Bronx Borough President Vannessa Gibson, eyes a chart of South Bronx economic data at La Central in Melrose on Nov. 28. Photo by Ricardo Partida.

The South Bronx has shown impressive economic growth in recent years, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s the conclusion of a new report released Tuesday by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. 

In fact, the South Bronx outperformed the rest of New York City in job and business growth over the past decade, thanks to strong community efforts and support from public-private partnerships, the report said.

The South Bronx was defined as all communities south of the Cross-Bronx Expressway and west of the Bronx River.  Between 2011 and 2021, those communities saw a 7.5% growth in population, driven by both native and foreign-born residents. This period also marked a 20% increase in business establishments, outperforming the rest of the borough and the city at large, the report said.

Notably, the Hunts Point/Longwood/Melrose neighborhood experienced pronounced growth, significantly aided by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which were instrumental in supporting local businesses throughout the pandemic, DiNapoli reported.

Giovanni Mata, co-owner of Xochimilco Family Restaurant in Melrose, said many factors helped keep his doors open during the pandemic.

“Many restaurant businesses in the area struggled, and some even closed,” he recalled. “We did get the PPP loan but we managed to stay afloat largely thanks to new ways of serving our customers, like delivery services and outdoor seating. But now the prospect of losing outdoor seating is concerning for our business.”

Employment trends in the South Bronx have been equally promising. The area saw a 25% hike in jobs from 2011-2021, then despite initial job losses during the pandemic, the area rebounded with a 6.3% increase in jobs in 2022. This recovery has been particularly strong in sectors such as health care, social assistance, wholesale, and retail trade, the report found.

However, the South Bronx has also faced considerable challenges, particularly from COVID-19. Even though 78% of residents were vaccinated by January 2023, the area was among the hardest hit, with ongoing health issues like asthma, exacerbated by environmental factors such as poor air quality. 

Income and housing present a complex scenario in the South Bronx, the report conceded. While wages rose 75% from 2011-2021 and median household income increased 31%, surpassing borough-wide growth, the South Bronx continues to battle high poverty rates and extensive rent burden among residents.

The sectors of education and public safety are also pivotal areas identified as needing attention. Growth in charter school enrollment and educational initiatives is a positive sign, but the rise in major felony crimes calls for continued vigilance in public safety measures.

DiNapoli described the report as “a picture of a point in time.”  He said the aim was to give elected and community leaders data to help guide their next steps. We want the change to go in a positive direction, and we have these kinds of analysis to help achieve that.”

Looking to the future, the area needs to remain focused on addressing challenges such as affordable housing, crime, and health disparities, DiNapoli said. A host of South Bronx elected officials praised the findings and pledged to continue fostering the economic and cultural resurgence of the South Bronx. 

Assembly member Kenny Burgos, whose district includes Hunts Point, Longwood and Soundview, captured this sentiment, saying, “I see the South Bronx as an uncut gem. And we’re polishing it, and I think in 10 years we’ll have a beautiful finished stone.”

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