Wednesday, March 29, 2006

MOHO in SoBro

Pardon the grand escape, it's been awhile since I've posted, but I moved, turned a year older (though still a dollar short) and have paid my first, waay-biig, student loan bill. Only 194 more to go.

I've made the move from Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn to the South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven.

"Some people" *said with a Bush-like inflection* have given my new neighborhood the sobriquet of "SoBro," which stands for South Bronx.

You will, from now on, laugh at the term "SoBro" like I do. I actually like its real name, Mott Haven, or as I have affectionately begun to call it, MoHo. Or MoHa. But I like the sound of MoHo better.

Jordan Mott's Haven has transited from a 19th-century Irish-American enclave along the banks of the Harlem River to the birth place of African-American rap music. Its run the gamut from idyllic brick townhouses to massive housing projects, and is one of the poorest areas in America. Robert Moses, the urban planning NYC wunderkind who killed and created New York, did a job on the neighborhood when he built the Major Deegan right through it. That Robert. What a guy.

I'm located on the industrial waterfront, once full of working warehouses doing water-related manufacturing things, and now filled with a gigantic birdshop, chop shops, antique shops, car washes, and a bunch of garbage trucks. Oh, and Sin City... but that's another story.

If I walk onto the roof, I can see the Harlem River over the bird store and the Third Avenue Bridge towards Manhattan. I can see the Empire State Building when I walk toward home from the subway. The building I live in is full of hipsters of all stripes, artists and musicians, but also social workers and teachers. My roommate is pretty cool, and probably for the sake of propriety, I shouldn't blog about him... I know he reads the blog!

The apartment is a two-bedroom loft that my roomie constructed, and he's done a great job. I still have a bunch of stuff in boxes, but that's because my room is still a mess, because frankly, I'm exhausted, so I'm moving very slowly. Have been exhausted for a few months now, and it all culminated two weeks ago when I tried to celebrate my birthday, pack, move, and unpack in a four-day period. I'm still hurting.

This whole moving thing came upon me one panicked night at the start of February when it fully hit me that I had to finally begin paying my student loan, how there was no way around it any longer, especially since I have a 'good job' now. Zanz died on January 26, and come February 3, I knew it was time to cut my rent and move closer to work... and that meant moving to the Bronx, or at least close to the Bronx, but I really didn't want to move any further into the Bronx than were I am right now. I saw a few other places in Washington Heights and Marble Hill, but this place was the second one that I saw, and I actually wanted to move here above the others.

So within the space of less than the short month of February, I decided to move. I endlessly perused Craigslist and dreamt of luxury buildings. I saw several apartments, none of which were luxury. I met several great potential roommates, and only one crazy person, and got a new place. By March 15th, I had hired my friend to move me, packed up, turned 42, moved, unpacked, and now here I sit.

In the ghetto. Heehe...

Which all led to four straight nights where I was seeing double in my right eye, I was so tired. Dog tired. And hence the reason my room is still a wreck, and I have stuff in boxes outside. But it's all pretty neat out in the common area.

I hate to promolgate bad neighborhood stereotypes, but just to give you an idea of where I'm located, I turn your attention to the quintessential 1980s book, The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. In that story, the rich Sherman McCoy hits two black youths, at Bruckner and 134th street, which takes place about a block from here. It's the South Bronx, dude, it's got a baaaaddddd reeeppuutation.

Now, however, NYC real estate dame Barbara Corcoran has proclaimed the area the "New Harlem" or something like that, so real estate is way overpriced already, and while more people with funds are moving in, it's still a neighborhood with a lot of lingering problems.

I think the landscape is strangely beautiful, though some of it is as ugly as sin. (I haven't been inside Sin City, so I don't know what sin really looks like, I guess.) I know one thing, when I walk around, I see the industrial wasteland, I see the depressing, massive and majestic housing projects, and I see the pretty things, too... check out the pretty areas among the poverty. (I live in one of those piano buildings.)

Mott Haven has seen better days, and with the revitilization of the area, Corcoran cooing about the neighborhood, and the upcoming new Bronx Terminal Market and Yankee Stadium projects, which aren't far away, maybe things will be brighter yet again. Hopefully those who have spent their lives here will have 'better' lives with all the changes about to sweep in, maybe some new jobs and industry at least, and maybe the refurbishing of many of the old brownstones will be repaired. It would be such a waste for both people and buildings to continue to fade away.

Maybe more black and hispanic professionals will move back to the neighborhood. That would be nice and maybe good for the neighborhood.

I'll be here for a while, and I'm eager to explore, and get to know the neighborhood, maybe use my high school Spanish, maybe hope like hell I don't get jumped on or called white girl. Jump on me all you want, but call me white girl, and I'm gonna kick your ass.

Moho in the SoBro indeed.

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