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Bronx River Houses

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Housing project important in hip hop history

Place Details

Borough : Bronx
Neighborhood : Bronx River
Residential, Gathering Place

Place Matters Profile

By Elena Martínez/City Lore

Less than one mile south of Bronx Park and the Bronx Zoo, along the Bronx River, nestled between the neighborhoods of West Farms and Soundview lies the Bronx River Housing Project. Completed February 28th, 1951, it comprises nine 14-story residential buildings, containing 1,247 apartments. It currently houses 3,025 residents.

The Bronx River Houses were built as the construction of public housing in New York peaked. In the 1950s the New York City Housing Authority built an average of 7,500 units built a year, and began to build large high rise projects in areas like East Harlem, central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx. Sixteen public housing projects were completed in the Bronx, nine of which were in the eastern area of the borough, giving the Bronx the largest concentration of public housing in the U.S. To make room for so much housing massive “slum clearance” leveled block...

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Interview with Afrika Bambaataa by Henry Chalfant, Elena Martínez, and Steve Zeitlin. 2004.

William G. Conroy, “‘People Fire’ in the Ghetto Ashes,” Saturday Review, July 23rd 1977.

Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn. Yes Yes Y’all; Oral History Project of Hip Hop’s First Decade. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2002.

Evelyn Gonzalez. The Bronx. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Jill Jonnes. South Bronx Rising: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of An American City. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002.

Richard Plunz. “Reading Bronx Housing, 1890-1940,” in Building a Borough: Architecture and Planning in the Bronx, 1890-1940. New York: The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1986.

Tricia Rose. “A Style Nobody Can Deal With: Politics, Style, and the Postindustrial City in Hip Hop.” In Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960s. New York: Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1999

Roy Strickland, “Public Housing.” In, Kenneth T. Jackson, ed. Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Donald Sullivan. “1940-1965: Population Mobility in the South Bronx,” in Robert Jensen, ed. Devastation/Resurrection: The South Bronx. New York: Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1980.


Kenny (Yoda) Syder

The Bronx River Houses are one of the birthplaces for the culture of Hip-Hop. It was also the residence of Afrika Bambaataa. He held many early Hip-Hop parties there as well as many meetings in the community center. In 1973 he also founded there The Universal Zulu Nation -- the longest running Hip-Hop organization -- started as a way out of gangs and violence.

Hip-Hop is a very important art form as well as culture. The Bronx River Houses is the birthplace of the cultural aspect of the art-form. It is important for the world to recognize this.

The community center was important because that's where the parties were, and also many meetings.

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