Note from the Editor/A Dad Grows in the Bronx

Sunday morning I woke up and instead of falling back asleep for a few hours more, I decided to seize the day. Before taking a shower, as usual, I spent a few minutes checking e-mails and social media notifications. I am tuned in 24/7 and usually read about any kind of Bronx press while scouring various Facebook groups and Twitter feeds. I soon discover a fellow Bronx activist had inboxed an article in the New York Times about the Bronx and told me to take a look, which I promptly did, still half asleep.

I have learned to expect that anytime somebody specifically e-mails me an article on the subject of my home borough, it is often not something flattering, and rather because damage control must be done. The Bronx is the borough that everybody loves to hate. Since the 1970s, it has become accepted that anytime the Bronx is ever mentioned in the media, the press will be negative. If there is a positive spin to it, it’s usually because some real estate broker or power player’s pockets are being lined in some way.

The article published yesterday, entitled A Dad Grows in the Bronx, was no different. By the title I tried to convince myself that I’d be wrong and perhaps pleasantly surprised. However, less than a paragraph in came the punchline, where the author takes a cheap shot at us, playing off a typical Bronx stereotype. What’s more is that while the writer claims to have lived here for four years, he did not even know the correct name of his neighborhood or of a major street adjacent to his (corrections were made after a number of readers mentioned it in their comments.)

His essay is punctuated with anecdotes about shoot outs, drug raids, and the “consolation” of being forced to feed his toddler Mexican-style cheese bought at a bodega- you know, all the typical things said about the Bronx. Still, I read to the end in hope that this downtrodden tale would redeem itself and the author and his family would realize the beauty of this borough. No such luck. By the end of the story, the family moves to the hip Queens neighborhood of Astoria where his kid is now able to feast on gourmet cheese and Greek pastries.

The article left a bad taste in my mouth and I immediately commented on the NYT site, who decided to magically make some of my painstakingly written relies disappear. I posted the article wide and far, encouraging others to comment as well. I was also quickly able to locate his Twitter account, where he is publicly gloating over the triumph of having his work published in the Times. Rather than attacking him, I decided to tread lightly a first, though that technique was shortlived.

Here is a transcribe of our conversation.

 


Conversations between @shannonlgilstad & @bruce1971

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Started by bruce1971 on Oct 06, 2013

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My first New York Times piece!!! t.co/opJNRtWXHT
bruce1971 tweeted on Oct 06, 2013 18:53Reply

@bruce1971 193 St. is Fordham and one of the worst drug areas in the city. How does one just happen to move there?
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 06, 2013 20:38

@ShannonLGilstad Where to start? When we moved there, we didn’t know the difference between “reported crime” and crime rate.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 00:18

@ShannonLGilstad And, to be fair, while we were there, it seemed a lot better than surrounding areas — Decatur, Briggs, Valentine Ave
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 00:19

@ShannonLGilstad The biggie, is that it got a lot worse while we were living there. We stuck it out, until we couldn’t anymore.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 00:21

@bruce1971 I just hope you realize that the Bronx is not all like that. I live a short walk north in Bedford Park & it is a 180. It’s great.
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 00:22Reply

@ShannonLGilstad Walking up Bainbridge to our CSA, it always amazed me how much nicer the neighborhood got — starting around Bedford Park.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 00:31

@ShannonLGilstad But even up there, it still had some rough parts. I remember getting harassed by homeless guys north of Moshulu.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 00:32

@bruce1971 Getting an occasional remark is just part of living in NYC. I lived and worked in the South Bronx for years.
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 00:34

@ShannonLGilstad No, this was a little more than that. In fact, I only had three near-violent run-ins in the entire time I lived there.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:00

@ShannonLGilstad One was near Fordham, one was on Oliver Pl and Decatur Ave, and one was at the Lutheran church on 206
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:03

@ShannonLGilstad I never had a problem in my immediate area. I found that borderline rich/poor neighborhoods were much more dangerous.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:06

@bruce1971 Violence is never right. However, after reading the article, my friends & I are shocked that you guys never did any research.
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:13

@ShannonLGilstad We actually did a lot of research. We looked at crime stats, school ratings, commute times, rents, etc.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:28

@ShannonLGilstad As I mentioned before, the big bust in the area happened 3 years after we moved in.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:29

@ShannonLGilstad In 2007, it was a slightly rough blue collar neighborhood. Post-2009, it got a lot rougher, very quickly.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:30

@bruce1971 Um, no. It has been like that since the 70s. It’s a bit presumptuous to make sweeping statements like that.
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:35Reply

@bruce1971 For the most part, save for burglary, most people live there for years untouched. It’s not good, but there are places much worse.
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:37Reply

@ShannonLGilstad I understand the tendency to defend the Bronx. I still do it, and I’ve been out of there for over two years.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:52

@ShannonLGilstad There’s a lot to love. But there was a constant, underlying tension in my neighborhood.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:53

@ShannonLGilstad If you don’t experience that in Bedford Park in 2013, that’s great, and I’m happy for you. If I hadn’t experienced it…
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:54Reply

@ShannonLGilstad …every day at 193 and Bainbridge, I would still be living there. Eventually, though, I had to acknowledge that it was…
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:55Reply

@ShannonLGilstad …not getting better. In fact, it was getting worse. After a few incidents, which I didn’t write about in the NYT piece…
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:56

@ShannonLGilstad …I realized that, for my family, at least, it was simply time to go.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:56

@bruce1971 You are not a person who was stuck living in the ghetto, you made a very conscious choice to move there. @dgbxny @lobojost
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 01:58

@bruce1971 If you are up for it, my friend is a host of a popular Bronx cable show and would like to possibly interview you.
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 20:01Reply

@bruce1971 If you are game, inbox me your number and I will pass it on to him.
shannonlgilstad replied on Oct 07, 2013 20:01Reply

@ShannonLGilstad Thanks for the invite. Based on tweets/comments, I have to assume that this wouldn’t be any fun at all. I’ll pass.
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 20:51Reply

@ShannonLGilstad Unless, of course, he’s Baron Ambrosia…
bruce1971 replied on Oct 07, 2013 20:51Reply