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American Planning Association bestows award as part of National Planning Month

Arthur Avenue selected as one of ‘America’s Greatest Streets’

(l-r) Philip Marino, Belmont BID director; Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.; Peter Madonia, Belmont BID chairman and owner of Madonia Brothers Bakery; Iris Weinshall, New York Public Library chief operating officer; Senator Gustavo Rivera; Courtenay Mercer, APA board of directors; James Rausse, president of New York chapter of American Planning Association and Councilman Ritchie Torres with a plaque celebrating Arthur Avenue as a storied street in the United States.
Bronx Times
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Arthur Avenue has been immortalized as one of ‘America’s Greatest Streets.’

The American Planning Association selected the heart of Belmont’s Little Italy as one of the five 2016 ‘greatest American streets’.

The designation is part of the urban planning organization’s Great Places of America program, which has recognized 260 communities, public spaces and streets around the United States since 2007.

This is the first borough location to be recognized.

Elected officials and business owners gathered at the Belmont Public Library to celebrate on Tuesday, October 4.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said that while the borough was honored by the designation, and called it a “tremendous recognition for Arthur Avenue,” it is a confirmation of what Bronxites already believed.

“It is important for us to have the rest of the nation know that great things are happening in the Bronx,” said Diaz, adding “We already knew how great this neighborhood is, but now the rest of the country knows that the best place to be is right here in the Bronx, right here on Arthur Avenue.”

This year there were submissions from 36 states, said APA board member Courtenay Mercer, adding that Arthur Avenue has now been recognized along with Fifth Avenue, Broadway and Central Park.”

The APA celebrated half a mile of Arthur Avenue from East 187th Street to beyond St. Barnabas Hospital as a “exceptiona­lly rich streetscape lined with restaurants, grocery stores and shops promoting Italian heritage.”

The organization took note of the well-maintained streets and sidewalks supporting a constant flux of residents and visitors, the fact that all buildings are mixed use with residences above and shops below and of the tourists from nearby cultural institutions.

The APA also took notice of the street being in walking distance from a bus interchange and train station at Fordham Plaza and of the areas many street fairs.

The borough president said that he envisions expanding the tourist area on Arthur Avenue to Fordham Road, and attracting a world-class hotel so that more tourists can visit.

During the celebration, Councilman Ritchie Torres said that although many neighborhoods are changing rapidly, Arthur Avenue has maintained its essential character.

“I have the gratification of representing one of the great streets in the country,” said Torres, adding “There is no neighborhood in New York City that has a higher concentration of family-owned businesses dating back decades, if not centuries.”

Senator Gustavo Rivera said that many of the merchants in Belmont have had their businesses for generations, and that demographic changes have brought in Mexicans and Albanians, adding to the community’s diversity.

Belmont Business Improvement District chairman and owner of Madonia Brother’s Bakery, Peter Madonia said, “Generations of Italian families, and those that support this community, have helped ensure that Arthur Avenue remains vibrant, authentic and true to its deep cultural roots,” adding “We hope the gracious recognition we received today will inspire many more and future generations to come find out what makes Arthur Avenue.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Posted 12:00 am, October 8, 2016
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