Mott Haven isn’t typically associated with new developments and trendy eateries, but locals say the South Bronx neighborhood is in the process of getting a new image.
Along with an industrial vibe, Mott Haven has extensive waterfront property along the Harlem River and is home to quaint townhouses and pre-war apartment buildings in its historic district on Lincoln and Alexander avenues.
Nowadays, however, new residential developments are rising along the Harlem River, and young professionals are moving in, locals said.
Milagros Rivera, 48, a retired Mott Haven resident, said she’s seeing a lot of new faces in the area.
“A lot of them come because the view has gotten pretty, there’s easy access to everything and shopping is cheap and the cost of living is cheaper than Manhattan and Queens,” she said.
Being just one train stop outside of Manhattan is also part of the draw, as a subway ride to midtown usually takes about 20 minutes via the 4 or 5.
But before newcomers pack up their beach chairs and sun hats, it’s important to note that public access to the area’s waterfront isn’t available — yet. Local officials have their sights set on constructing a recreational area at the river with a connection to Randall’s Island, according to a representative from the New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit founded by Bette Midler.
“The entirety of the South Bronx has no waterfront recreational sites, zero, from the west side to the east side, you can’t get near the water,” said Deborah Marton, the executive director of the NYRP. She said Mott Haven community residents requested areas to run and exercise near the river. “We could see an improvement of mental and physical health as a result of better [waterfront] access.”
In the meantime, fun in Mott Haven involves heading to its main drag along Bruckner Boulevard for dinner and drinks in establishments like Charlie’s Bar and Kitchen, which opened in a renovated clock tower in 2013, or for sushi at Ceetay, which opened in 2012.
The area’s Hispanic community is also still going strong, evident in the Latin restaurants and food trucks peppered around the neighborhood and the colorful murals painted below overpasses and on cement walls along Lincoln Avenue.
“We have beautiful culture here, we have food, we have music and we have arts and it’s a great place to come learn and live,” said Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., who represents some of Mott Haven.
For example, BronxArtSpace educates locals on the fine arts, and the area’s once-vibrant salsa scene — led by performers like the late, legendary salsa singer Hector Lavoe during the 1970s and ’80s — is still alive today in spots like St. Mary’s Park, which is hosting a free salsa concert on July 12 with performances from Johnny Rivera and Joan Català.
David Maundrell, an associate broker with Citi Habitats who works in Mott Haven, confirmed that the area’s popularity is growing.
Many new residents are “people coming from upper Manhattan or other parts of the Bronx that want to be a part of a new neighborhood,” he said. “They feel like [Mott Haven is] authentic, as opposed to a neighborhood that is completely gentrified.”
Rents in the nabe tend to be pricier than the rest of the Bronx due to its proximity to Manhattan, but can be significantly less expensive than those in Manhattan, Brooklyn and much of Queens, experts said.
In 2015, the median rent price in Mott Haven was $1,750, according to the listings site StreetEasy, compared to $1,500 for the Bronx as a whole. Outside the borough, the median rent price in 2015 was $3,195 in Manhattan, $2,500 in Brooklyn and $2,100 in Queens.
Sales data wasn’t available for Mott Haven specifically, but StreetEasy found that the median sales price in the Bronx as a whole was $339,500 in 2015.
And though it may seem like Mott Haven is now getting its spot on the map, locals say it’s been a treasured area for ages.
“It’s funny, every time the [press] comes up here they act like they discovered the neighborhood, but it’s been like this for a long time,” said Conor McCarthy, a 27-year-old graduate student at Baruch College.
McCarthy, who also works at the New York Business Development Corporation, moved to Mott Haven 3 1⁄2 years ago.
“There’s a lot of history up here,” he said. “This is old New York, [change] will play out differently here.”
Mott Haven is bordered to the north by East 149th Street, to the east by Willis Avenue and to the south and west by the Harlem River, according to StreetEasy.