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A Local's Guide To Mott Haven, the Bronx's 'True Melting Pot'

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The People's Guide is a new series examining New York City's many, many neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around, we welcome Ed García Conde, a lifelong Bronx resident and the intrepid blogger behind Welcome2TheBronx.

Tell us something we don't know about Mott Haven.
Besides that it's named after Jordan L. Mott, an area resident who invented the coal-burning stove, the Lincoln Memorial Statue in DC and the New York Public Library's Patience and Fortitude lion statues at the main Fifth Avenue branch were sculpted here by the Piccirilli Brothers. The cast iron dome of our nation's Capitol was also made right here.

Are there any local customs of note?
Salsa dancing in St. Mary's Park during SummerStage!

What are some hidden gems in Mott Haven?
Brook Park Community Garden is definitely one of several hidden gems. It is one of the biggest community gardens in the area, and perhaps the South Bronx. Many community events and meetings are held here from weddings to activism. St. Ann's Episcopal Church is another hidden gem as it is also the burial place of Gouverneur Morris, a founding father of our country who's considered the "Penman of the Constitution" as he is credited with writing its preamble as well as large sections of the document.

What's a beloved neighborhood joint?
Tough call because there are many but I have to say La Morada Mexican restaurant (Hey, even Mayor Bill de Blasio stopped by and ate here). The place is small and unassuming but the Oaxacan food takes you away back to Mexico. This family owned place feels like you're eating in their kitchen making it that much more special.

Best park?
St. Mary's by default because it is technically the only real official park in Mott Haven (It's also the South Bronx's largest park). It's a hilly park (much like the area once was) that needs a lot of TLC. Thanks to NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district covers the park, it's on its way to getting some much-needed upgrades starting with the west playground. St. Mary's is one of the original parks in The Bronx, and is also the site of The Bronx's first playground (1914) and New York City's first year-round full-service recreation centers—one of the few things we an actually thank Robert Moses for.

What is your local transit like?
Public transportation is pretty decent and served by the 2, 4, 5, and 6 trains depending where in Mott Haven you're located. There are also several bus lines. If you live in the southern part of the neighborhood you have three stations on the 6 and one on the 4/5 line to choose from. If you're closer to the northern border of the area you have 149th Street and Grand Concourse on the 2, 4, and 5, Third Avenue and 149th Street on the 2 and 5, and 149th Street on the 6 line. Commute times into Manhattan vary but if you're at 149th Grand Concourse or Third Avenue and 149th Street, you can find yourself in Midtown within 15 to 20 minutes.

What's not-so-swell about your neighborhood?
Although Mott Haven and the South Bronx is in need of supportive housing and services, there is an overabundance of such facilities in the neighborhood. Far too many methadone treatment clinics are clustered too close by. We do have a serious drug problem, but such facilities should be spread out and not on top of one another.

What's the neighborhood housing stock like?
Mott Haven's housing stock is primarily pre-war buildings but by far the majority of apartments are NYCHA. There are also several hundred townhouses spread out in three historic districts: Mott Haven Historic District, Mott Haven East Historic District, and The Bertine Block Historic District

Better for buyers or renters?
Definitely better for renters, as opportunities for purchasing a house or an apartment are quite limited.

Stereotypical residents?
Mott Haven is a very ethnically diverse neighborhood that has transitioned throughout the century. At any moment in time it was generally just a handful of immigrants such as German, Jewish, and Irish in the early 20th century followed by mostly Puerto Ricans and African Americans, and now it's a big mix of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, West Africans, Dominicans; it's become a true melting pot.

Most common sight?
The many towering NYCHA buildings for sure. You can't walk too far without running into a NYCHA development.

The final word on Mott Haven:
It's a great place to live! As a community we rebuilt many parts of it when no one wanted to live here, and now as investors are descending like vultures, we're fiercely protective of our community against gentrification.
· The People's Guide archives [Curbed]