May 20th, 2013, 05:20 PM
The "Ghetto" Tour, Serious!
Meet Pittsburgh's Lynn Battaglia, an expert on NYC ghettos. She'll gladly show you everything for a fee:
Politicians furious over Bronx bus company's 'Ghetto' tour
By CANDICE M. GIOVE
Last Updated: 9:42 AM, May 19, 2013
Posted: 10:48 PM, May 18, 2013
Tourists are crowding onto a Bronx bus tour that promises “a ride through a real New York City ‘GHETTO’ ” — and local politicians are furious. Three times a week, Real Bronx Tours takes riders — mainly white Europeans and Australians — on a trip that includes stops at food-pantry lines and a “pickpocket” park.
Last week, on the first stop of the $45 tour, guide Lynn Battaglia, from Pittsburgh, pointed out a housing project. She then mocked the Grand Concourse, modeled after a Parisian boulevard. “Do you feel like we’re on the Champs-Elysées?” she teased a couple from Paris. As the bus idled across from historic St. Ann’s Episcopalian Church, Battaglia launched into a description of the crime, poverty and violence that plagued the South Bronx during the 1970s recession.
As she spoke, a line of two dozen poor people — including one man visibly agitated by the onlookers — waited for handouts from the church pantry. “I don’t know what that line’s about, but every Wednesday we see it,” Battaglia told the tourists. “We see them go in with empty carts, and we see them come out with carts full.” The bus stopped in front of St. Mary’s Park, where she credited Mayor Rudy Giuliani for curbing crime.
“If it were 1980 and you said to me, ‘Lynn, I want to die.’ My answer would be, ‘You’re in the right neighborhood,’ ” she said. She suggested the park is still dangerous. “I might encourage you to walk with a New Yorker, not because you’re going to get shot, just because sometimes people take advantage if they know you’re a tourist, either charge you too much or maybe someone would pick your pocket,” she said.
The group listened as the bus swung onto East 140th Street, where Battaglia claimed the derogatory use of the word “pig” for police officer was born. “The policeman, his name is Patty, and he would walk up and down that street, and if he ran into an alcoholic, he’d beat them mercilessly. So they’d call him ‘Patty the Pig,’ ” she said. The Online Etymology Dictionary says the slang originated in London in 1811.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz slammed the guide as “the biggest fool on the planet.” “They should tell people about The Bronx that we all know, and that’s The Bronx that’s had the lowest crime rate since 1963 last year,” he said. “To have foreigners come and gawk at a long line of people who are less fortunate than they are and to make money off of that and to view them as they are some sort of entertainment is pretty disgusting.”
Real Bronx Tours did not respond to a request for comment.
May 20th, 2013, 06:15 PM
Someone should make a big sign and follow this asshole around for a few days.
May 22nd, 2013, 05:44 AM
NYC Aficionado from Oz
Bronx Tour Company Drops Pitch to See a Real Ghetto
By ANDY NEWMAN
A company called Real Bronx Tours is no longer offering adventurous visitors to New York “a ride through a real New York City ‘GHETTO’” – at least on its Web site.
On Monday, after an article on Sunday in The New York Post depicted a tour guide inviting passengers to gawk at people waiting outside a church food pantry and marvel at a park once famous for crime, the reference on the company’s site to ghetto tourism (see archived 2012 version) instead promised “a taste of the real Boogie Down Bronx.”
The Post’s article described the guide on the $45-a-ticket tour, Lynn Battaglia, pointing out St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx to her audience of mainly white Europeans and Australians and advising them, if they entered it, to “walk with a New Yorker” because even though it had been cleaned up, “maybe someone would pick your pocket” there.
The fallout from the article continued on Monday, as the Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito wrote an open letter to the man listed as the company’s owner, Michael Myers, informing him, “We are sickened by the despicable way in which you portray the great borough to tourists.”
The letter continued, “We strongly urge you to stop profiting off of a tour that misrepresents the Bronx as a haven for poverty and crime, while mocking everything from our landmarks to the less fortunate members of our community who are availing themselves of food assistance programs.”
