As development booms and prices rise in outer boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens, many New Yorkers are wondering if there are any affordable areas left in the city. Enter: the Bronx. (Yes, we know you've heard this before.) Nonetheless, it is an often-overlooked borough—save for Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil and the increasingly fashionable "SoBro"—that offers great park space, architecture, and decent commutes into Manhattan. These five Bronx neighborhoods are worth exploring for those very reasons. Who knows? Your next apartment may be right here.
If you're in love with the co-op community of Jackson Heights, Queens, you'll also fall for the Grand Concourse area of the Bronx. Named after the five-mile-long major thoroughfare that extends through the South Bronx, the Grand Concourse is lined with elegant Tudor, Beaux Arts, and Arc Deco apartment complexes. It was constructed in the late 1800s and opened to traffic in 1909, an ambitious design inspired by the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The thoroughfare emerged as a draw to middle class New Yorkers and became known as the "Park Avenue of the middle class." By the 1970s and 80s, however, residents were leaving the neighborhood due to an increase in crime, and the buildings fell into disrepair (Per the Bronx Museum's GrandConcourse100.org, about 30 percent of the neighborhood's population fled in the decade of the seventies.) Today, revitalization is underway following an $18 million restoration and landscaping in 2008.
You'll catch a number of landmarks along the Grand Concourse: the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage (further north, off East 193rd Street), Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Bronx General Post Office. Great residential architecture lines the concourse from 153rd Street and 167th Street, now a landmarked stretch. Signs of gentrification include a yoga studio and a weekly greenmarket, although the area is lacking in nightlife and restaurants. The Grand Concourse is quiet and community-oriented, with hair salons and bodegas dotting the corners.
How to get there: The B and D trains cover much of the Grand Concourse, while the 2, 4 and 5 stop at the southern end. The commute to Midtown takes around 20 minutes.
Living there: You'll find rentals and co-ops in larger apartment complexes, but no condos. As of this writing, Streeteasy shows there are 26 properties for sale on the market — mainly one- and two-bedroom co-ops — at a median price of $204,000. There are 18 units for rent at a median price of $1,647. The area south of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, which is closer to Manhattan, is a popular destination for renters and buyers, but it'll cost a little more.
This hilly Bronx enclave is located just north of Yankee Stadium, and right across the Harlem River from Washington Heights. The neighborhood is distinguished by some striking architecture that includes the Highbridge-Woodycrest Center, a large limestone, brick and terracotta healthcare facility that sits atop a hill. There's also the Art Deco apartment complex Park Plaza, and some remaining Victorian homes along Woodycrest Avenue. Also keep an eye out for the headquarters of the H.W. Wilson Company, distinguished by a decorative lighthouse rising from the roof.
The most promising change afoot is the re-opening of the historic High Bridge this month. New York's oldest standing bridge, it was originally used to transport water from the Croton River to New York and will offer a quick, convenient pedestrian and bicycle route from Highbridge to Upper Manhattan. The opening of the bridge will also be coupled with the opening of a greenway along the east bank of the Harlem River. (Get more on the history of the High Bridge from this New York Times article.)
How to get there: Take the B, D, and 4 trains to Yankee Stadium, which is located at the southern tip of the neighborhood. The 4 line continues to run through Highbridge, stopping at 167th and 170th Streets. The commute to Midtown takes around 25 minutes.
Living there: You'll find rental and condo units in the larger brick buildings that date back to the 1920s and 1930s, as well as some single- and multi-family housing. While there is a lot of affordable housing in the neighborhood, many of it is income-restricted by the city. Streeteasy shows 11 units on the market, mostly co-ops, with a median price of $98,500. There are four listings for rent at a median price of $1,449/month.
Fordham actually encompasses a few neighborhoods within the proximity of Fordham University, which spans 93 acres. The area is home to a number of New York landmarks: the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and the historic Paradise Theater. There's a bustling shopping district along Fordham Road, as well. Perhaps the most famous stretch in Fordham is Arthur Avenue, Bronx's very own Little Italy. The stretch of Arthur Avenue from East 184th Street to 188th Street is full of Italian restaurants, butchers, bakeries and shops.
How to get there: The Metro-North will take you directly to Fordham University and the New York Botanical Garden. A little west of the university, you can take the B, D and 4 lines through the area. The subway takes about 30 minutes to Midtown, while the Metro-North will get you to Grand Central in 20 minutes.
Living there: Fordham students tend to get apartments in Belmont, also known as Little Italy, Bedford Park and Pelham Parkway. The Belmont and Pelham Parkway neighborhoods tend to be a little pricier. Streeteasy's inventory shows only a few co-ops on the market directly around Fordham University, at a median price of $215,000. Ten rentals available as of this writing have a median price of $1,300/month.
Mott Haven, located in the South Bronx, is a neighborhood that's reinventing itself since the notorious old days of the Bronx. The waterfront enclave, home to both residential and industrial properties, is now the site of massive investment — developers the Chetrit Group own five acres of waterfront land here with plans to develop as many as six 25-story towers with market-rate apartments and ground-floor retail. There's also a wave of development along Bruckner Boulevard, including the Clock Tower lofts, a rental development in a former piano factory, and plans for a 130-unit rental with an indoor pool developed by Carnegie Management.
Three of the 11 historic districts in the Bronx are located here—the Mott Haven Historic District, the Mott Haven East district, and the Bertine Block Historic District. The areas are home to gorgeous 19th-century brick townhouses. There's also the sprawling, 35-acre St. Mary's Park, which has a rec center and indoor pool. Commercial growth in the area is still modest, although there's a restaurant, Charlie's Bar and Kitchen, on the ground floor of the Clocktower Lofts development. There's also a greenmarket on East 138th Street that's close to a block of Mexican-owned businesses selling tacos, flowers and groceries.
How to get there: The 4, 5, 6 and 2 trains all serve the neighborhood. The commute into Midtown Manhattan is only around 20 minutes, since this is the southernmost neighborhood of the borough.
Living there: There aren't many apartments for sale in the area, and Streeteasy only shows one multi-family building up for sale asking $2.1 million. You'll have better luck with rents, both market-rate and affordable. There are currently eight units on the market with a median price of $1,625 a month. And here's a one-bedroom duplex at the Clock Tower lofts asking $1,500 a month.
University Heights, a small, hilly neighborhood located in southwest Bronx, surrounds the Bronx Community College. The college itself is gorgeous, with several Beaux-Arts buildings designed by prominent architecture firms like McKim, Mead and White. The striking Gould Memorial Library is a McKim, Mead and White design; the historic "Hall for Great Americans" is an outdoor arcade that runs outside the library over the highest elevation in the Bronx. Outside the stately campus you'll find apartment buildings and mom-and-pop delis and small businesses along West Fordham Road and Jerome Avenue.
How to get there: The elevated 4 train stops along Jerome Avenue, with exits on Burnside Avenue, 183rdStreet and Fordham Road. The trip is Midtown is about 30 minutes.
Living there: A well-known development that's lured Manhattanites to the Bronx is the Fordham Hill Oval, a gated co-op community with landscaped grounds and views of the Harlem River. One-, two- and three-bedroom co-ops here are affordable and large.
Streeteasy shows 16 apartment listings in the neighborhood with a median price of $123,500, and 22 rentals with a median price of $1,404/month.