City Living: Come to Williamsbridge for the culture
Historically known as an old Italian and Jewish neighborhood in the northern Bronx, these days Williamsbridge is bursting with Caribbean and African-American flavors.
In the past few decades, the area transformed into a vibrant community that is now considered one of the best places in the city to find truly authentic Island cuisine and culture.
The neighborhood received its name from the bridge at East Gun Hill and White Plains roads that spans the Bronx River, built by farmer John Williams who owned the land in the 18th century. This bridge -- or Williamsbridge -- is widely believed to be the very first to span the river, although that hasnt been proven.
The neighborhood has changed quite a bit since those days; bustling White Plains Road runs underneath the elevated 2 train and plays hosts to a majority of the businesses and locals favorite spots in the neighborhood.
With barber shops, Jamaican bakeries, and clothing stores on almost every block, this section of the neighborhood is buzzing with activity at all hours of the day. But Williamsbridge wasnt always the way it is now.
The neighborhoods rich history and massive change is still remembered by many of its lifelong residents.
The flavor started changing in the 70s and 80s, said Andy King, city Councilmember for District 12, which includes Williamsbridge.
As the Caribbean and African families started to move in to the neighborhood, things began changing into how they are today.
According to King, by the time the 90s rolled around it was a completely different world than when he had moved to the neighborhood as a kid in 1969.
However as much as things change, they stay the same.
I grew up here, so its home, said King. While Ive watched it change, Ive seen a lot of things stay the same too," he said, referencing many of the churches and schools he attended as a child that have withstood the test of time.
King maintains that Agnes Haywood Playground, in the center of the neighborhood on Barnes Avenue, has remained a focal point for the community to gather and enjoy each others company throughout all his years in Williamsbridge.
Regardless of the make-up of the neighborhood, King says as a community Williamsbridge remains family-driven and has always seen a high level of participation from the community, whether it is in local schools or places to worship.