New census figures last week confirmed a remarkable turnaround: The Bronx is now the city's fastest-growing borough - its population expanded nearly one percent last year. In many neighborhoods, property values are rising and development is increasing. Forty years after the 'Bronx is Burning' era, today many parts of the Bronx are booming. Borough reporter Erin Clarke is exploring the changes, and the consequences, in a three-part series, "The Bronx is Booming." Here is her first report:
When Rudis Rodriguez became a real estate agent in the Bronx last year, he knew the market was hot, but he had no idea just how hot.
"We sold a house in less than one day on Fox Street," Rodriguez said. "We ended up selling it for about $50,000 more than what we were asking."
"We had a three family house on Vyse Avenue," Rodriguez said. "While I was putting up the sign we had over three offers."
It is a remarkable turnaround for neighborhoods that once were a national symbol of urban decay, a status cemented by arson, crime, abandonment — and a 1977 visit by President Jimmy Carter to get a first-hand look at the desolation and despair.
"There were fires almost every day, especially in the south Bronx and it was a place where it was unlivable," said Angel Hernandez, education director of the Bronx County Historical Society. "People did not want to call the Bronx their home."
Now, almost 40 years later, many of these neighborhoods are enjoying a renaissance.
"We have the lowest statistical numbers in the borough of the Bronx and right now our criminality rate is down to 1963 levels," said Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation President Marlene Cintron.
That, coupled with soaring housing prices in other parts of the city, has made people take a second look at the Bronx.
The median listing price for homes in the neighborhood visited by President Carter is now $335,000. In Port Morris, it's $559,000, and in a section of Mott Haven, it's $704,000.
"I'm selling houses not because I'm a good agent, it's because of the momentum of the south Bronx," Rodriguez said.
"If you are living in anywhere else currently than in the Bronx, you're looking for cheaper rent or a cheaper place to buy, the Bronx is looking great," said StreetEasy Data Scientist, Alan Lightfeldt.
Anthony Rivera is one of those potential buyers. His family has outgrown its apartment in East Harlem and just made an offer to buy a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house near Crotona Park that had an asking price of $325,000.
"I just think it's centrally located," Rivera said. "Public transportation is great and you also have somewhat of a suburban feel depending on where you live in the Bronx."
Entrepreneurs and business owners are thinking that, too — It's not just homeowners moving into the Bronx. We'll explore that next.