It’s not usually a good sign when the New York Times travel section shouts out your hood. Of course, no one could possibly question the quality of the Times’ reporting or the professionalism of their coverage; but when it comes to the relationship between the paper’s target audience and traditional Latino hoods, the word “Columbus” comes to mind.
So when the section editors made the apparently innocent mistake of listing New York’s brashest borough as one of “52 Places to Go in 2017” – and pointing to a handful of newly opened, gentrifier-friendly hangouts as proof – Da Bronx stood up and schooled the Times on what the Boogie Down is really all about.
With a flurry of ambivalent tweets and Facebook posts making their way through the New York chattersphere, it was perhaps Adam Levine-Peres of Project Bronx who most effectively articulated the controversy. In a short video entitled “South Bronx in the New York Times: Good or Bad?” the Hunt’s Point native addresses Bronxites who see the shout out as some much-deserved shine for their borough, making the case that the Times travel section was actually just praising the steady march of gentrification.
Indeed, as skyrocketing rents in Manhattan and Brooklyn make the more glamorous boroughs increasingly unlivable, developers have turned their attention to scrappy South Bronx hoods like Mott Haven, which some real estate agents have ham-handedly tried to rename the “Piano District.” Similarly, a handful of new residential developments, eating establishments, and bars have popped up catering to a clientele of adventurous gentrifiers with little real connection to the birthplace of hip hop, other than a desire for cheaper rents.
So when the New York Times spoke of things “turning around” for the borough, it wasn’t hard to figure out what the subtext was – especially after they cited desirable amenities like “artisanal coffee shops,” “boutiques,” and something called a “pizzateca” to make their case. But even with their sights so firmly set on the desires of the comfortable classes, the Times’ travel section followed up the controversy with admirable humility this week.
Citing the impassioned responses across social media, the travel section’s February 8th article “Strong Reactions in the South Bronx After It’s Called a ‘Place to Go’” gave a platform to some of the Borough’s more high profile native sons, include Levine-Peres, graffiti artist John Matos, and famed mixologist Giuseppe González. But perhaps the most poignant quote came from blogger Ed García Conde of Welcome2TheBronx, who wrapped up the article with a fitting reflection: “It is the last true borough in New York City with the true flavor of New York.”
Then, in the lines below, writer Sandra E. Garcia gives a list of some of the community’s most beloved and iconic food and entertainment options. Yes, the very ones that the Times so egregiously glossed over the first time around. Cuchifritos anyone?