Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Concourse Was Grand

Name a great city and you probably can think of a great avenue. In London it might be Oxford Street, in Rome the Via Veneto. Chicago has North Michigan Avenue, Paris the Champs-Élysées. New York City is blessed with thoroughfares of distinction in its boroughs—Queens Boulevard in Queens, Ocean Parkway and Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue and Riverside Drive in Manhattan. In the Bronx, the Grand Concourse dominated the architecture of the city’s northernmost borough.

As noted in a NY Times article on Monday, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/arts/design/02concourse.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=grand%20concourse&st=cse, there are “grand visions for a faded Bronx boulevard.”

Though the Concourse has become more hospitable over the last decade, anyone who witnessed its grandeur from the 1920’s through the early 1960s would lament the loss of its stately and noble past.

Perhaps a family story would put the once-proud stature of the Grand Concourse in perspective:

In 1921 when she was three years old, my mother came to New York from Poland, her family being one of the last to enter before the United States imposed immigration quotas. They settled in the Bronx. Her father was a jeweler, and though his wife always regretted leaving the parquet floors of their home in Ludg, he earned enough by the time my mother was in high school to move the family to an apartment on the Grand Concourse.

Several months later my mother ran into a boyfriend who had suddenly and mysteriously stopped dating her. She asked him, why?

“Sylvia,” he is said to have told her, “by moving to the Grand Concourse you moved above my station in life.”