Radio talk-show personality and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa has been taking out-of-towners on a guided tour of the southern parts of the borough, pointing out trouble spots in a borough on the rise.
Many in the Bronx business community said the sights Sliwa has been showcasing to a worldwide clientele are only reinforcing negative Bronx stereotypes.
HUB/Third Avenue Business Improvement District executive director Vinny Valentino said the tour doesn’t stress all of the positives that have occurred in the Bronx since Sliwa began his group of red-bereted Guardian Angels in 1979. The mission of the Guardian Angels it is to eliminate violence through citizen involvement in crime deterrence.
“Sliwa is taking people on tours of the south Bronx and pointing out chop shops, murals to drug dealers, and calling the number Four subway line the ‘mugger’s express,” Valentino said. “From what I understand, he said that there are improvements, but he also said that there are still young people ‘lurking around waiting for their next victims.’”
Valentino, a retired New York City Police detective, said that he felt the tours Sliwa was conducting were giving a bad name to the borough, which has made tremendous leaps forward over the last decade.
“He is perpetuating stereotypes of the 1970s and 80s which are no longer accurate,” Valentino said. “After all we have done to work to change the image of the Bronx, having a radio personality come in here and do this is discouraging.”
Valentino pointed to all the HUB/Third Avenue Business Improvement District’s accomplishments, including the installation of surveillance cameras in the shopping area, improved sanitation, as well as the replacement and improvement of most storefronts..
Even in areas that did not see widespread arson and abandonment during the 1970s and 80s, there were concerns that Sliwa’s tours are focusing on negatives, many from the distant past.
“Our area never became run down,” said Larry Prospect, executive director of the White Plains Road Business Improvement District.
However, Prospect added in reference to the tour: “The image of the Bronx overall affects us all.”
Sliwa was unavailable for comment at press time.