The farther you walk from White Plains Road in Wakefield, the greener and more suburban its streets become, as this view of Carpenter Avenue indicates.
THE elevated subway line that clatters northward through the Bronx on White Plains Road comes to an unceremonious stop, just before the city line, at 241st Street. After the hulking metal tracks end, there is nothing overhead but sky. Two more blocks up, at 243rd Street, the street signs change from green to blue, and Westchester County begins.
Living in Wakefield, the BronxWakefield, the Bronx neighborhood around the 241st Street stop and one of the northernmost places in the city, shares more than a little suburban character with its neighbor across the border. Residential streets are green, and the physical and psychological distance from Manhattan is marked. Single-family houses predominate; many have driveways and homey touches like wind chimes and flower beds.
It is details like these that have drawn families from denser parts of the city for decades and still do. Debbie Brown, a nurse who grew up in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, recalled spending summers with family in Wakefield as a child. “It was almost like a little vacation for me,” she said.
Now in her 40s, with a 13-year-old son, Ms. Brown recently bought a house on Murdock Avenue, four blocks from the city line. Many of her neighbors are part of the area’s large and well-established West Indian community, like herself, Ms. Brown said, and many have been living in the area for decades. Census data indicate that of the 68,000 people in the 10466 ZIP code, which roughly corresponds with Wakefield, about 72 percent are black, 12 percent white and 20 percent Hispanic of any race.
Nearby, on Seton Avenue, Awilda Ruiz, a public administration student, and her husband, a police officer, are busy renovating a house where they plan to live with their young son and daughter. They now live in Mott Haven, in the South Bronx, and Ms. Ruiz said they had been seeking a safer, more residential neighborhood with good schools. Wakefield fit the bill, and was within the family’s budget: In March, they paid a little over $350,000 for their three-bedroom house.
Nareema Baksh, the broker who sold Ms. Brown and Ms. Ruiz their houses, describes a multicultural mix of people who value a family-friendly ambience.
“You have a lot of career people in this area,” she said. “A lot of nurses — people that are working. Also, I think the area has been well maintained over the years — not a lot of foreclosure. It’s a sense of pride in owning a home.”
The Rev. Richard Gorman, a Catholic priest who is chairman of Community Board 12, which represents the area, described Wakefield as a stable neighborhood with good churches, populated largely by the “homeowning class.”
Though crime has been a concern, especially near the elevated tracks on White Plains Road, he said community and police efforts to stabilize that part of the neighborhood had paid off. As in most of the city, statistics in the 47th Precinct, which covers Wakefield, show a steady decline in most crime over the last two decades.
The area’s charms, Father Gorman said, far outweigh its problems.
“Many of the tree-lined streets,” he said, “people would say: ‘That’s really the Bronx?’ Indeed it is. It’s a very pastoral, peaceful part of the Bronx.”
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
The hilly northern part of this 1.5-square-mile neighborhood, and the streets west of White Plains Road, on a slope that leads down toward the Bronx River Parkway, are a mix of wood-frame two- and three-story houses, attached brick houses, and small apartment buildings. The area’s leafiest section is east of White Plains Road and south of Nereid Avenue, on a grid of streets tilted 45 degrees on the map from the rest of the neighborhood.
There are places to eat and small businesses on 233rd Street, but the main commercial strip is White Plains Road, a bustling stretch of Caribbean restaurants, pizza places and discount stores under the elevated tracks. Business there has struggled in recent years, Father Gorman said, in part because of competition from big-box retail development nearby in Westchester.
The community board, he said, has been working with civic groups and government agencies to improve the retail corridor. The police have increased patrols; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is painting and refurbishing train stations; and the board has secured city money for new street lamps. In the future, Father Gorman said, there are plans to plant trees and work with the Department of Transportation on improving traffic flow.
An important step, he said, will be persuading the disparate businesses on the strip to work together. There is an emerging merchants’ group, he said, but “the message we’ve got to get out there is that when you help each other, you help yourself. Making a better business district makes a better business.”
Father Gorman said residents were also concerned about several proposed facilities for the homeless and other people with special needs. One, on White Plains Road, would contain about 60 units of housing for homeless people; another, on Bronx Boulevard, would have 100 units of transitional housing.
Father Gorman said the board wanted more say in the process for locating such facilities, and “more equality and fairness” in the way that they are distributed around the city.
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
Latrisha Asante, an agent at Coldwell Banker, said the recession had not hit the area as hard as some others, though there had been a “little handful” of foreclosures, slightly more to the south.
Ms. Baksh, the owner of Nareema Baksh Real Estate, says one- and two-family houses predominate. For the former, she said, buyers can expect to pay around $350,000, depending on size and condition.
Data provided by Dorothy Namdar, a broker at Better Homes and Gardens Rand Real Estate, did show listings and recent sales in the mid-$300,000s, but there was wide variation, with some houses listed at $250,000 or below and some above $400,000.
Ms. Namdar’s data showed many two-family houses either listed or recently sold for $450,000 to $550,000. An average two-family house, Ms. Baksh said, might sell for $525,000 to $550,000. Brick houses tend to fetch higher prices than wood-frame ones, she said, because of a general preference for them among Caribbean people.
There are few rental units in Wakefield, though apartment buildings do exist, especially along the busier roads, and it is possible to rent all or part of a detached house. In general, one-bedrooms rent for just under $1,000 a month, two-bedrooms for around $1,200. A recent check of Craigslist revealed several three-bedroom house rentals for $1,500 to $2,000.
WHAT TO DO
Just to the east of the neighborhood is Seton Falls Park, a 35-acre former wetland that has walking trails, an artificial waterfall and a playground. The park has had drainage problems, and in the 1970s and ’80s it was used as a dumping ground by car thieves. In recent years there have been public and private restoration efforts — including a $905,000 city improvement bid.
There are five public elementary schools. To the west, at Public School 16, 70.6 percent met standards last year in English, 88.3 percent in math. At Public School 103, percentages were 56.3 in English and 80.8 in math.
To the east, at Public School 68, 69.1 percent were proficient in English, 86.8 percent in math. At Public School 87, percentages were 71.7 in English and 84.7 in math.
To the south, at Public School 21, 59.2 percent were proficient in English, 75.9 percent in math.
For middle school there is No. 142, to the east, where 46.4 percent demonstrated proficiency in English, 55.9 percent in math. To the west, at the Globe School for Environmental Research, 56.4 percent were proficient in English, 59.7 percent in math.
There are no public high schools, though the all-boys’ Mount St. Michael Academy, on Murdock Avenue — one of several area parochial schools — has more than 1,000 in Grades 6 through 12.
The No. 2 train runs on the elevated tracks along White Plains Road, stopping at 225th Street, 233rd Street, Nereid Avenue and 241st Street. (The 5 also runs, intermittently only.) Local service through the Bronx is slow; the trip to Midtown takes about an hour. To the west, the Metro-North Harlem Line runs along the Bronx River Parkway. The Woodlawn and Wakefield stops are at 233rd and 241st Streets, about 25 minutes from Grand Central Terminal. Bus lines also serve the area.
The Encyclopedia of New York City says Wakefield, named for the estate where George Washington was born, was annexed to New York in 1895. It grew in the 1920s when Interborough Rapid Transit built the elevated tracks. Irish, Italian and African-American families bought houses after World War II; people from the Caribbean, mostly Jamaica, began arriving in the 1980s.
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