Van Cortlandt Village
Van Cortlandt Village is a subsection of the Kingsbridge Heights section of the New York City borough of The Bronx. Named after Van Cortlandt Park, bordered by the Major Deegan Expressway to the west, the Jerome Park Reservoir to the east, W 238th Street to the south, and Van Cortlandt Park to the north, Van Cortlandt Village is home to a large elderly Jewish community (due to the longstanding residents of the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative and its garment-center union-related population and their descendants), with a less but still significant Irish community and a large minority Hispanic population. It has a population of about 16,000.
Van Cortlandt Village has traditionally been classified as part of Kingsbridge Heights. However, on September 28, 2004, the New York City Department of City Planning approved the rezoning all or portions of 15 blocks in this northwestern Bronx neighborhood (bounded by Van Cortlandt Park South to the north, Fort Independence Park and Sedgwick Avenue to the east, West 231st Street and Albany Crescent to the south, and by Heath Avenue, Fort Independence Street and Orloff Avenue to the west) into Van Cortlandt Village within Community District 8. The proposed zoning changes aim to preserve the community's low-rise/low-density character by ensuring that new development is compatible in scale, both with the one- and two-family detached homes that prevail in parts of the neighborhood and with the more diverse housing stock in others. The area is predominantly low-density residential, with a significant number of one- and two-family detached and semi-detached houses. Even the multifamily apartment buildings in the area are seldom taller than 70 feet (21 m).
The New York Times describes the area as a "serene enclave of quaint homes, winding streets and abundant trees". The area is described by Anthony Perez Cassino,a former chairman of Bronx Community Board 8 who helped to rezone the neighborhood, as a "vulnerable" area, owing to the fact that it is more affordable than nearby Riverdale.
The 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) neighborhood is generally thought to extend from Van Cortlandt Park on the north, to Dickinson and Sedgwick Avenues on the east, to Bailey Avenue on the west and Albany Crescent on the south. Its housing stock is diverse, including spacious single-family homes, multiple-family attached homes and postwar co-op buildings. A garland of greenery wends through the neighborhood. In the heart of the area, on twisting hilly streets like Giles Place and Cannon Place, are elegant brick homes with porticos and manicured hedges. Along the broader avenues are handsome co-op buildings, capped on the northern end by the Amalgamated Cooperative Houses, one of the city's historically significant co-op complexes. With nearly 1,500 units in 11 buildings, the complex was founded in 1927 by leaders of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, who fashioned it as a sort of proletarian paradise. While some of the descendants of the mostly Jewish immigrants who made up the Amalgamated's original tenants remain, a more diverse collection of residents carry on its legacy, with communal enterprises like children's play groups and art classes.
Shopping in the neighborhood is limited to a small but serviceable collection of retailers at the northern end of Sedgwick Avenue, including a grocery store (Key Food - Food Dynasty), hair salon, dry cleaner, savings bank (Ridgewood Savings), Sedgwick Pharmacy, Chinese fastfood and Italian pizza parlor. A neighborhood branch of the New York City Public Library and the combined Van Cortlandt Jewish & Senior Centers (JASA) are also located here.
Close nearby, to the west and southwest of Van Cortlandt Village, two new large commercial shopping malls are being constructed and scheduled to open in 2014. The first to open in July 2014 is Riverdale Crossing located at West 237th Street & Broadway. Major stores include a B.J.'s Wholesale Club anchor store, three national restaurant chains: Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Denver-based gourmet Smash Burger restaurants, Subway sandwich shop, Petco and a Bank of America branch. Later in Fall 2014, the second major mall to open is the Broadway Plaza mall located at West 230th Street/Kimberly Place & Broadway. This mall would contain a natiional cinema movie multiplex and several national chain retailers such as a Sporting Authority sporting goods, T.J. Maxx clothing stores, Aldi's grocery and a Party City. Further south in nearby Marble Hill, the River Plaza mall opened to most favored review and contains a Targets, a Marshall's, Applebee's restaurant and a Starbucks.
As elsewhere in the city, street parking is scarce. Some co-ops have resident parking lots.
Naming for preservation
The Historic District Council in early January 2012 recognized Van Cortlandt Village as a New York City neighborhood in need of preservation. In Van Cortlandt Village, the Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association has been fighting a handful of land grabs and new housing projects. The community sits atop the ruins of a Revolutionary War fort and was designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. It boasts small Tudor revival homes and during the 1920s became a mecca for socialist factory workers fleeing the tenements of the lower East Side to build cooperative housing. Now that former co-ops such as the Shalom Aleichem Houses have fallen on hard times and the character of the neighborhood is threatened by overdevelopment, HDC will help FIPNA get it listed on the national historic register, according to Kristin Hart, president of the community group.
