Parkchester, The Bronx, New York City
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Parkchester is a housing development and neighborhood in the New York City borough of the Bronx. The neighborhood is within Bronx Community Board 9. The development is a self-managed condominium, with many rentals managed by Parkchester Preservation Management.
The resident population of Parkchester reflects the changing ethnic makeup of the Bronx over nearly 70 years of history. Moreover, there is a broad age distribution due to the multi-generational nature of the neighborhood.
As of 2006, Parkchester includes a very large, thriving, well-established South Asian population: Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, including Catholics, Muslims, and Hindus. There are also a number of Jewish, Italian, Polish, Irish, and Albanian residents. Due to the popular Chang Li supermarket, more Asians have been living in the complex. The Asian residents include Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Philippinos, Burmese, and Cambodians. The population is approximately 50% African American and Latino.
In addition to the scaled-back branch of Macy's, there are many stores on Metropolitan Avenue and Unionport Road, a post office, and award-winning public library branch. There are a synagogue, mosque, and a large number of churches, all at the rim of Parkchester. The Parkchester station of the 6 Lexington Avenue local is at the far edge of the complex.
The neighborhood has the same origins as Fresh Meadows in Queens, and Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village and Riverton Houses in Manhattan. All of the developments were originally developed and owned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The name was later applied to the entire neighborhood surrounding the apartment complex. The name "Parkchester" itself was derived from the two neighborhoods on each side of the site of the housing development - Park Versailles and Westchester Heights - both of which have not been in common usage since, and have been replaced by Parkchester as a means of referring to the entire area.
Metropolitan Life displayed an intricate scale model of the proposed development at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The model showed all of the buildings and facilities, and was accurate down to inclusion of each of the 66,000 windows in the complex. The 51 groups of buildings were planned to house 12,000 families.
Parkchester was originally designed and operated as a self-contained rental community for middle-class families new to home ownership. To that end, there is an abundance of worker- and family-oriented resources, including access to transportation, nearby schools and churches, retail shopping space, and proximity to a major medical center.
It was built from 1939-1942 (despite emergency building restrictions during World War II) on the farmland of the Catholic Protectorate, a home for orphaned and troubled boys, which relocated to (and still exists in) upstate New York. In 1974, approximately one-third of the complex was converted to condominiums, with the remaining portion, now Parkchester South Condominium converted later, in 1986. The complex is best known for its broad, tree-lined walkways between the distinctive red-brown buildings, and for its WPA-style terracotta decorations on the buildings, that represent animal and human figures of many types.
It was a welcome affordable haven for returning WWII vets and their burgeoning families in the early 1940s. While racially segregated, it peacefully housed people from all religious backgrounds. Residents from this era cherish the life provided in this environment.
While most Parkchester residents today are African American or Latino, the complex once had a whites-only policy.
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