, the NY Times wrote about the gruesome stabbing deaths of two young boys - 8 and 6 - on 22 February 1985. The article emphasized that there are armed guards at the building constantly watching the surrounding area. It was that kind of neighborhood.

Burnside Avenue the Bronx
NYPD still keeps a close eye on the Echo Park area. That is Echo Park at left-center, and Twin Parks South West at the extreme left (Google Street View).

Without delving into the state of crime in the Tremont section today, the area itself hasn't really changed that much over the past 45 years. A quick glance shows that the street lamps, road layout, and several buildings (such as the one to the right) are still there just as they were in the 1970s. The major change is the addition of some mundane brick buildings at 269 Burnside Avenue and across the street which just happen to block the view from our location to the central massif of Twin Parks South West. To say that they are mundane would do them an injustice - they actually are reminiscent of Stalinist Russia worker's quarters. The only surprising thing about them is that they were only built in 2010, showing how slow the pace of change is in that area of the Bronx. The buildings' newness, however, does not make them attractive, just... not old. Yet. Still, there are condos there going for over a million dollars there, so someone loves the area.

Anyway, I was surprised how little had changed in the neighborhood. The one saving grace is that Twin Parks South West (I don't know why they don't just call it "Southwest," but they don't) is still in very fine condition.

Thanks for stopping by my "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. I hope you found it interesting.

Burnside Avenue the Bronx
East Burnside Avenue, the Bronx, ca. 2018 (Google Street View).


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