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Thread: Grand Concourse Photo Tour - part one

  1. #1

    Default Grand Concourse Photo Tour - part one

    August 18, 2003


    View north at E 153 St. Franz Sigel Park is on the left.


    SE corner of E 156 St


    View south on Walton Ave, the east side of the park.


    View NW at E 161 St.


    View north across E 161 St to Joyce Kilmer Park.


    View from the park to the greatest place in sports.


    Heinrich Heine fountain in Joyce Kilmer Park


    E 165 St (I think).


    McClellan St, NE corner.


    Front entrance of the above building. Outstanding. They just need to lose those numbers.

  2. #2

    Default Grand Concourse Photo Tour

    It's nicknamed the Fish Building. The modern building on the left of the previous photo is the Bronx Housing Court, by Vinoly.

    This is a real treat. Thanks. What do you think of the area?

  3. #3

    Default Grand Concourse Photo Tour

    I didn't know Vinoly did it, but I quickly found out it was a courthouse. I was on the median on the west side of the street. Besides the camera, I had a memo pad. When I realized a cop on the other side of the street was watching me, I yelled to him what I was doing. He said, "Stay there" and walked across.

    When I told him I was taking photos along the Concourse, he asked "What for?" I metioned this website, so no negative comments about the police - he may visit here and knows what I look like.

    He explained about the courthouse security, and we had a pleasant conversation. I showed him the pics I had taken.

  4. #4

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    September 18, 2003

    Concourse Gets Used to Commerce

    By JOSEPH BERGER


    Signs advertise ground-floor businesses along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx where stores and medical clinics began cropping up in the 1980's.

    For the Depression-weary strivers who moved there in the 1940's and 50's, the Grand Concourse was the Champs-Élysées of the Bronx, a broad boulevard of stylishly sedate Art Deco apartment buildings that filled their craving for modest touches of class like sunken living rooms.

    Those residents are long gone; their exodus during the 1960's and 70's set off a deep slump, marked by gnawing crime and even some abandoned buildings. The avenue has come back in the past decade or so, its apartments bustling with a new generation of immigrants and other strivers who appreciate the lingering, if tattered, touches of elegance.

    But the revival has exacted a price: the decorous look of a residential street.

    Stores and medical clinics, which began cropping up spottily in the 1980's, have been carved out of scores of what were once ground-floor apartments. The wave seems to have accelerated in recent years so that almost every block between 161st Street and 196th Street now has a grocery, a barber shop, a travel agency or a medical clinic, and some stretches are chockablock with stores and large, eye-catching signs.

    Historians of the Bronx, preservationists, wistful former residents, and some government officials say they are heartsick at what they regard as an aesthetic blight on a once-genteel street. They are trying to stop the commercialization by creating a Concourse historic district or by enforcing more strictly a 1989 zoning law that bans stores in all but a few places and limits signs in most of those locations to 12 square feet.

    But most current residents seem to like the convenience of the stores, the jobs they create and the way they provide outposts of vitality on an avenue that on desolate nights can attract muggers. For them, the avenue's history is, well, history.

    "I think the people around here are more interested in having the stores," said Thomas Hernandez, a 45-year-old construction worker. "You don't have to go to a supermarket three blocks away. As long as people here have demands — buying cigarettes, baby milk, stuff like that — this is not going to faze anybody."

    Adolfo Carrión Jr., the Bronx borough president and an urban planner, said the slow transformation of the Concourse into another commercial strip would destroy its sense of place. He would like to find a way to steer merchants toward busy commercial cross streets like 170th Street and Burnside Avenue.

    "When you drive down Fifth Avenue or Central Park West, you know where you are," he said. "The place has a personality. The Concourse should be one of those places in our city where we make a statement about how we care about city."

    Still, Mr. Carrión and the preservationists know they face an uphill battle. While for years city action against illegal stores was virtually nonexistent, three months ago Mr. Carrión's office asked the city's Department of Buildings to step in, and an inspector soon issued 170 violation notices at 70 to 80 buildings, said Sid Dinsay, a spokesman for the department.

    The owners were given 45 days to correct the violations. But Mr. Dinsay said this week that "to my knowledge" none of the stores had been closed, though legal proceedings against some had begun.

    The fact is, preservationists say, few residents are clamoring for enforcement, which is mostly driven by complaints. There has also been no enforcement of signage laws on the street, they say, and citywide enforcement of those laws has been suspended since early summer, when the City Council imposed a six-month moratorium after complaints from shopowners.

    An effort to designate the Concourse as a historic district foundered during the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations. Robert B. Tierney, the chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said he planned to tour the boulevard to consider whether to rekindle the landmarking effort. Landmark status would compel landlords to get commission approval before changing facades.

    A half-century ago, the Grand Concourse was the boulevard of the bourgeoisie: small merchants, civil servants, tradespeople and wage earners, almost all white and a large proportion Jewish. Doctors and lawyers occupied the stately 13-story Lewis Morris Apartments near 175th Street, and a white-gloved doorman opened car doors for residents. With a handful of exceptions, the only stores were just off the Bronx's commercial hub on Fordham Road, and the only signs were discreet doctor shingles.

    The boulevard began to flourish in the 1930's and 40's, after the completion of the IND subway line. Enterprising developers took advantage of the enchantment with Art Deco to create alluring buildings with elegant touches like polychrome brick and terrazzo lobby floors.

