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A Local's Guide to Grand Concourse, a Diverse Neighborhood Along a Historic Boulevard

An urban planner and third-generation neighborhood resident reflects

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. This time around, we welcome Sam Goodman, an urban planner for the office of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and a third-generation resident of the Grand Concourse neighborhood.

What neighborhood to you live in and how long have you lived there?: My family settled on the Grand Concourse in 1927, so one way or another a relative of mine has resided on this boulevard for nearly 90 years. I grew up on the Concourse at East 175th Street in what we now call the Mount Eden neighborhood. I now own a co-op on the Grand Concourse at East 158th Street. Most people call my neighborhood, "the Courthouse District," or "Bronx Center," or "the Stadium District." I call it home.

What do you like best about your neighborhood?: The ethnic diversity of those who live here and the fact that everyone makes me feel at home. People are always willing to extend a friendly hand. I also really appreciate the many parks that are located nearby.

What do you like least about your neighborhood?: The fact that I still need to take a subway ride if I want to buy a fresh loaf of Jewish rye bread that doesn't come in a package.

How has it changed since you moved here?: The very noticeable decline in crime and the fear of crime is really history. In many ways, the community I live in today feels so much like the one I remember as a kid. People feel at ease exploring the neighborhood and taking full advantages of what it offers.

What's the neighborhood's housing stock like?: We offer the most affordable rentals and co-ops to be found in New York City. Within walking distance of my building are numerous Art Deco buildings featuring 24-hour doorman services, sound proof apartments with views overlooking a park.

We also have many pre-war buildings constructed during the 1920's with enormous apartments—in some cases four-bedroom units. The co-op market is booming because prices here average $350,000 for three-bedroom units, with one-bedroom units going for $200,000. Anywhere else in NYC these prices would be three times higher. The co-ops are all well maintained. Unfortunately, some of our rental buildings are in need of some TLC. Still, these buildings were constructed to stand for eternity and as such many of them are located within the Grand Concourse Historic District.

Better for buyers or renters?: That really depends. If you plan to live in NYC for at least five years, buy for sure. If not, renting is a good option. You'll find some great value in either case.

Tell us something we don't know about your neighborhood: The Grand Concourse is the only boulevard in New York City that is listed on the National List of Historic Places. It has its own specific set of zoning laws as established by the City Planning Commission in 1983 and is referred to as The Grand Concourse Preservation District. The Grand Concourse Historic District is also one of the largest such districts in New York City designated by the Landmarks Commission.

Hidden gems in the neighborhood?: Franz Sigel Park. The western side of this 17-acre park is 60 feet above the street. Looking south you can also see the Manhattan skyline.

Is it good for kids?: Sure, if you're able to consider a private school option. For young families with toddlers it's also great because of the many local parks and some really qualified daycare options.

What's the beloved neighborhood joint?: I find myself visiting the Court Deli a lot. I also stop by Yankee Tavern on occasion. However, if I'm dining with friends, I usually head out of the neighborhood to the Mott Haven Cafe or Charlie's in Port Morris.

Where are the best places to chill and/or experience the outdoors?: If being outdoors means enjoying a spot of green surrounded by many of my neighbors, Joyce Kilmer Park is great. If I want solitude in my community, Franz Sigel Park is best. If I want real outdoors, take the 4 train to Woodlawn and enjoy the 2,200 acres that is Van Cortlandt Park or a bike ride to Pelham Bay Park's 2,300 acres.

Who wouldn't be happy here?: People who believe that to live in The Bronx means you can't afford to live anywhere else. In other words, people who still believe a Manhattan zip code is essential to feel good about one's self.

What's the final word on the Grand Concourse?: My final three words would be: opportunity, optimistic, diversity.