Originally named "Yiddish Cooperative Heimgesellschaft", the historic Shalom Aleichem Houses cooperative housing project was started by socialist Yiddish members of the Socialist and Communist Parties. Construction on the 15-building Neo-Tudor fortress-like structure culminated in 1927. As of January 2014[update]. The multiethnic rental complex is located in what is considered to be the heart of the Van Cortlandt Village community. As part of the Office of the Bronx Borough President's Bronx 2008 historic preservation project, the Shalom Aleichem Co-operative complex is being reviewed for landmark status.
The community, eventually named for legendary Yiddish author Shalom Aleichem, was founded as one of the country's first housing cooperatives. It failed during the Great Depression and became a rental complex. But the close-knit community produced a generation of successful scientists and artists, and was a virtual neighborhood within a neighborhood. Shalom Aleichem's garden courtyard is still lush and beautiful, tended by its diverse, working class tenants. The complex went through difficult times but in the spring of 2013 was acquired by an owner who has been restoring it to its original grandeur and has proudly renamed the complex, and it is now called the Shalom Aleichem Houses.
The neighborhood abuts Van Cortlandt Park, a 1,110-acre (4.5 km2) swath of forest, trails and playing fields that is the city's fourth-largest park and includes the Van Cortlandt Golf Course. Stretching along part of Sedgwick Avenue is Fort Independence Park, a popular neighborhood spot with handball courts, a basketball court and a playground.
The Amalgamated offers its own slate of social activities: ceramics classes, writers' workshops and art exhibits. Many of the Bronx's cultural amenities are a short distance away, including the New York Botanical Garden and Wave Hill.
The Jerome Park Reservoir offers a 2-1/2-mile walking-jogging scenic pathway for sports and outdoors fans.
The Van Cortlandt Public Library has a small branch for both adults and neighborhood children. The children and young adult sections is rather large and extensive; and, there is free public internet access to neighborhood residents.
Public School 95 on Hillman Avenue teaches kindergarten through Grade 8. A new elementary school, the Am Park Neighborhood School, recently completed its inaugural year in a building owned by the Amalgamated with a kindergarten and first grade class. Popular with young families, it will eventually extend through fifth grade.
The Bronx High School of Science (75 West 205th Street) offers an outstanding inexpensive public education for the academic inclined within the neighborhood, and is just a quick 20-minute walk from Van Cortlandt Village.
DeWitt Clinton High School, also located nearby on West Mosholu Parkway, had a 64 percent graduation rate in 2004. Students there scored 433 on the verbal SAT and 442 on the math in 2005, compared with 443 and 472 citywide.
There are various parochial and private schools in the area, including Visitation School on 239th Street and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Horace Mann School, Riverdale Country School and SAR Academy in Riverdale.
Manhattan College, a small institution of higher education, is a small Catholic university with a renowned undergraduate engineering school is located nearby. Alumni include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The arrival of the elevated IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line subway line around the turn of the 20th century brought an influx of immigrants to Kingsbridge Heights, including the section of the neighborhood that would eventually become known as Van Cortlandt Village.
The Amalgamated, because of its distinctive culture and high population density, came to define its corner of Kingsbridge Heights as a distinct area, according to Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx borough historian. In 1975, a member of the local community board proposed that the Amalgamated and its surroundings be renamed, and a sign was unveiled designating the area Van Cortlandt Village.
Van Cortlandt Village is served by the Bx1, Bx2, Bx3, and Bx10 local bus lines in the Bronx, as well as the BxM3 express bus. There are no subway stations in the neighborhood. The nearest subway stations are the 1 train, which serve 231st Street and 238th Street on the IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line, as well as Mosholu Parkway, serving the 4 train on the IRT Jerome Avenue Line, and the IND Bedford Park Boulevard station on the Grand Concourse.
The nearby Major Deegan Expressway (Interstate 87) and Henry Hudson Parkway offer a relatively quick route to both Manhattan's Upper East and West Sides as well as to Bergen County, New Jersey via the George Washington Bridge. In addition, the nearby Saw Mill Parkway also offers local access to places in Westchester.
- Bx1: to Riverdale or Third Avenue – 138th Street station (via Grand Concourse
- Bx2: to Kingsbridge Heights or Third Avenue – 138th Street station (via Grand Concourse
- Bx3: to Kingsbridge Heights or Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights, Manhattan
- Bx10: to Riverdale or Norwood – 205th Street (via Kappock Street and West 231st Street)
- BxM3: to Yonkers or Madison Square Park
- "At Bess Myerson’s Former Home, Shades of a Bronx Utopia." New York Times, January 12, 2015