Kurt Maitland

As a musician, avid reader, and omnivorous culture vulture, Kurt Maitland needed lots of space for his extensive collections of books, comics, CDs, and DVDs, his stereo, flat screen TV, and the electric bass and amplifier he likes to keep close at hand beside his easy chair. His goal: to get all his stuff out of storage once and for all.

Priced out of most neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, Kurt, 37, decided to focus his apartment search in the South Bronx. He was already well acquainted with the area because he had spent the better part of two years sharing apartments with a friend, first in Mott Haven and then on the Grand Concourse. He knew that large prewar apartments could be purchased for relatively low prices and that the neighborhood had more amenities than met the eye. Most importantly, his commute to work as a paralegal all the way down on Wall Street was only about 35 minutes, nine stops on the express train.

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After searching for about six months, in November 2006 he bought a 670 square-foot one-bedroom for approximately $130,000 in a coop on Walton Avenue across from Franz Segal Park. The apartment had been renovated by the sponsor and featured a refurbished kitchen and bathroom, new appliances, hardwood floors, high ceilings, and two large closets. There was plenty of room for all his stuff.

Like all residents of the area, he appreciates the friendly neighbors, sense of community, and quick subway ride to Manhattan for shopping, dining out, and nightlife. But Kurt can see a future in which residents of the South Bronx like him will depend less on Manhattan these things.  He has already noticed that some of the local supermarkets are stocking organic eggs and milk, a sure sign that cafes, gourmet food shops, and other amenities, including nightlife, are on their way.

Right now, Giovanni’s restaurant is the place to eat, especially for Sunday brunch, and its recently opened bar and lounge, G-Bar, is currently one of the few night spots in the Grand Concourse area. Its programming runs seven nights a week, featuring karaoke, live bands, and DJs.

Soon more venues will expand the scene. On his frequent long walks through the neighborhood, Kurt sees “more bars opening, more places for people to hang out within walking distance of my apartment. Some of them are trying to get music scene together, trying to do a little jazz thing or R&B thing on the weekends, but it hasn’t really started yet. I’m thinking I’d like to go by and see if I could set something up and help them.” The bars he has noticed are mainly on the Grand Concourse, 149th Street, and near the stadium development. Some of his favorites include local hangout the Glen Roy Bar (145 149th Street), the Yankee Tavern (across the street from Yankee Stadium), and the News Room (654 Gerard Avenue).

Besides Giovanni’s and the well-known Bruckner Bar and Grill in Mott Haven, his favorite places to eat include Sam’s, a great soul food restaurant  (596 Grand Concourse),  an inexpensive West Indian restaurant called the Feeding Tree (892 Gerard Avenue), and Hole in the Wall Fish and Chips (East 151st Street).

His discovery of a bicycle shop, Neighborhood Cycle (571 Courtlandt Avenue), has got him thinking about buying a bike himself as cycling in the Bronx is more feasible than it is in Manhattan.

The pace of change in the South Bronx will accelerate as some of the many developments in the area reach completion, especially the one comprising the Gateway mall, the new Yankee Stadium, and waterfront park. On the whole Kurt believes that the revitalization will boost the local economy and property values, but he doesn’t want the existing character of the area to change too much.

“Lots of cool things that happen here have nothing to do with the new transplants. There’s a little baseball field up on the Grand Concourse, and local kids come up and play there, and old guys have leagues there. They’re doing their thing and you’d hate that they get displaced by a driving range. So you hope that whatever happens it doesn’t change the neighborhood so much that it displaces the people who are already there. You hope they can get folded into what is going on.”