The Bronx is the fourth most populous borough with a population of roughly 1.4 million residents according to Census 2010.
Like all of the boroughs of New York City, the Bronx is made up of many different unique neighborhoods, each with its own unique subsections and civic organizations.
As is the case with Brooklyn and Queens, the neighborhoods of the Bronx range from dense urban concentrations to areas of single family homes that are essentially suburban in character. While the south and central Bronx is densely urban, Wakefield in the north of the borough is middle-density and Riverdale in the northwest and neighborhoods like Throgs Neck in the eastern half of the borough are low-density suburbs.
Patterns of homeownership and public transit commuting closely follow these patterns of population density. Tenants dominate the neighborhoods of the south and central Bronx but homeowners form the majority in Riverdale and parts of the East Bronx.
Looking at median incomes, the south and central Bronx forms one of New York’s largest concentrations of low-income and working-class households. The vast majority of households in this area make less than $40,000 and many live on poverty-level earnings of less than $25,000 a year. The Northern Central Bronx and most of the Eastern Bronx are more middle class and Riverdale and a couple of East Bronx neighborhoods like Pelham Gardens form islands of affluence within the borough.
As is generally the case, educational attainment is closely associated with median income levels. Overall, only a small minority of Bronx residents has a college degree.
Lacking college degrees, most Bronx residents work in either “blue collar” jobs in industry, transportation, or construction, or in service sectors like retail and hospitality.
“White collar” workers in management or professions are concentrated in Riverdale and the East Bronx, again reflecting the differences between the regions of the borough that we’ve seen in other demographics.
Now let’s move on to look at some of the demographic changes that have taken place in the Bronx during the last decade.
Overall, the population of the Bronx grew by almost 4% since 2000. This growth has been concentrated in the south central Bronx, specifically in the Morrisania and Crotona Park neighborhoods.
In every region where we’ve looked at the factors driving population growth in New York State, we’ve found that it has been growth in the minority and immigrant communities that have helped boost the population.
In the Bronx, the non-Hispanic white voting-age population decreased by more 35,000 individuals, or -21%. This pattern of white population decline in the historically white-majority neighborhoods in the outer areas of the borough is the same pattern we saw in Queens and will see in Brooklyn as well.
In contrast, the non-Hispanic black voting-age population of the Bronx grew by almost 20,000, or roughly 7%. Large numbers of black New Yorkers live through the South and Central Bronx but the large concentration of majority-black population in the area is in the North Bronx extending into Mount Vernon in Westchester County.
In the Bronx, it has been growth in the Hispanic communities that has really boosted the borough’s population. The Hispanic voting-age population of the Bronx grew by 96,825 individuals since 2000, or almost 23%. The Bronx is now a majority-Hispanic borough, with Hispanics accounting for 51.2% of the voting age population.
One interesting pattern that reveals itself on a map of Hispanic population change is the decline of the Hispanic population in Washington Heights in Manhattan compared to the strong growth in the adjacent communities of the Bronx. Almost 19,000 Hispanics left Washington Heights since 2000, representing a substantial shift of the Dominican population out of this area and into the Bronx.
Now let’s look at the current districts, beginning with the Congressional level.
The Bronx is currently divided between three Congressional districts. Of these three districts, District 16 (Serrano-D) is the only one that is entirely contained within the borough, encompassing the core of the south and central Bronx with a solid Hispanic majority.
District 7 (Crowley-D) joins the East Bronx with a small area of Queens in the Elmhurst-Corona-Jackson Heights neighborhoods. While we object to the current shape of this district in the Queens portion, dividing the Bronx between the South and Central Bronx and the East Bronx generally makes sense based on the distinct socio-economic demographics.
District 17 (Engel), however, is highly problematic, as we’ve previously noted in our Southern Westchester commentary. This district combines the black communities of Williamsbridge and Wakefield in the North Bronx and Mount Vernon in Southern Westchester with Riverdale and a district shape that then snakes up the Hudson to cross into Rockland County. Instead of following this bizarrely gerrymandered shape, this district could instead join the North Bronx with the towns and cities of Southern Westchester including Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, and Port Chester.
In the State Senate, the Bronx is currently divided between six districts, four of which are Hispanic-majority (District 28, District 31, District 32, and District 33), and one of which is black-majority (District 36).
While Districts 28 (Serrano-D), 32 (Diaz-D), and 33 (Rivera-D) are relatively compact, Districts 31 (Espaillat-D), 34 (Klein-D) and 36 (Thompson-D) are some of the most oddly meandering districts in the state.
District 31 extends from Washington Heights down into the Upper West Side along the Hudson River in a shape that cuts out many individual blocks from their surrounding neighborhoods. These lines were drawn ten years ago as a blatant political gerrymander and must be repaired in the new cycle. District 31 should remain based in Washington Heights but should perhaps be joined with neighborhoods across the Harlem River in the Bronx where the Dominican population has been growing.
If this were done, there is still plenty of room for Districts 28, 31, 32, and 33, to remain in the South and Central Bronx areas if the section that is currently cut out and joined with District 36 were redistributed to these districts instead. The extension of District 36 (Thomson-D) from the North Bronx into this area violates many of the basic principles of good government redistricting as it extends in a non-contiguous shape that blatantly divides neighborhoods. More areas of the North Bronx and Mount Vernon could be easily added to the rectangular North Bronx core of District 36 to make up for the population loss.
Similarly, we believe that the inclusion of the Fordham University area in State Senate District 34 (Klein-D) rather than one of the districts that is based in the Central Bronx is also misguided.
In the State Assembly, the Bronx districts are relatively compact and neighborhood-based compared to the Assembly districts in many other areas of the city and state. As is the case with the State Senate districts, we think that it non-contiguous crossings of Bronx Park such as District 80 (N. Rivera-D) are completely unnecessary and should be avoided.
We look forward to learning more from the testimonies of local residents and community organizations at the hearing and hope that LATFOR will be listening as well.