As we filled the Big Apple Greeter conference room, historian Lloyd Ultan took us to the Bronx through his exuberant words. He grew up and still lives there. He’s been the Bronx Historian since 1996, and the minute he started talking, you could tell the Bronx was the love of his life.
Lloyd had so many interesting and funny anecdotes. For example, did you know the Bronx is the only borough attached to the North America – which means (he said snobbily) “We’re the only true Americans in the city!”
The Bronx is 42 square miles, the same size as Paris and San Francisco. There are 1,400,000 residents who come from every continent, including the penguins at the Bronx Zoo who are from Antarctica.
A little more than 50% of residents are Latino, 30% are black, and the rest are different ethnic groups: Koreans, Italians, Arabs and Israelis (who get along very well), Irish, Albanians, and European Jews, among others.
The Bronx is welcoming to everyone. Lloyd told the story of a congregation of Jews who couldn’t afford the upkeep of their temple anymore, so an imam from a nearby mosque invited them to share his sanctuary.
What is there to see in the Bronx? Lloyd started with The Bronx Zoo, The New York Botanical Gardens and Yankee Stadium.
The Bronx Zoo sits on 265 wooded acres and has more than 6000 exotic animals. It is the largest urban zoo in the world with habitats resembling life in the wild. Only a glass wall separates you from the animals.
The New York Botanical Garden is America’s premiere urban garden. The 250-acre landscape supports over 1,000,000 living plants in 50 different gardens. There are tropical, temperate, and desert flora, a cascade waterfall, and a 50-acre original New York forest.
The current Yankee Stadium opened in 2009. If you take a tour, you can see the locker room, sit in the dugout, or visit the Yankee Museum.
Near Yankee Stadium is Arthur Avenue. The avenue is filled with Italian restaurants offering true pasta – which is soft and made by hand. You can visit Mike’s deli where you’ll see a demonstration of how to make mozzarella.
Then there’s the Grand Concourse, brainchild of Luis A. Riise, a French engineer. In the latter 19th century, he envisioned a grand highway (in the middle of rural countryside) and he modeled it after the Paris Champs Elyse. During the Great Depression, developers built apartment buildings in the Art Deco style. Today the Bronx has the largest collection of Art Deco lobbies in the world.
After such an entertaining presentation, we all felt the same way: mad about the man, Lloyd Ultan.