    But starting in the mid-1960's, residents, flush with new cars and nest eggs enhanced by an era of prosperity, began moving to the suburbs. Landlords rented to far poorer tenants, most of them black and Latino families for whom landing on the boulevard seemed a stroke of good fortune. Yet schools began losing their best students, crime festered and longtime tenants escaped to Co-op City, which had just been built.

    Today crime is down from the early 1990's. But the commercialization of the avenue has proceeded and is particularly noticeable on the boulevard's two gems: the Lewis Morris and a smaller cream-brick Art Deco structure at 1150 Grand Concourse that was known as "the fish building" for the tropical mosaic flanking its doorway.

    On the ground floor of 1150, there are now a barber shop and a tax preparer's office, each with a sign. The ground floor of the Lewis Morris, where three-quarters of tenants receive federal rent vouchers and Medicaid, houses three clinics, each with a two-foot-high banner that advertises its availability to Medicaid and insurance plans.

    Just across the street from the fish building, near 167th Street, are a record shop, two groceries, a barber shop and a dental clinic.

    "Why do you have to have a sign up there saying `Family Dentist'?" asked Michael Saccio, a 48-year-old prop man who has lived in the fish building for five years. "On Park Avenue you see a little gold plaque. This guy is advertising like he's giving away something free."

    But Mr. Saccio is distinctly in the minority.

    Carlos Fernandez, the manager of Claris Record Shop, said the store's owner was in court six months ago, and residents turned out in force to support him. "They have to go six blocks to buy a CD," Mr. Fernandez said. He did not know how the case was resolved.

    The shops in the fish building do not violate its certificate of occupancy, Mr. Dinsay said, and the Lewis Morris was not inspected. Yet the businesses and signs in those buildings would not have been tolerated a few decades ago because of a tacit understanding about the residential character of the Concourse.

    Dr. Jagdish N. Markale, who owns the dental clinic across from the fish building, said he put up his sign a year ago out of fear that other dentists with signs might lure his patients away. Dr. Markale, an immigrant from Bombay, said the street's history "is not as important as a grocery store."

    "The government has to consider their priorities rather than that of the people who used to be here 50 years ago," he said.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
    Last edited by Kris; May 9th, 2006 at 03:32 AM.

  5. #5

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    I'm a big fan of the boulevard now. I have mixed feelings about this. A design guideline for signage is a good idea. Actually, the majority of buildings have no retail at all, but almost all (Fish Building the notable exception) have lost their original entryways.

  6. #6
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    It sounds a little like sourthern Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Literally every other building has a medical clinic on some blocks.

  7. #7

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    May 16, 2004

    GRAND CONCOURSE

    Making a Once-Noble Boulevard Look Less Like the Interstate

    By SETH KUGEL

    It was designed in the late 19th century as an elegant, multilane boulevard inspired by the Champs-Élysées. But by the 1980's, the Grand Concourse in the Bronx had become more of a driver's paradise. Stoplights were timed to keep cars moving, some trees and pedestrian crossings had been removed, and perhaps most upsetting to long-time residents, dozens of bright green highway-style exit signs sprouted on its edges. Those signs, some said, encouraged drivers to forget they were on a residential street.

    By the early 1990's, the number of pedestrian fatalities rivaled the city's most famed death trap, Queens Boulevard. In 1991, 12 pedestrians were killed on the Grand Concourse, more than on any other city street.

    Despite sobering statistics, attempts to remove the signs in an effort to restore the look and feel of the once fabled boulevard have sputtered over the past few years.

    Starting in the early 1990's, as the long-troubled neighborhoods that bordered the Concourse became more stable and less crime-ridden, community leaders and politicians took steps to return the street to its glory days as a green, pedestrian-friendly roadway. In 1993, after events like a traffic-stopping protest led by the Rev. John Jenik, a neighborhood Roman Catholic priest, the city agreed to remove some of the signs and cover the exit numbers on others.

    At the same time, local officials began seeking money to redesign the Concourse with a plan that included getting rid of the highway-style signs, planting trees and transforming most of the 4.5-mile boulevard into a pedestrian- and bicycle friendly roadway. Representative José E. Serrano secured nearly $10 million in federal funds toward such a plan.

    But the redesign was never executed, and the big green signs remained, including one exit sign that advises drivers, "Fordham Road, Use Exit 15B," even though there are no Exits 1 through 15A, let alone a 15B.

    Although there are fewer highway-style signs along the Concourse today, those that remain are needed to help drivers, said Tom Cocola, a city Department of Transportation spokesman.

    Now, work is scheduled to begin this fall on a $35 million reconstruction of the 161st Street intersection and underpass. But although this money includes the $10 million originally earmarked for redesign, none of it will be spent to remove the signs. It will be used to improve safety, however, Mr. Cocola said, as crossing time for pedestrians will be lengthened and barriers installed to prevent midblock crossings.

    And the Concourse has seen improvements over the years. The numbers on most exit signs have been covered up, and walk signals have been added at 25 intersections. Traffic lights have also been staggered, forcing cars to stop more often and making it easier for pedestrians to cross the artery. Thanks to these changes, the number of pedestrian deaths and injuries dropped; from 1999 to 2001, only 10 pedestrians were killed.

    "Where we are now is heading toward an era of putting safety first," said John Kaehny, until recently the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a pedestrian advocacy group.

    One Bronx resident who would be thrilled if all the big green signs were to disappear is Avery Corman, who grew up on the Concourse and whose 1980 novel, "The Old Neighborhood," tells of a man who returns to his childhood home in the neighborhood.

    "Someone makes a decision," Mr. Corman said, "and willy-nilly, a beautiful street like the Grand Concourse is turned into an alternate roadway to the Major Deegan."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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