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The South Bronx? It's a state of mind

By Edward Lewine, Staff Reporter

East side, west side, all around the borough, nobody seems to know just where the South Bronx begins and where it ends.

The term "South Bronx" does not appear on any official maps, said a city planner who refused to be identified because he didn't have permission from the mayor's office to speak to reporters.

"Now Fordham Road is the semi-official boundary," he said. "The boundaries keep moving northward."

In the streets -- where 35 people recently interviewed by the Bronx Beat spoke with pride about their own neighborhoods -- no one could agree on exactly where the South Bronx is. But they all said that wherever it is, it has a bad reputation.

"It's south of the North Bronx," said Ray Stern, who described himself as a 900,000-year resident of the borough.

"I betcha the South Bronx is over by Hunts Point," argued Angie Craig, as she sat with Stern in the lobby of the Hope of Israel Senior Center near Yankee Stadium.

"No, it's over by Fort Apache," said Stern.

"Where's that?" said Craig.

"Take a bus east," replied Stern. "You know, it's really a state of mind," he said.

Stern and Craig agreed that the term "South Bronx" came into common use in the 1970's after the release of the movie "Fort Apache, The Bronx" and Jimmy Carter's much-publicized visit to Charlotte Street.

Along Fordham Road, the consensus was that the South Bronx was further south.

"First of all, look around," said Victor Brown, 35, as he stood in front of the Dollar Savings Bank on the Grand Concourse. "It don't look dilapidated. That's what I associate with the South Bronx."

Deborah Harris, who described herself as a 30-something executive secretary and lifetime borough resident, said the South Bronx begins around 155th Street.

"The people that come from the South Bronx hold it as a badge of honor," she said. "It means they're tough."

That was the feeling at the South Bronx Job Corps Center on Andrews Avenue, in Morris Heights. The center houses about 250 teens and young adults in high school and college.

"You have to deal with a lot of pressure to sell drugs, to commit crimes," said Barragh Seeranthin, a 21-year-old college student who said he was from Castle Hill--in the South Bronx.

"I'm proud I managed to survive," said 18-year-old Rick Santos, who would give no other address than, "South Bronx."

So is the South Bronx Job Corps actually located in the South Bronx? Well, no.

"This is more the West Bronx," said center director Lee Matthews.

Those interviewed agreed that at the very least, the neighborhood around the old 41st Precinct police station on Simpson Street -- Fort Apache -- is the South Bronx.

Nearby, at 854 St. Ann's Ave., is Ali and Irma Aguilar's South Bronx Auto Parts, one of the few businesses listed in the phone book whose name begins with "South Bronx." According to Aguilar, the building that houses his store was actually used in the "Fort Apache" movie.

And Aguilar has no regrets about the name he chose for his store about 15 years ago.

"If customers come from the outside, it hurts," he said. "If it's local people, it helps."

The Bronx Beat, March 13, 1995