Everywhere you turn, things are changing in the Bronx, and as borough reporter Erin Clarke tells us in the final part of our series, 'The Bronx is Booming,' long-time residents and businesses worry that rising rents and property values may force them out.
Longtime residents of the south Bronx remember all-too-well the years when fires set by arsonists lit up the sky almost every night.
"We have been here through all the bad elements that have reared their ugly head," said resident Joseph Cepeda.
Forty years later, Cepeda is still here, as a revitalization is taking hold.
"The crime is not as bad as it used to be," he said. "It's much better. They're beautifying the neighborhoods."
But Cepeda is worried he could be pushed out. Rents and property values are rising. And developers are moving in, looking to tear down, and rebuild, creating upscale housing.
"We're planning here four or five towers, about 1,600 to 1,700 hundred fair market units," one developer says.
The Bronx remains the poorest county in the state; many struggle to afford even modest rents.
"A typical household in the Bronx will spend 52% of their annual household income on rent," said Alan Lightfeldt, a Data Scientist at the website StreetEasy.com. "Residents who are currently living in the south Bronx face a really high rent burden and in Melrose it's an excess of 70%."
And it's not just residents who are worried; business owners in the area are also concerned.
"We're having limits put on our lease now," said Vanessa Polanco, owner of Verde Flowers.
"I do feel that there's a necessity for some real policy issues about thinking around keeping real manufacturing businesses like ours," said David Lee, President of KD Lang.
The issue of gentrification is on many people's minds.
"I am against displacement," said Angel Hernandez, Education Director Bronx County Historical Society. "What I like to see is co-existence."
The challenge for the Bronx is to accommodate a renewal while ensuring the borough is affordable for current residents.
Bronx leaders voice confidence they can do that.
They insist that because the Bronx is the last borough to see a boom in development, lessons learned in the rest of the city will be applied.
But they're hazy on the details beyond saying new affordable housing must be in the mix.
"We've seen every other borough do amazing work," says the president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, Marlene Cintron. "We've learned from their success, but we've also learned from their mini failures."
Still, longtime residents and business owner wonder if it's just a matter of time before their Bronx is no longer theirs.