South Bronx has undergone economic ‘revitalization,’ 20% increase in business activity: report

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli presents his findings on the South Bronx's economic growth on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli presents his findings on the South Bronx’s economic growth over the last decade on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
Photo courtesy Mary Mueller

The South Bronx’s economy has grown faster than the citywide average from 2011 to 2021 despite the area suffering disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday by the state. 

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli attributed the South Bronx’s economic resilience to the community, but also recognized more needs to be done on the affordable housing and job market fronts for the area’s “long-term success.” 

“The South Bronx was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic but was resilient because of dedicated and hardworking neighborhood groups and advocates, and the strength of its residents,” DiNapoli said. 

According to the comptroller’s report, from 2011 to 2021 the South Bronx saw a 20% increase in business activity — higher than the boroughwide increase of 17.9% and the citywide increase of 18%. Relief funding also helped the South Bronx after 40% of the community’s businesses closed by February 2022 as a result to the pandemic.

Yet, the report also states that while the community lost 6,150 of the jobs it had gained the previous decade due to COVID — representing a 7.7% overall drop — the South Bronx added back 4,679 jobs in 2022. Last year the South Bronx area had 78,456 private sector jobs — according to the report — nearly 33% of all jobs in the borough. 

The state comptroller's report released on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 details the South Bronx's economic growth.
The state comptroller’s report released on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 details the South Bronx’s economic growth. Chart courtesy Camille Botello

Bronx pols and officials emphasized the South Bronx’s spirit of resilience after the report’s release. 

“During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, business declined more than 30% at Hunts Point Produce Market, a South Bronx staple,” said Phillip Grant, CEO of the Hunts Point Produce Market. “Despite these initial setbacks, the market proved its resilience and ability to withstand economic shocks.”

State Sen. José Serrano — who represents the South Bronx neighborhoods of Mott Haven and Hunts Point, as well as Highbridge in the New York state’s 29th Senate District — concurred, while pointing out the area’s unique historic challenges. While the South Bronx has been known for decades as an area riddled by hardship — from arson and structural fires that inspired “the Bronx is burning” catchphrase to high crime rates — some neighborhoods in the area are now transitioning — even gentrifying, some say. 

“For decades, the South Bronx has faced economic challenges due to lack of investment along with a host of other causes,” Serrano said. “The South Bronx has shown economic resilience despite the impact of the pandemic, largely due to the efforts of neighborhood groups and advocates, who worked tirelessly to ensure that ongoing investments were directed to initiatives in our community.” 

The report states that while economic activity has undergone “a period of revitalization” between 2011 to 2021, South Bronx residents “continue to face chronic health, economic and environmental challenges.” Some of the projects to that end include the Hunts Point Access Improvement Project, which is meant to improve access between the Hunts Point Peninsula and the Sheridan and Bruckner expressways, as well as ongoing Cross Bronx Expressway re-design studies.

Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes