Parkchester: Affordable Bronx neighborhood thrives with diversity

Parkchester is a neighborhood with two sides.

The Parkchester apartments, a 129-acre complex with more than 12,000 one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos, makes up one-half of the neighborhood.

The other is a residential community with a rich cultural diversity that is reflected in its shops and restaurants.

The complex was built around 1940 by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which also developed Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan.

Its 171 seven and 12-story red brick buildings appear monolithic from a distance, but a closer look reveals intricate details. More than 500 terracotta sculptures depicting musicians and animals decorate the corners and doorways of its residences and retail spaces.

While the units in the community are condos, more than 6,000 are currently available as rentals, according to the management company’s website, parkchesternyc.com.

At its center is the Metropolitan Oval, where the neighborhood’s tree-lined walkways converge at a large, decorative fountain.

“Parkchester is the closest to the Upper West Side you are going to get in the Bronx,” said Michelle Marsh, who moved to the Parkchester apartments from the Manhattan neighborhood about 20 years ago.

In between its apartment buildings are grassy lawns and playgrounds. The complex also has its own business district along Metropolitan Avenue, which boasts big chains including Macy’s, Applebee’s and Starbucks.

“It’s quiet, not boisterous,” Jeff Ofori-Antwi, 33, said of the community. An IT specialist, he has lived here since middle school. “Things you normally see in Manhattan, we have here. It like a part of the city without the bustle of the city.”

According to Zakir Khan, owner of Parkchester Real Estate at 16 Westchester Square, the complex’s high demand is evident in its housing market.

“Right now, there are probably less than 15 [sales] properties available in the complex,” he said. “I always have a line of buyers for the available inventory.”

Real estate prices in Parkchester as a whole — both in and outside the complex — are significantly lower than in other parts of the Bronx, according to the listings site StreetEasy.

The median sales price in Parkchester in 2015 was roughly $110,000, compared to $338,000 in the Bronx overall, StreetEasy found. The median rent was about $1,295 in Parkchester last year, and $1,500 borough-wide, according to the site.

Outside the complex, the neighborhood’s housing stock has an even mix of one- and two-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings.

“To me, it’s not just the complex that makes Parkchester,” said Nilka Martell, 41, a lifelong resident and neighborhood activist who founded Getting Involved, Virginia Ave Efforts, or G.I.V.E. “It’s the neighborhood around it too. Those of us who don’t live in the complex realize that. We still live in Parkchester.”

G.I.V.E. focuses on community service such as cleaning up area streets and parks and planting trees.

While the Parkchester complex contains mostly chain businesses, the neighborhood outside of it is known for its mom-and-pop shops, Martell added.

“I love everything about this area, but what I love the most is … the number of restaurants that are reflective of the shift of incoming immigrants,” she said. “The area is populated by folks all around the world.”

There is a growing Bangladeshi and Indian community in Parkchester. As a result, it’s becoming known for its Bangladeshi dining scene. For example, at Packsun Halal Chicken, an eatery at 2160 Westchester Ave., locals and intrepid foodies flock to sample the authentic fare.

There’s food from other nationalities here too, however, including Taqueria Tlaxcalli, at 2103 Starling Ave., a popular spot for Mexican.

“It’s nice here,” said Mohammed Yousef, 54. Originally from Pakistan, Yousef has lived in Parkchester for 15 years and owns Starling Happy Salon at 2105 Starling Ave. “We have made a community.”

More from around NYC