Like the vast majority of Banksy lovers, you probably have never walked the streets of the Bronx let alone the South Bronx. You probably thought you’d never come up here too.
Well now that Melrose, the South Bronx and heck the rest of the borough has your attention (and it’s not even because of a Yankee game or the world series) we’d like to invite you not to rush back to the comfort zone of your own neighborhoods and typical haunts and explore this vibrant and very much culturally alive slice of New York City.
Once you’ve seen the Banksy, head over to Xochimilco on Melrose between 152nd and 153rd Streets just one block from the mural, one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Bronx. Xochimilco has become the go to spot for even the local Mexican population for some good, real home cooked meals.
If you’ve already been here then you know how easy the commute is and what a stone’s throw from Manhattan Melrose is located.
Most of you arrived at 3rd Ave and 149th Street via the 2 and 5 express trains and upon exiting the station, you probably didn’t know that you were standing at the busiest intersection outside of Times Square. Over 200,000 visitors walk by the Hub each day.
The Hub, as the business district is known as well as Melrose – the neighborhood it’s located in – is going through a major transformation. As of the 2010 census, it was the fastest growing neighborhood in the Bronx and 3rd fastest in the city.
Melrose is also home to the ONLY certified LEED Neighborhood District in the State of New York thanks to the dozens of “green” developments that have been built here like Via Verde which is one of the country’s most talked about green developments in the country.
The first luxury boutique hotel recently opened here this summer at the old Bronx Opera House. The Opera House Hotel has quickly become a favorite destination for global visitors to our city looking for luxury accommodations at affordable prices while still remaining conveniently located from major tourist attractions.
If you come to the neighborhood don’t forget to visit the Bronx Documentary Center which is 3 blocks away from the Banksy. The BDC, as it’s affectionately known, is at 614 Courtlandt Avenue at the corner of East 151st Street.
Currently at the Bronx Documentary Center you can view Gabriele Stabile’s first New York City show called ‘Refugee Hotel’ (open Thursdays & Fridays from 3PM to 7PM and Saturdays & Sundays from 1PM – 5PM until December 1st) which documents refugees’ arrival in America from their first few hours on US soil to a few years later after they settled in their final destinations across the country.
Make sure you sign the guest list at the BDC because each month you can always find screenings of award-winning documentaries followed by panel discussions. The Bronx Documentary Center has quickly become the place to be for the city’s photographers due to the quality of the work exhibited here as well as the intimacy of the space. There are also free photography classes on Friday!
From there, head south on Courtlandt and on 150th Street you can see a collaborative mural between several artists on the building housing Neighborhood Cycle.
Wanna see a Tats Cru mural? Walk another 2 blocks to East 148th Street between Courtlandt and Morris Avenues and you’ll come across two murals by some of the most recognized names in urban graf culture. There’s a wall by Tats Cru and right next to it you can view a collaboration between How & Nosm with Aryz.
After you’re done there turn on Morris Avenue and make a left onto 149th Street and head towards the Grand Concourse just another couple of blocks away.
There you will find 3 major cultural gems 2 of which are easily accessible. The first is the main Bronx Post Office right at the intersection. It is a landmark building currently for sale and inside the lobby you will see some of the best public works murals by Ben Shahn and his wife. The 13 murals are currently not landmarked but the community is working hard on it.
After you’re done at the post office you can head on south of 149th Street and on your left you will see the entrance to the Longwood Gallery at Hostos Community College. If the gallery isn’t open, at the very least you will be treated to the rotunda which is a gallery in and of itself.
Head back north and West just another 3 blocks to Walton Avenue between 149th and 150th Streets you’ll find Pregones Theater which has been serving the community for over 30 years now and providing Puerto Rican And Latino based preforming arts.
Make sure to check out their website to see what’s going on and perhaps you can coordinate a trip up here with one of their performances.
So there you have just a small taste of what we have to offer in just one small slice of our beloved Bronx and I didn’t even get into that just ten blocks south into Mott Haven and Port Morris you have a thriving community of artists. I could have also gone further north along the Grand Concourse (which is its very own cultural and legendary icon with the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world) and within 10 blocks you would have hit the Bronx Museum of Art and the Andrew Freedman Home.
When you come to see “Ghetto 4 Life”, do yourself a favor and stick around and see what we have to offer. As always you can email me with any questions!