Morris Park: The Bronx's litte secret
In the east Bronx neighborhood of Morris Park, the locals know each other by name. Many stop to exchange more than a quick “hello,” and engage in more than small talk.
It’s the kind of neighborhood that some nostalgically speak of when they bring up their childhood in New York City: the good old days when an area was “a neighborhood.” But the thing about Morris Park is that it still is “a neighborhood” where, whether longtime or new residents, many of the neighbors on a block know each other.
“It’s very community-oriented and family-oriented,” said Jeremy Warneke, the 32-year-old district manager of Community Board 11, who has lived in Morris Park since 2008.
Named after businessman John Albert Morris, who built a horse racing track there in 1889, Morris Park is known for its Italian-American population. But in the last 10 years many Albanians moved in. Recent years have seen an influx of Asian and Hispanic residents.
“It’s nice to see the diversity, it makes us stronger,” said Al D’Angelo, 70, who has lived there for 37 years and heads the Morris Park Community Association.
Urmilla Busgith, a broker at Century 21 Metro-Star on Williamsbridge Road, also touts the changing demographics.
“It’s a growing neighborhood and it’s in the middle of everything,” she said.
She’s referring to the highways found near Morris Park, the various buses that run down the main corridors of the neighborhood, the hospitals in the area, including Jacobi Medical Center, and the various restaurants. Along Morris Park Avenue, pizzerias, classic Italian bakeries and restaurants mingle with hair and nail salons and barbershops.
It is also in proximity to the New York Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo and the Fairway market and BJ’s Wholesale Club, which are five minutes away by car.
According to Busgith, homes on the market are sold relatively quickly and Morris Park attracts buyers from different parts of NYC. An average three-bedroom, single family home in the area sells for $500,000 to $800,000.
Morris Park is one of the safest neighborhoods in the Bronx. It is covered by the 49th Precinct, which was named the safest precinct in the borough this January, and second safest in the five boroughs, according to the Bronx Times.
“People should give us a try. You hear things about the Bronx, and yeah, it’s the poorest borough, but it’s also a nice place,” D’Angelo said.
Find it: Morris Park is bounded to the north by Pelham Parkway and Sackett Avenue to the south. Eastchester Road is its eastern boundary. Its western boundary is up for debate; depending on who you talk to, some say its Bronxdale Avenue, others say White Plains Road. The area between Bronxdale Avenue and White Plains Road is also known as Van Nest but some consider it to be part of Morris Park.
Though not as accessible as other parts of the Bronx, a good share of transportation options serve Morris Park.
5 train to Morris Park and Pelham Parkway stops
2 train to Pelham Parkway
Bx21 on Morris Avenue
Bx08 on Williamsbridge Road
Bx31 on Williamsbridge Road
Bx12 Select Bus Service on Pelham Parkway
New York Public Library Morris Park branch:
985 Morris Park Ave.
Morris Park Branch, 1807 Williamsbridge Rd.
-- P.S. 108, 1166 Neill Ave.
-- Herbert H. Lehman High School, 3000 E. Tremont Ave. (Just outside of Morris Park)
-- St. Francis Xavier School, 1711 Haight Ave.
-- Our Savior Lutheran School, 1734 Williamsbridge Rd.
-- Yeshiva University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine 1300 Morris Park Ave.
The 49th Precinct covers the Morris Park neighborhood in the East Bronx. In January, its crime statistics made it the safest precinct in the Bronx and the second safest in the five boroughs. According to the NYPD’s CompStat report, although there were eight murders in 2012, there was a 50% drop in murders in the area compared to 1990. Also, when compared to 1990 numbers, burglaries saw a 76% decrease in 2012.
The many Italian restaurants in this part of the Bronx aim to give patrons an authentic Italian experience. But there are also a number of other eateries worth biting into.
