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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pictures of the Day - Evolution of 2-3 Family Homes in Melrose

Back in 1991 when Melrose was mostly burned out lots, vacant buildings and rubble, the first 2 Family homes were built along Elton Avenue between East 154 and East 155th Streets as well as those same streets between Elton and Melrose Avenues. These pictures below are of the evolution of what architects thought belonged in a low-income neighborhood from 1991 to the present. If anyone lived in the area and has photographs of what it looked like back in the 1970's through the early 1990's, please feel free to send them to me so that I may post them!

Year built: 1991
Elton Avenue @ East 155th Street facing North. These first homes, when built, added a much needed splash of color to a neighborhood that was just burnt out buildings or garbage filled lots.

Elton Avenue @ E 155th Street facing South.

Year built: 1994
East 153rd Street between Melrose and Elton Avenues. A little drab, but homes nonetheless in an area once dominated by rubble.

East 154th Street between Melrose and Courtlandt Avenues

Year built: 2000
Elton Avenue between East 157th and East 158th Streets...although a little bland, these 3 family homes that dominate Elton Avenue turned a desolate street into a calm and quiet tree lined street.

Year built: 2001
Elton Avenue between East 158th and East 159th Street. These homes were the first Green Homeownership Development in the Bronx and in 2003 they received the Platinum award, the highest level, from HUD's Secretary's Award for Excellence as well as first place in the residential category for Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) in 2003 as noted in ArchitectureWeek.

East 158th Street between Courtlandt and Melrose Avenues

Year built: 2004
Courtlandt Avenue between East 158th and East 159th Streets

Year built: 2004
East 159th Street between Courtlandt and Melrose Avenues. These 2 family homes here offer an owner's 3 bedroom duplex with Central AC, 1 Car Garage, a full, finished basement as well as an ample back yard...beautiful grass and all. They also happen to be located on the same block as the community garden recently featured here.

Year built: 2005
East 154th Street between Melrose and Elton Avenues. Although these homes are nice to look at, they lack a backyard. What is the "backyard" is barely 5 feet in length. This is one of those instances when they should have come up with a better idea to provide more outdoor space for the homeowners instead of trying to squeeze out every inch of the lot to make a profit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Community Gardens - Oases in Park Starved Melrose

With all the new real estate being developed in Melrose and over 1,400 apartments coming online within the next year or so with developments such as Boricua Village, Courtlandt Corners and St. Ann's Terrace, the area is yearning for more open spaces. As it stands, Melrose has no real park within its borders of its own...a space of green grass and trees, of flowers and benches, unless you count Flynn Playground on Third Avenue at East 157th Street which is nothing but concrete basket ball courts and handball courts. Melrose residents have to go to St. Mary's Park in Mott Haven or Franz Sigel and Joyce Kilmer Parks on the Concourse directly North and South of The Bronx County Courthouse - all outside of Melrose proper.

Thankfully, until this problem is remediated, Melrose has a plethora of community gardens where its residents can escape to for some peace and quiet. Many of these gardens usually have a casita, Spanish for small house, reminiscent of the old, small wooden homes that dotted the mountains and valleys of Puerto Rico. The gardens are a little slice of Puerto Rico here in the urban, concrete jungle of New York, echoing home for so many residents which hail from the island or have roots there.

One such garden is Rambo Garden located on East 159th Street between Melrose and Courtlandt Avenues. Earlier today as I was walking my dog...or she walking me, I had the pleasure of stopping in this garden and check it out for myself. Below are some pictures of the garden. Feel free to drop by anytime and relax whether you live in the area or work in the area...great place to walk to and have your lunch and go back to work.

Thinking outside the commode.

Totem pole of sorts.

Local resident Lillian, enjoying the many toys the garden offers children, free of charge, to play in.

Inside the casita...table's ready for a game of dominoes.

Ceiling and chandelier inside the casita.

Another tricycle available for the children.

Um...Toto, I don't think we're in The Bronx anymore.

Nope! We're definitely not in The Bronx! A scene like this could be anywhere...but yes, it's here in Melrose right in the South Bronx.

A WORKING outdoor shower!

Old trellis and wheelbarrow.

Got wish? Throw in a penny and make your wish!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Spotlight: South Bronx Food Co-op - A Healthy Way of Eating For All

With an alarmingly high percentage of obese and overweight residents in the South Bronx, The South Bronx Food Co-op is a beacon in Melrose to the rest of the surrounding neighborhoods. Located at 3103 Third Avenue @ East 158th Street in Melrose, the Co-op offers a variety of fresh organic produce, whole grains, hormone-free meats and dairy products as well as eco-friendly household and person products.

