A Bronx Tale of Race and Ethnicity
Published by: NYU Press
304 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- ISBN: 9781479896707
- Published: October 2019
The eight-decade story of a New York neighborhood
In 1940, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company opened a planned community in the East Bronx, New York. A model of what the neighborhood would become was first displayed to an excited public at the 1939 World’s Fair. Parkchester was celebrated as a “city within a city,” offering many of the attractions and comforts of suburbia, but without the transportation issues that plagued commuters who trekked into New York City every day. This new neighborhood initially constituted a desirable alternative to inner city neighborhoods for white ethnic groups with the means to leave their Depression-era homes. In this bucolic environment within Gotham, the Irish and Italian Catholics, white Protestants and Jews lived together rather harmoniously.
In Parkchester, Jeffrey S. Gurock explains how and why a “get along” spirit prevailed in Parkchester and marked a turning point in ethnic relations in the city.
Gurock is also attuned to, and documents fully, the egregious side to the neighborhood’s early history. Until the late 1960s, Parkchester was off-limits to African Americans and Latinos. He is also sensitive to the processes of integration that took place once the community was opened to all and explains why transition was made without significant turmoil and violence that marked integration in other parts of the city. This eight decade history takes Parkchester’s tale up to the present day and indicates that while the neighborhood is today predominantly African American and Latino, and home to immigrants from all over the world, the spirit of conviviality still prevails on its East Bronx streets.
As a child of Parkchester himself, Gurock couples his critical expertise as leading scholar of New York City’s history with an insider’s insight in producing a thoughtful, nuanced understanding of ethnic and race relations in the city.
""Illuminates important questions regarding housing, ethnic succession, race and community." ~Robert Snyder,Director of American Studies, Rutgers University
"Fascinating … Vintage photos of the neighborhood and its people enhance the narrative, and snippets of interviews and conversations with former and current residents emphasize the story’s human element." ~Foreword Reviews
"Parkchester was the largest privately-developed housing project in American history when it opened in the Bronx in 1940. With 171 buildings and 40,000 residents in a well-planned arrangement around a spectacular oval, it has now survived for almost 80 years and continues to stand as a successful attempt to integrate Irish and Italian Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and more recently blacks, Latinos, Bangladeshis, Parkistanis, and Indians into a peaceful environment. And now Jeffrey Gurock has given us a grand book worthy of its exceptional subject. If you ever lived in Parkchester or know anyone who did, you must read this book, which is well-illustrated, well-written, and almost lovingly argued." ~Kenneth T. Jackson,Editor-in-Chief, The Encyclopedia of New York City