Patricia’s, 1082 Morris Park Ave. Located in the heart of Morris Park’s “Little Italy,” Patricia’s has become known as a staple of the Bronx in its 20 years. A variety of authentic Italian dishes are offered, and the dim lights and chic décor make for a cozy atmosphere. It also boasts one of the largest wine cellars in the city. 718-409-9069
Yucatán, 2107 Williamsbridge Rd. Yucatán brings a taste of Mexico to the area with dishes like Jalapeños Rellenos (pickled jalapeños stuffed with tuna), Cochinita Pibil (slow-cooked pork with a spice and citrus rub wrapped in a banana leaf) and a variety of tacos and chicken meals. 718-824-0100
Good to Go, 1894 Eastchester Rd. A small family-friendly establishment, Good to Go prides itself on Italian and American comfort food with a cozy and an oft-described romantic ambiance.They also offer free Wi-Fi. 718-829-2222
900 Park, 900 Morris Park Ave. This bar, restaurant and lounge is the perfect place to gather for an after-work cocktail or an event. The spacious indoor dining room is filled with elegant, off-white seating and enveloped by brick walls and windows that let natural light in. There is also an outdoor dining terrace, so be sure to get here now that the weather is heating up. 718-892-3830
Maestro’s Caterers, 1703 Bronxdale Ave. Whether for a dinner party, birthday or holiday celebration, Maestro’s Caterers offers a beautiful setting to celebrate. They offer several different menu options, each playing to differing tastes. 718-792-8844
Doyle’s Pub, 1024 Morris Park Ave. This local watering hole is described as a terrific neighborhood spot. In addition to the drinks, the pub also offers comfort food that features a wide range of appetizers, sandwiches and what they call the “best burgers in the Bronx.” 718-430 9423
Though Morris Park has a number of mom-and-pop establishments, lined primarily along Morris Park Avenue with a few others on Williamsbridge Road, some residents say the neighborhood could use a retail boost. D’Angelo says he’d like to see more specialty stores in the area, where residents and visitors can do more shopping. But these stores provide Morris Park locals some retail sustenance:
Forever More, 1015 Morris Park Ave. If looking for a dress for your daughter, Forever More has you covered. The boutique will provide the perfect look for that special occasion, whether it's a birthday, wedding, first communion or christening. 718-792-2342, call ahead.
Morris Park Collectibles, 1054 Morris Park Ave. This quaint, yet odd-looking boutique is filled to the brim with antiques, used toys, ornaments, jewelry, power tools, stamps, vinyl records and many other types of memorabilia. 718-824-0110
Side Street Inc., 1048 Morris Park Ave. This sporting goods stores sells jackets, warm ups, sweats, outerwear, athletic wear and T-shirts, including their special “The Bronx Only The Strong Survive” tee. They also do custom on-site printing and embroidery for apparel and uniforms. 718-597-8719
Loreto Playground, Morris Park Ave. (between Haight and Tomlinson avenues) This small playground offers a safe space for children. It has a basketball court, a handball court and a roller hockey rink. It is named after NYPD officer Alfred Loreto, who was killed in the area while attempting to rescue a kidnapping victim.
New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd. Morris Park is conveniently located near the 700-acre Bronx Park, home to the New York Botanical Garden. Visitors can check out the Orchid Show as well as the Magnificent Trees of the New York Botanical Garden exhibition, both running through April 22. The garden also offers educational programming, bird walks and much more. 718-817-8700
Andrea’s Dance Studio, 904 Morris Park Ave. Take a Zumba class, a ballroom dance class or learn how to belly dance at this local dance studio. Andrea’s Dance Studio also offers classes for kids and teens including tap, jazz and hip-hop, as well as gymnastics lessons. 718-597-9869
The Marriott Residence Inn is set to come to Morris Park in 2014, where it will be one of the Bronx’s few full-fledged hotels.
Construction began at the Marriott project site in the fall of 2012.
The hotel will be located in the new Metro Center Atrium, at the end of Morris Park Avenue, which is now leasing office/medical and retail spaces.
Warneke said the company chose the area because it’s up and coming.
The hotel will be located near the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and will have 125 rooms.
According to Warneke, the MTA is considering placing two Metro-North Railroad train stations in the Morris Park area.
One spot that’s being considered by the MTA is at the intersection of Morris Park Avenue and Bassett Avenue.
If the Metro-North plans go through, the stations are slated to be completed by 2019, Warneke said.
Q & A with longtime Morris Park resident
Albert D’Angelo has lived in Morris Park with his wife for 37 years.
He is president of the Morris Park Community Association, and serves as the first vice chair of Community Board 11. He is also the principal of Holy Name Jesus School in New Rochelle.
How has the neighborhood changed since you’ve lived here?
The demographics and racial makeup have changed. There are more Hispanics, Albanians and Asians moving in that we didn’t have when I first moved here; things are continuing to move along.
Is there anything you think could be better?
Some of the same quality of life issues we had before are still present today, like graffiti. I think what we also need are more businesses that will attract people to walk down Morris Park Avenue and shop, like specialty stores.
Where do you see Morris Park in five to 10 years?
I see a good, strong, middle class community that people would want to come to live in even more.