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Saturday, February 03, 2007

NYT on North Riverdale

NYT on the demographic shift in the NYC neighborhood of North Riverdale:
On the east side of the street, North Riverdale seems as solidly Irish Catholic as it has for generations.

At Mary-Anne’s Irish Gift Shop, displays include Waterford crystal figurines, child-size kilts and journals embossed with Celtic knots. At the Riverdale Steak House next door, posters promote a live televised viewing of the Dublin-versus-Tyrone soccer match. Up the block, students trot through the corridors at St. Margaret of Cortona School, which still occupies part of a 1911 stone building and recalls a time when the area was simply known as St. Margaret Parish.

But on the other side of Riverdale Avenue, there are unmistakable signs of change. It is a story echoed often in the city: the quiet rustle in an entrenched neighborhood when a newer community arrives.

In North Riverdale, the turning point is often traced to the opening of a shiny, seven-story Orthodox Jewish academy called SAR High School in 2003. Since then, nearly every eating establishment at the Skyview shopping mall next to the school, including a delicatessen, a pizzeria and a sushi restaurant, has become strictly kosher. Last year, Noah’s Kosher Supermarket opened in a vacant corner of the mall, stocked with cheese from England and delicacies from Israel. In December, a kosher Dunkin’ Donuts arrived.

Rabbi Nachman Cohen of Young Israel Ohab Zedek, North Riverdale’s only Orthodox synagogue, said he had seen an upsurge in membership in the last 18 months, which he attributed to the influx of kosher restaurants.

“That’s a sign of vibrancy, when you see kosher establishments opening up,” Rabbi Cohen said. “It’s a major impetus.”

Although the rest of Riverdale has long had a sizable Orthodox population, the influx of Orthodox Jews in North Riverdale is new. In the eyes of some old-timers, the shift represents both the natural flux of a neighborhood and a stark change.

Mary-Anne Connaughton, the owner of the Irish gift store, has seen a growing number of Jewish customers eager to buy her Nicholas Mosse pottery from Kilkenny and wool sweaters from Donegal.

In 2003, Danny Kordova, who has owned the Skyview Delicatessen for 25 years, upgraded his restaurant to glatt kosher, the highest level of kosher stringency. The change required that he buy new dishes and more expensive meat, and pay for daily rabbinical supervision. But business has increased since he made the change, he said, with the deli both retaining its regulars and attracting new customers.

“You don’t have to be Jewish to eat a glatt kosher frankfurter,” Mr. Kordova said as he rang up a customer’s half-pound of smoked turkey.

In some quarters, however, the changes haven’t mattered as much. One such location is the Riverdale Greentree restaurant, where a row of gray-haired men were quietly drinking beer at the bar on a recent afternoon.

“There’s a new demographic, so to speak,” said Danny Green, a retired firefighter keeping an eye on a televised horse race at the bar. “The community wasn’t appraised of what was going on, but basically, it’s live and let live.”

As he was speaking, the high school was just letting out, and suddenly the street was filled with teenage boys wearing knitted yarmulkes atop their floppy hair.
Neighborhoods change. It's been happening since time immemorial (and the grumbling it can elicit from members of the demographic getting outnumbered has likely been going on since time immemorial as well). The demographics of a neighborhood can shift in what seems to be a very short time frame. We've seen it here in the Five Towns, where there has been a large influx of Orthodox residents, trending to a more right-wing bent. Many times, both here in the Five Towns and in North Riverdale, the borders of an existing Orthodox neighborhood naturally expand due to increased demand for real estate but a lack of supply. Sometimes a demographic seems to abandon a community almost en masse as they begin to feel outnumbered.

Any front-line reports from other neighborhoods that have seen a recent similar demographic shift?

18 Comments:

Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"“The community wasn’t appraised of what was going on, but basically, it’s live and let live.”"

Seems like a very nice article. I'm glad to hear there are no evident conforntations, unlike other communities. Maybe certain people are better equiped with the skills necessary to not piss off their new neighbors.

The lone whiner irked about not being 'appraised' is a riot. I guess he expected a personal update on the shifting demographics.

11:22 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...


The lone whiner irked about not being 'appraised' is a riot. I guess he expected a personal update on the shifting demographics.


I also thought it was too funny. My first thought was, "I guess he didn't get the memo".

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Sam said...

Cities are constantly evolving. Look at what happened to "The Flats" in Cleveland, N. Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Downtown Beacon NY, The West side of Ave M in Brooklyn, it's not just an orthodox thing!

1:01 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

O.M.G. Who can even BELIEVE what happened on East 3rd street between Ave. M and Ave. N. What a change!!

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enough with the us v. them mentality; Danny Green hardly struck me as an irked whiner. He seemed to say that changes happens, sometimes loudly and profoundly (such as when 5,000 "rabbinical students / dayanim-in-training" land with a loud thump in the middle of Rockland County), and sometimes in a more gradual way. "Live and let live?" he said? We need more Danny Greens.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

R U going to ruin Riverdale as well?

7:06 PM  
Blogger Scraps said...

Washington Heights has been undergoing a transformation for the past several years as well. Though there was always YU on Amsterdam and Breuer's on Bennett Ave., the community was still in decline for a long time. Now there's a large (and still growing) young singles community, largely but not limited to YU/Stern grads, which has changed the neighborhood demographics both in terms of the Jew/non-Jew ratio, but also in terms of the MO/black-hat ratio. It's not as drastic as someplace like North Riverdale (oh if only someone would open up a restaurant on the Breuer's side of the Heights!), but it's definitely a change.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I know is that Passaic is getting more and more black-hat and it scares me.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orthomom - you betray yourself with this post-
Your "live and let live" line supposedly uttered from the lips of Irishman "Danny Green" has been posted before- in your December 2006 post. Please come up with something better than this sterotypical line and the ridiculous name if you want to be taken seriously- A true writer doesn't have to fabricate to make a point-

1:49 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

Orthomom - you betray yourself with this post-
Your "live and let live" line supposedly uttered from the lips of Irishman "Danny Green" has been posted before- in your December 2006 post. Please come up with something better than this sterotypical line and the ridiculous name if you want to be taken seriously- A true writer doesn't have to fabricate to make a point-

1:49 AM


Um, you do know that the section of the post you are disputing as "fabricated" is an article taken directly from the New York Times. If I'm understanding you correctly, you feel it's a fabricated name and quote -why don't you take it up with the NY Times.

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orthomom-
I really enjoy reading your blog but what I really want to say is I don't think it really matters if the public knows your name because your public reaches beyond the five towns community- most people wouldn't know who you were even if your name went public- So keep blooging about what is really important!

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