A call and an e-mail to the offices of Real Bronx Tours were not immediately returned.
Over the years, the tours, which also go past landmarks like Yankee Stadium and the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, have received mixed but largely favorable reviews – an average of 3.5 stars out of 5 — on Trip Advisor.
“A good and safe way to discover the Bronx,” Belgian_couple_2011 wrote in 2011.
Last year, Lawrence G. of Silver Spring, Md., wrote: “This tour really gives you a treat. It exposes you to a different part of the city. We had Lynn as our tour guide and she ROCKED it. Thank you for a great tour.”
May 24th, 2013, 12:54 AM
NYC Aficionado from Oz
Just a make-a-quick-buck from sensationalist ghouls.
Bronx 'Ghetto' Tours, From Company Real Bronx Tours, Canceled After Outrage
By VERENA DOBNIK
NEW YORK -- A company that promised sightseer tours to the Bronx that included a New York City "ghetto" has stopped the bus rides under protest from an outraged neighborhood.
Real Bronx Tours, which took mostly European tourists from Manhattan to see life in the South Bronx "from a safe distance," issued a statement this week saying it would immediately cease all tours there.
Three times a week, the $45 ride took visitors past food-pantry lines, a housing project and a park a guide described as a pickpocket hangout.
Tourists were told they'd get a look at the Bronx that reflects one of the darkest chapters of the city's history, the 1970s and `80s, when the tour website said "this borough was notorious for drugs, gangs, crime and murders."
The Bronx lost hundreds of buildings to fires intentionally set by landlords to collect insurance money, hence the phrase, "the Bronx is burning."
But residents say the tours are a misrepresentation of the area where former Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor lived in as children.
"Those days are over, the Bronx is being rebuilt, it's rising again," said Bronx resident and Grammy-nominated musician Bobby Sanabria.
On Monday, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito sent an open letter to the company owner, Michael Myers, saying they were "sickened by the despicable way" the borough was being portrayed to outsiders.
"We strongly urge you to stop profiting off of a tour that misrepresents the Bronx as a haven for poverty and crime, while mocking everything from our landmarks to the less fortunate members of our community who are availing themselves of food assistance programs."
The tour company did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment. It was not clear whether they would resume any of their tours. And by Thursday, the website of the company was no longer accessible.
Other companies in the city still offer regular guided trips to the Bronx.
Three weeks ago, NYC & Company, the city's tourism bureau, launched a promotion of the South Bronx as "one of our safest, most exciting boroughs," with highlights including Art Deco architecture and the Yankees.
Real Bronx Tours has been booted from the bureau's membership list as a result of the language they've been using, NYC & Company spokeswoman Kimberly Spell said.
Elena Martinez, an anthropologist and Bronx resident, offers visitors walks through the same neighborhood that was on Real Bronx Tours' itinerary.
The human struggles on these still gritty streets have produced urban styles and sounds copied around the world, from hip hop music and outdoor murals to clothing.
"Many young Europeans come here as a pilgrimage," Martinez said. "This was the incubator for hip-hop, salsa, jazz, Afro-Cuban music, R&B."
She points to theaters, lavish dance halls and clubs where salsa came alive, along with some of the biggest names in music. Sanabria, a famed drummer, says he comes from a borough "that has an incredible, majestic music culture."
And although many of the buildings now house stores and offices, or were demolished or burned down, new ones mingle with restored historic ones "and people are helping to bring the neighborhood back," Martinez said.
"We've had enough of the gawkers who come to ghettoize us," says Al Quinones, caretaker of a community park that features a garden with fruit trees and a stone outdoor amphitheater. "Their timing was bad. The Bronx is not burning, not now! Now, it's resurgence."
On the door to his shack on the grounds is a sign that reads: "Don't dump on the Bronx."
Sanabria, Martinez and other Bronx residents are meeting Friday to kick-start a counter-campaign to what they call the Bronx's "negative image."
They've calling their action "Bronx Rising."