No longer do local residents have to travel into Manhattan to go to Whole Foods to obtain basic organic food and green products that are good for the environment. With the South Bronx Food Co-op, on a smaller scale, you have everything that they offer and more because they will special order certain items. But that is not all what the Co-op offers.

The Co-op is a community run and founded organization that dedicates itself to be the green alternative to for profit supermarkets in the local area. They contract with local farmers to bring in the freshest produce and products from as locally as possible to minimize the carbon footprint of our eating habits. Along with these principles they also provide services such as cooking classes, nutrition education (workshops run by healthcare professionals from Montefiore Hospital), health screens, fitness workshops (including three yoga classes with one in Spanish).

Although you do not have to join the South Bronx Food Co-op to benefit from what they offer, if you join you get a discount on all prices in the store. All products are labeled with two prices, one for members and another for non members which is considerably lower. Membership fees are also very reasonable for all economic situations. Senior Citizens and those on certain types of public assistance can join for $40.00; Students for $60.00; Families of 2 or more $80.00 and $120.00 for just regular folks. Note: you must provide ID to prove you qualify for the discounted membership fees and also know that these fees are ONLY ONE TIME FEES and can be PAID IN $10.00 INSTALLMENTS. This makes it attractive to all residents who desire to make a change within themselves, their families and their communities by affording them the opportunity to pay such a low installment.

As a member of the Co-op you are required to work 3 hours every 4 weeks which really isn't much considering that time is money after all and by working just 3 HOURS every 4 weeks you are helping keep prices down.

For more information visit their website, call 718-401-3500, email at or just simply drop by and say hello at 3103 Third Avenue between East 158th and East 159th Streets right here in the Heart of Melrose. Slowly but surely with the likes of the South Bronx Food Co-op and healthy eating alternatives such as PeaceLove Cafe, Melrose and the rest of the South Bronx is eating to a healthier future.

A big Melrose THANK YOU to the South Bronx Food Co-op for providing us with a healthy alternative to eating right!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Barista Sings While Serving Coffee...Does Yours?

Went in for a slice of all natural and homemade sweet potato pie over at PeaceLove and was treated to some serious beats by Alvin Rogers cool Jazz playing on stage while Darada David, owner of
PeaceLove, served up some coffee whilst on the microphone belting out amazing vocals.

Starbucks eat your heart coffee @ $1.40 PLUS live jazz and the owner SINGING while serving you your can't compete with THAT.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

South Bronx May Be a Banking Wasteland But Not Here In Melrose

Not too long ago the New York Daily News declared that "The South Bronx is a banking wasteland" in an article of the same name which points out how under served the general area is when it comes to banks. According to the article there are only 27 banks in an area that has an estimated population of 500,000 residents.

Luckily for people who live in Melrose this is not case because thanks to it being part of The Hub, the nexus of subways (2 & 5 lines) and buses (2, 4, 15, 19, 21, 41, 55), office buildings and neighborhoods (where Melrose and Mott Haven meet), there are 8 Banks in a 2 block radius from Third Avenue/149th Street/Melrose Avenue/Willis Avenue intersection. Up until recently there were 9 banks however with Chase swallowing up Washington Mutual, Melrose is sans 1 but still is light years beyond any other South Bronx neighborhood and probably any Bronx neighborhood for that matter.

The only drawback with the location of these banks is that they are at the southern border of Melrose and the northern fringes are left virtually devoid of banks with the exception of Bank of America at Concourse Place on 161st Street. With over a 1,000 apartments being constructed over the next few years along East 161st Street in just a 2 block span with Courtlandt Corners and Boricua Village as well as the already existing new condominiums, The Aurora and The Orion, banks who do not seize the ground-floor retail spaces available at either development on East 161st Street is going to be one sorry bank.

If banks down in Manhattan can have 2 or 3 branches within blocks of each other, this fast growing and vibrant neighborhood certainly deserves the same rights afforded to more affluent neighborhoods. By adding more branches to the northern border of Melrose it will not only enhance the already existing banking opportunities to Melrose residents, it will also benefit our neighbors to the north, Morrisania which according to the Daily News article is one of the most under served South Bronx neighborhoods.

So what do you say Wall Street and Bankers??? Time to put your banks where your mouths the neighborhoods of the working class.


Welcome to Melrose Milestone...of Sorts

14 days, 15 entries (including this one) is how long we've been on the web. Yesterday we hit a milestone of sorts...for the first time since starting this blog 2 weeks ago, Welcome to Melrose had over 200 hits yesterday, Wednesday, September 23, 2009 and we could only thank YOU, the followers who continue to read up on Melrose and what we have to offer on a daily basis and spreading the LOVE! Since it's launch we have consistently grown in hits on a daily basis from starting around 70 hits per day to over 140 hits daily especially since our friends The BoogieDowners gave us a nice shout out! (Please do visit their blog as it is by far THE finest blog about The Bronx!)

