City Living: Castle Hill
Known mostly as a densely populated neighborhood with the hustle and bustle of trains, traffic and people crisscrossing paths, Castle Hill has quietly undergone a transformation that has left it more suburban.
It’s a resurging blue-collar to middle-class neighborhood in the Bronx, easily accessible by the 6 train and the Cross Bronx and Bruckner expressways. For the past 10 to 15 years, the nabe has blossomed with new construction of one-, two- and three-family homes, especially at its southern tip.
That was encouraged by a tax break created by the city in 1971, according to nyc.gov, under which new homeowners are excluded from paying property taxes for roughly the first 20 years of ownership. That made the area attractive to new homebuyers who wanted a suburban neighborhood without facing the high property taxes on Long Island.
There are still houses around from World War II that add character to the area. They complement the numerous buildings housing rental apartments, including the Castle Hill Housing development.
According to nycgov parks.org, Castle Hill Neck, the neighborhood’s original designation, came from Adriaen Block, a 17th century New Netherland Company explorer, who thought that the fortified Siwanoy Native American village resembled a castle.
In the early 1920s, Castle Hill was home to European immigrants looking to escape the packed conditions of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Twenty years ago, residents were mostly black and Hispanic, and the nabe has been getting more diverse since.
“I love the fact that we have many diverse groups here. We get to experience the different cultural lifestyles of different people,” said Francisco Gonzalez, who has served as district manager of Community Board 9 for the past 20 years.
While Castle Hill had a rough patch with drugs and crime in the 1980s, like most of NYC, locals say it’s a great place to live. --BY SYLVESTER ARENAS
Need to know
Train: The 6 train stops nearby on Westchester Avenue at Castle Hill Avenue; Buses: Bx 5, Bx 22, Bx 36, Bx 39 More »
NYPL, 947 Castle Hill Ave.; 660 Soundview Ave. More »
USPS, 1950 Lafayette Ave., 718-892-7054 More »
Castle Hill is covered by the 43rd Precinct. Crime statistics compared with September 2012 show a 53% decline in murders and a 20% decline in rapes. As reported in the NYPD’s CompStat Report, notwithstanding that 18 people were murdered in 2012, there was a 74% drop compared with 1993. Also compared with 1993, burglaries were down 82%. More »
This is a classic American breakfast spot. Go with a jumbo three-egg omelet and top it off with coffee and the delectable strawberry shortcake.
El Valle Tipico
This new Dominican restaurant is already bustling with customers. It’s a new favorite among the locals who say they love the roast chicken and Mofongo de Pollo.
Lechonera El Sazon Criollo
This quaint takeout restaurant offers up some of the best Latin food you’ll find in the nabe. It specializes in delectable pork combos with platters like juicy fried pork chops with rice, beans and salad for $17.95. This local spot may be small, but the portions are big. Order for pickup or delivery.
Gold Mountain Restaurant
This Chinese restaurant’s bar is a great respite when you finish shopping at the Bruckner Mall. While it doesn’t have bar stools, you can still grab a shot and shoot the breeze.
This lounge has a friendly staff, and bartenders can mix any drink to taste. An intimate lounge with mostly a mature, 25-and-over crowd, this inviting spot is great for sipping at a small table or dropping shots at the bar.
This wholesale store sells organic food as “high quality at low prices.” Here you’ll find pasta, balsamic vinegar and espresso coffee, along with other staples.
Dynamic Expressions Art Gallery
This charming gallery promotes and sells art “produced by artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
One Stop Shopping Contractors
Serving the neighborhood for more than 30 years, these contractors can do renovations big or small. From bathrooms to kitchens, they offer good and friendly service.
Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club
Located in the heart of Castle Hill, this club offers many programs that mentor, teach and “respond to community needs.” It’s a great place where boys and girls are offered educational enrichment, sports programs and teen empowerment.
This waterfront location is the only YMCA based in the Bronx, but it’s also one of the biggest, at 27,000 square feet. It has a gym and a six-lane indoor pool, and it offers free classes to members.
Castle Hill Park-Wappinger Trail
At the entrance at Pugsley and Lacombe avenues, the trail doubles as a bike path, where you ride along the Pugsley Creek Greenway. Bike riders can take in some splendid views of the waterfront, including the Whitestone Bridge. The path goes through the park and ends at the adjoining Pugsley Creek Park on Stephen Avenue.