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Friday, October 31, 2014

What makes Riverdale Riverdale? How a community divided remains standing

(Page 3 of 5)
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“Where I am, by [West] 238th Street, once you hit the bottom of the stairs, east of Broadway, it becomes a different world,” said Joe Stanton, a Riverdale resident who grew up in Kingsbridge but said he rarely goes there now.

Kingsbridge was once home largely to the most recently arrived Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants. But when Coop City opened in 1970, thousands moved there from the West Bronx and newer waves of Hispanic immigrants took their places. Streets once lined with Jewish delis now offer cuisine from Latin America and the Caribbean alongside African hair braiding.

While there are those who love the diversity, there are plenty of Riverdalians for whom Kingsbridge now seems a foreign land.

“The people down there are more suspicious-appearing to me,” Mr. Stanton said, adding, “It wasn’t always that way. I grew up in Kingsbridge, but it’s changed a lot. There’s more crime.”

On a recent April evening, Pat Hennessy, a 77-year-old Irish immigrant who moved to the U.S. in May 1961, savored a beer at The Punch Bowl in Kingsbridge.

“Riverdale is for the rich and famous,” he said. “In Kingsbridge we’re just hearty working folk.”

The many faces of Kingsbridge

What’s often labeled Kingsbridge by people “up the hill” is hardly of a piece, either.

The area is really three distinct neighborhoods with ill-defined boundaries: Kingsbridge proper, Kingsbridge Heights and Van Cortlandt Village.

Kingsbridge, the commercial center of the northwest Bronx, is abutted by largely residential Kingsbridge Heights to the east, with its maze of narrow, twisting one-way streets and steep hills. It is mostly a working-class, residential area, comprised of older residents from Jewish, Irish and Italian communities, as well as younger immigrant families from all over the world. In the last 25 years, the neighborhood has become more diverse and more of a melting pot, said Charlie Shayne, executive director of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.

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