As Welcome to Melrose continues to grow in readership, I personally invite YOU, the public and citizens of Melrose, to feel free to drop me a note sometime and let me know if there is that special Melrose resident, business or organization that you would like featured.

Once again, a big Melrose THANK YOU to all of you who continue to visit and support this blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pictures of the Day - More Melrose Architecture

East 152nd Street between Melrose and Third Avenues.

Art Deco on Melrose Avenue @ East 151st Street.

Great detail on this beauty on Melrose @ East 152nd Street.

This one can be yours for $800,000.

595 Courtlandt Avenue - Year Built 1870's...don't know the original usage of the building but up on top of the building you can see very faint lettering which reads Melrose and 2 other words that are illegible and a date of 1870 something...probably 1871. If you happen to know the historical significance of this building, please let us know!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Courtlandt Corners Welcomes Middle Income Families to Melrose

In a new twist to affordable housing in Melrose, developer The Phipps Houses Group, one of the largest not-for-profit developers of affordable housing in the country, is setting aside 20% (63 units) of the 323 unit Courtlandt Corners project for middle income families making up to $80,000 per year.

According to Courtlandt Corners' architects, New York City based Dattner Architects, the project will consist of two sites directly across each other on East 161st Street and you guessed it, Courtlandt Avenue. The 323 apartments will consist of studios, 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units with a majority of the units being 2 bedroom units. Before construction began, over 10,000 cubic yards were removed from the site to cleanup the "brownfields" located at the sites due to petroleum leak discovered back in 1994.

Once completed, along with Boricua Village which is 2 blocks over, Courtlandt Corners I & II will transform the East 161st Street corridor leading into the heart of civic life in The Bronx from a rundown street to a beautiful buildings, trees and new storefronts for area residents and employees as well. Both of these projects will serve as anchors to the Northern boundary of Melrose which has been long neglected throughout the last 40+ years.

A big Melrose THANK YOU to Phipps Houses and Dattner Architects for breathing new life into the area with its beautiful architecture for affordable housing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Real Estate Values in Melrose on the Rise According to Zillow

According to, property values are on the rise over the past 12 months and is one of only 3 neighborhoods with increasing values in the entire Bronx. Check out the the data below comparing Melrose to other neighborhoods in the South Bronx.
Zillow Home Value Index
*Note: No data was available for Port Morris and Hunts Point due to lack of sales data.

Safety Concerns in Melrose

Most people when they hear about Melrose and that it's located in the South Bronx their first thoughts are of murders galore. But NYPD statistics say the contrary. So far in 2009 there have only been 2 murders in Melrose compared to 6 murders on the Upper East Side/Lower East Harlem area between East 96th and East 110th Streets and 3 in the East Harlem area between East 110th and and East 125th Street for a total of 9 murders in 2009 in the general East Harlem area. Also right across the river in Harlem a total of 9 murders compared to 2 in Melrose have been reported. Don't believe it? Check it out for yourself on the New York City Interactive Homicide Map by the New York Times.

People also measure "safe neighborhoods" by whether or not Yellow Taxi Cabs from Manhattan venture into said neighborhoods late at night. Last Thursday while I was taking pictures of local 24 hour eateries, I snapped pictures of 3 cabs in the general neighborhood in a span of 5 next time you're downtown late at night and want to take a cab instead of the subway, rest assured that the driver will not balk at your request and will gladly take you there. (FYI when coming home to Melrose late at night in a cab, tell the driver to take Madison straight up over the Madison Avenue Bridge and make a left onto 3rd Avenue in The Bronx. This route is faster than the FDR and a little cheaper as well)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pictures of the Day - A walk through Melrose

Was I walked to and from my parents' place today on Morris Avenue, I decided to snap a few pictures of the area, particularly of some of my favorite buildings.

Facing west on East 149th Street (corner of Morris Avenue)

House on East 151st Street

Apartment building on Courtlandt Avenue @ East 152nd Street

The crown jewel of East 151st Street (the stretch of East 151st Street between Morris and Courtlandt Avenues has some of the best kept homes and buildings and throughout the worse years in the area, sanity always seemed to have kept hold of this block.)

Side view of 614 Courtlandt Avenue (which is for sale at $800,000...and is the LAST landmark building for sale in Melrose)

Our Lady of Pity Roman Catholic Church - Closed as of 2007 when the Archdiocese of NY closed and merged parishes in an attempt to save money.

Facing West on East 151st Street between Morris and Courtlandt Avenues

Another building on East 151st Street...

...and another...

...and yet another!