At heart Jennifer Lopez might still be the girl from the block, but this neighborhood in the southeastern Bronx has changed -- and that’s a good thing.
Located near Parkchester, Soundview and Schuylerville, the neighborhood has worked to shake off its run-down past and redefine itself.
When English settlers arrived in the late 1600s, they found a fortified Indian village that overlooked the East River. But the area didn’t age well, and it soon became known for rampant crime and abandoned buildings. That has changed in the past 15 years, however, as broader plans to revitalize the Bronx have improved this neighborhood.
Reduced crime rates and a spate of new development have given parts of the neighborhood a suburban feel. While Italians used to dominate this working-class neighborhood, by 2000 roughly half the residents were Hispanic, though African-Americans and Asians are also well represented.
Many of the housing units here were built prior to World War II, but Unionport is known for lower rents and large living areas. In the Castle Hill section you’ll find the Bronx Y.M.C.A. and the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, which includes an outdoor skating rink.
The Jennifer Lopez song “Jenny From the Block” refers to her upbringing here -- she grew up on Blackrock Avenue, across the street from PS 36 Unionport. In 2007, Lopez showed she hadn’t forgotten her roots when she visited her old school with husband Marc Anthony.
Locals praise the variety of eating options here. Two favorites are Sabrosura, for an Asian-Latino mix, and a West Indian restaurant, Brisas del Caribe. Jimmy’s Café offers more traditional American food, including burgers.
While traffic congestion has become an issue -- but nothing compared to the crime of yesteryear -- the neighborhood has access to two highways, the Cross Bronx and the Bruckner expressways, and it’s close to the Hutchinson River Parkway. The No. 6 train makes three stops along Westchester Avenue, the Castle Hill stop taking roughly 45 minutes to get to Grand Central Terminal. Bus service includes Bx22, which runs north and south along Castle Hill Avenue, and there is an express bus service to Manhattan.
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