If you’re in the market for a 24-hour, bustling neighborhood with restaurants that line streets, sibilant sounds of outdoor diners and a hotbed of nightlife activity, Bedford Park won’t do.
But for those seeking a relatively quiet neighborhood known for its schools, greenery and history, it is perfect.
The enclave, nestled among the Kingsbridge, Fordham and Norwood neighborhoods, is home to some of the Bronx’s oldest buildings.
The Bedford Park Congregational Church, the oldest church in the neighborhood, dating back to 1882, sits at the corner of Bainbridge Avenue and East 201st Street. It was given landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2000.
The neighborhood is also highly regarded for its educational institutions — including Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York on Goulden Avenue and Academy of Mount St. Ursula High School, an all-girls prep school that is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in New York State.
Bedford Park also is home to two specialized high schools: the Bronx High School of Science and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College.
According to Bronx Community Board 7, Winston Churchill’s grandfather Leonard Jerome owned much of Bedford Park in the mid-19th century.
Jerome built a racecourse there in 1866 that was later converted into the Jerome Park Reservoir.
Once heavily populated by Irish and Jewish residents who worked on the construction of the reservoir, Bedford Park’s demographics have changed radically in recent years. Now, blacks and Hispanics, including Mexicans and Dominicans, live alongside Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese and a Caribbean community.
“The neighborhood is always changing,” said Michael Prendergast Jr., the owner of the Jolly Tinker bar. “But that’s the interesting part of the pulse of the Bronx: The vibe is always changing.”
Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan says Bedford Park has an unusual combination of advantages, ranging from accessibility to cultural institutions and history.
“You have the D train, The New York Botanical Garden and Lehman College’s Center for Performing Arts as well as their art gallery,” he said, while also noting the area’s historical houses of worship and well-known schools.
“It’s relatively quiet. You don’t have the raucous sounds of midtown, but you do have all the advantages of midtown, and you can get there if you wanted to in 15 minutes,” he said.
Bedford Park boasts a mix of architecture, most of it harking back to the old days. Five- and six-story Art Deco-style buildings line two of its main corridors, the Grand Concourse and Mosholu Parkway.
And though mostly full of low- and mid-rise buildings, it’s also home to a prominent development: the 41-story Tracey Towers on Mosholu Parkway, which looms high, dwarfing surrounding buildings.
Nestled on side streets, many Victorian homes stand out, some of them painted in bright colors. On corridors such as Bedford Park Boulevard and 198th Street, the old-style houses are juxtaposed with walk-ups and modern architectural styles.
This part of the Bronx also boasts some greenery, as it is bordered on the east by The New York Botanical Garden. The Mosholu Parkway Greenway, a green space that divides Mosholu Parkway South and Mosholu Parkway North, is a recreational area for families to gather and enjoy an afternoon. Local playgrounds are also available for kids.
Outside of its boundaries, the Bronx Zoo is just minutes away, as is the Mosholu Golf Course and massive Van Cortland Park.
Bedford Park is bounded on the west by Goulden Avenue/ Lehman College and on the east by Webster Avenue/New York Botanical Garden. It runs north to south from Mosholu Parkway to 194th Street/West Kingsbridge Road.
The area is relatively accessible, with bus and train service shuttling passengers to other parts of the Bronx and Manhattan in less than an hour.
4 train to Bedford Park Boulevard station, Mosholu Parkway station and Kingsbridge Road. Metro-North trains at the Botanical Garden station.
D train to Bedford Park Boulevard and Kingsbridge Road stations; B during designated hours.
The New York Public Library’s Bronx Library Center is a little past Bedford Park’s southern boundary at 310 E. Kingsbridge Rd. 718-579-4244.
USPS, 2549 Jerome Ave. 718-364-8432.
The 52nd Precinct, whose station is at 3016 Webster Ave., covers Bedford Park. Though relatively safe on the whole, the area experienced some violence recently. A 20-year-old man was shot at the corner of Bedford Park Boulevard and Webster Avenue on June 2, according to the local Norwood News newspaper. He is expected to live. So far, for 2013, the precinct has had four murders, according to its NYPD CompStat report. Historically, murders decreased here from 43 in 1993 to six in 2012. There were 545 robberies, 413 burglaries and 630 grand larcenies in 2012.
Bedford Café Restaurant, 1 E. Bedford Park Blvd. At this well-known Bedford Park spot, breakfast is served all day, along with gourmet sandwiches and wraps as well as steak and seafood entrees. It is open 24 hours a day. 718-365-3446.
Com Tam Ninh Kieu, 2641 Jerome Ave. This spot serves up traditional Vietnamese dishes such as bun rieu, a soup loaded with chunks of fish and vermicelli noodles, and pho, the popular Vietnamese street food. 718-365-2680.
