A Bronx neighborhood known for its simple acts of kindness received recognition as one of the ‘Nicest Places in America’ by Reader’s Digest, the fourth largest magazine in the country.
Harding Park, a blue-collar neighborhood of cottages and bungalows located on the East River in the Bronx, is no longer a ‘best kept secret’ after earning a spot on the coveted 2019 list, a national crowd-sourced effort to uncover communitiess where people are kind and treat each other with respect.
After receiving more than 1,000 submissions of stories from places across America, Reader’s Digest selected one place in each state—after conducting fact-checks, making phone calls and writing a narrative explaining their selection—that exemplifies kindness and civility in a time of American divisiveness.
“Our goal is ultimately to bring Americans together,” said Jeremy Greenfield, senior editor of Reader’s Digest. “Our goal is for more people to look at their neighbors, family, friends and strangers, and say ‘I want you to be a part of what we’re about, to be kind and realize that we’re all on the same boat.’”
Representing a melting pot of nationalities, Harding Park is one of those places, where the neighbors take care of each other, and are sometimes secretive in their acts of kindness, according to Greenfield.
When Lydia Clark-Sumpter moved from Manhattan to her ranch-style home in Harding Park on April 2016, a smiley face balloon, tied to her front gate, greeted her, she says.
“I still don’t know who left it there,” said Clark-Sumpter, who submitted her story about Harding Park to Reader’s Digest. “About 13 neighbors introduced themselves to me when I moved in. There are neighbors who volunteer to watch the house for you when you’re away on vacation.”
Upon hearing the news of the New York City Soundview ferry service coming to Clason Point Park, Clark-Sumpter, who works as a pediatric nurse practitioner and oncology nurse at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s in Manhattan, said she started searching for homes nearby and discovered Harding Park.
“I may have read every single internet article about it,” Clark-Sumpter said. “It’s like a hidden area—you can’t find it unless you’re lost, I say. It’s really a neighborhood behind a neighborhood...you can’t see it from the main street unless you walk further down (towards) the water.”
Every Fourth of July, Clark-Sumpter hosts a BBQ party with neighborhood friends and family.
Living a block away from the river, Clark-Sumpter and her two children also enjoy fishing and kayaking. They even take along an empty black garbage bag to clean up the area sometimes, she said.
After learning Reader’s Digest had selected the community as one of the nicest places in America, Clark-Sumpter was ecstatic.
It was so amazing because just think of every single county, city within the state of New York for them to pick Harding Park. I felt it was well deserved because the neighbors are so awesome,” Clark-Sumpter said. “The whole neighborhood has a history (that) other people in the Bronx may not know about it.
“Reader’s Digest was very great in keeping us up to date about the process of the contest.”
Clark-Sumpter plans to celebrate Harding Park’s 100th birthday next year with a summer BBQ and neighborhood friends.
“I’m excited to celebrate the birthday of my house that was built in the 1920s,” Clark-Sumpter said.