Webster Café, 2873 Webster Ave. Located right on the outskirts of The New York Botanical Garden, Webster Café offers convenience for visitors and locals, not to mention inexpensive dining. The unbeatable jumbo burgers are a hit, as well as their anytime omelet choices. 718-733-9634.
Bedford Park isn’t the most popping nighttime spot, but the area has its share of bars and a few restaurants which stay open into the later hours:
Jolly Tinker, 2875 Webster Ave. A favorite haunt for many local college students, it’s known for affordable drink specials (Tinker Tuesdays), karaoke Fridays and pool in the back room. But it’s still worth a visit for postcollegiate would-be patrons, since it is one of the oldest bars in the Bronx. 718-364-8789.
Madden’s Bedford Pub, 27 Bedford Park Blvd. This small watering hole is another late-night spot that offers a friendly community atmosphere. 718-364-9877.
Karina Restaurant and Bar, 2776 Webster Ave. Conveniently located next to The New York Botanical Garden, residents can grab a bite to eat here and drink into the morning on weekends. 718-562-3030.
Bedford Park only offers a handful of stores where residents can shop. However, a short walk just outside its boundaries to the Fordham Shopping Center outdoor mall on Fordham Road, the businesses along Kingsbridge Road or to Jerome Avenue just beyond Moshulu Parkway make up for any lack of retail.
Porta Bella, 3449 Jerome Ave. Steps away from the Mosholu Parkway boundary, this discount store specializes in menswear and offers everything from formal to casual clothing. 718-231-4736.
The Children’s Place, 2511 Grand Concourse. Part of the Fordham Shopping Center, the children’s clothing chain is known for its trendy selection of apparel and accessories for newborns and kids. 718-563-5591.
Easy Pickins, 15 East Fordham Rd. Known for affordable women’s fashions, Easy Pickins offers some of the latest styles for affordable prices. The store also sells shoes and accessories. 718-562-2695.
The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd. Bedford Park is located right beside the 240-acre New York Botanical Garden, which provides a quick, convenient escape for residents of the area. An exhibition on healing plants from around the world is on view until Sept. 18. 718-817-8700.
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. This local cultural center is a prime spot offering affordable fine art performances, from plays to musical acts. The next season starts Aug. 17 with salsa singer Ismael Miranda. 718-960-8833.
Mosholu Playground and Mosholu Parkway Greenway
On the weekend, residents of Bedford Park and nearby areas gather and relax on the green space that divides Mosholu Parkway South and Mosholu Parkway North. The Mosholu Playground, located on the parkway’s southern road between Briggs and Bainbridge avenues, is also a good place for families with children to enjoy the outdoors.
According to the Department of City Planning, Webster Avenue and parts of Bedford Park were approved in 2011 by the City Planning Commission and the New York City Council for rezoning.
The rezoning aimed to allow mid-density housing, promote retail and residential projects on Webster Avenue and preserve the low-density character of the adjacent residential areas in Bedford Park and neighboring Norwood.
The city aims to make Webster Avenue more inviting and walkable with the new residential and commercial developments.
In most of the new residential buildings, commercial development is required for the ground floor.
On a concerning note, PS 51 The Bronx New School in Bedford Park was shuttered in 2011 due to contamination by the toxic chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE.
According to a report issued in July by the state Department of Health, an investigation in 2011 found that TCE levels were 10 times the state’s legal limit.
The report also stated that students and teachers in the building at 3220 Jerome Ave. were placed at an increased but “low” risk of developing cancer and other ailments.
Students and teachers were relocated to another building, but according to the local Norwood News newspaper, parents are still concerned about the long-term effects of the chemical on their children’s health.
Q & A with Michael Prendergast, owner of The Jolly Tinker
Michael Prendergast Jr. owns the Jolly Tinker, a well-known Bedford Park bar that his father, Michael Prendergast Sr., first opened in 1968.
Michael Jr. worked at the bar during his college years and was always primed to take over. The bar’s building had been a speakeasy before Prendergast Sr. opened the Jolly Tinker.
Describe Bedford Park. What have you witnessed in the time you’ve been here?
The vibe is always changing. In the ’70s and ’80s, it was very Irish, and now it’s changed dramatically. It’s a mixed melting pot, and you see it in the bar. We’ve been right here on this strip for 45 years and seen businesses come and go. It’s interesting to live through and see the change of the neighborhood.
What kinds of new developments and changes do you see now around the neighborhood?
There are new apartment buildings being built on Webster Avenue. Recently, a big parking structure was built for the Botanical Gardens across the street from us, so that eases the parking burden of people coming in. Some of the roads have also been repaved and sectioned off for bus lanes, and I see they’re planting trees on the sidewalks. It keeps changing, and I’m not exactly sure where it’ll be in the next few years, but we’ll still be here to talk about it.
Are there any drawbacks to living here?
We are a bit underserved. The post office here closes too early. There’s no place to get fresh vegetables and food, and there’s no banks within walking distance. I would like to see a bookstore and less fast food places. I think it would attract more people.