Belmont is Gentrifying … Fast

White people ruin yet another area

By Suresh Hanubal

The Fordham and Belmont communities have had a long, tenuous relationship with each other, to say the least. As we know, Fordham University has a student body that is predominantly both white and from upper-class backgrounds. In contrast, Belmont is incredibly ethnically diverse and one of the poorest in New York City. Specifically, 31% of Belmont residents fall below the poverty line. This compares to a Bronx average of 25% and a New York City average of 20%. Additionally, the average income in Bronx Community Board 6, which Belmont is located in, is a measly $25,972. To put that number in perspective, the average income in Bergen County, New Jersey, where many Fordham students originally hail from, is about $85,000. The unemployment rate in Belmont is much higher than the national average. As of the last count, it was about 16%. This is more than 5 times the national average!

Obviously, when two communities of such disparate demographic and socioeconomic profiles interact with each other, there is bound to be at least some measure of hostility in interactions between the two. This can be seen in the way that Fordham students talk about the Bronx; describing it as scary, as sketchy, even as a sh*thole, and always with a sense of apprehension. On the side of Belmont residents, there is also a level of distrust. Many Belmont residents see Fordham as elitist and unwelcoming. One commuter student mentioned that, “when I was growing up I thought it [Fordham] was a prison.” These divisions between the communities run deep and have been only further exacerbated by the recent trend of gentrification in the community.

Wikipedia, an incredibly reliable source, notes that rent burden, or the percentage of community residents that have difficulty paying rent, is at 60% in Belmont. This is 20-25% higher than the overall New York City average and is indicative of a neighborhood experiencing gentrification. Specifically, when looking at data from the Urban Displacement Project, it is discernible that the only New York City neighborhood that has a higher percentage of residents experiencing rent burden is Washington Heights in Manhattan. This trend of gentrification is noticeable when walking around the Belmont neighborhood as well. New developments, such as Artu’ Viale, which was built in the mid-2010s, are changing the face of the neighborhood. Rents there, even for 400 square feet studios, start at the exorbitant price of $2,600 per month. In a community in which the average household income is among the lowest in the city, state and country, these prices are simply incredibly unaffordable for many. And these new developments, such as Artu’ Viale or Belmont Student Housing (we’re looking at you, bros hill), aren’t the only things that are driving up rents in the community to insane levels.

From 2010 to 2020, average rent price for a typical unit in Belmont rose from around $1,200 to $1,950. This rate is exponentially greater than the increase (or stagnation) of the median household income in the community, which was only about 5% in relative terms over the same period. This large increase in price has vastly outpaced the increase in income over the last decade, leading to a situation wherein longtime residents see themselves being priced out of their homes in the near future. Fordham students are only here for eight semesters (unless they’re really not doing well), but the various (Dominican, Carribean, Italian, Albanian, etc.) communities that make up the bulk of the long-standing and long-term residents of the community have made their homes and lives here. If current trends continue, they will be forced to move.

With this being said, Belmont does not need to continue to gentrify. The people that have made this their home for generations don’t need to move to some far-flung exurb in New Jersey (Yuck!) to find housing units they can afford. Belmont does not have to become the next Bushwick or Washington Heights. There are ways in which we, as Fordham students, can stop this madness and make sure our surrounding community remains affordable while keeping the overall quality of life high and the sense of community strong.

As an article on website Everyday Feminism asserts, we can fight gentrification by doing the following: demanding affordable housing through pressure campaigns on elected officials, avoiding and not renting units in “luxury” housing such as Artu’ Viale and, most importantly, engaging with your neighbors. So let’s do the above, and keep the character and demographic profile of our community intact.

3 thoughts

  1. Suresh, I am somewhat confused by your article and by all means correct me if I’m wrong. Are you implying that the owners of Artu’ Viale and others who generously provide housing for the students of Fordham University are the “white people ruining yet another neighborhood”? If that is indeed your implication, let me enlighten you on a few things. I am a white Italian-American woman, born and raised in the Belmont Community by a single, loving, caring mother who immigrated from Italy back in 1954. We lived in that “shithole” as you called it until I married 27 years ago. Shortly after I left I moved my mother and grandmother to live closer to me in a nearby Bronx community. I could only wish my children grew up in such a wonderful place, surrounded by love, loyalty, and VALUES. The people in this wonderful place took care of each other. My reasons for moving may come as a surprise to you, as are the reasons for most that left the place be affectionately call the neighborhood. As a young girl, I could only dream of an education at Fordham University, as did most of my friends. We simply did not have the means. We did, however, witness in our neighborhood the Fordham students that were given this opportunity, most handed to them on a silver platter! I lived on Arthur Avenue, right off of Fordham Road. These “white people” (Fordham Students) from way out of town often peed on our property in the middle of the night. They left broken beer bottles and smashed beer cans, for my mom and grandma to clean up the next day. They were loud and disrespectful in a neighborhood that did not belong to them, they were/are visitors, and should have behaved as such. THIS IS WHY THE PEOPLE OF BELMONT LEFT, NOT BECAUSE OF THE RENT INCREASE! So SURESH, when you are wondering why there is “some measure of hostility” by the residents of Belmont, please don’t think it has anything to do with demographics, it’s simply that the residents of this remarkable neighborhood, poverty and all expect their visitors to care for their property and love it the way they do. Did you ever think that the reason for the high rents of $2,600 per month (as you say) for the students might be because they trash the apartments? Many of those spoiled rich kids were never taught to value other people’s property. I believe you should have perhaps interviewed some more people before publishing this. The true residents of Belmont continue to work hard to keep the standards of our neighborhood as authentic as is was, my hope is that the Fordham students will one day do the same. I walk those streets as often as I could, there is nothing “scary” about it. The residents would come to the aid of anyone being harmed, that will always be the “neighborhood” way! I am a proud Bronx mother of three college students, two attended Fordham Prep and Fordham University. My husband and I work our asses off to provide them that opportunity, they are grateful, I hope you are too. One more thing, I know many senior people still living in the Belmont Community, They stay because they simply can not leave, their rent is controlled and others live in Section 8 awarded apartments. They just ask that the visitors be respectful of their homes. I understand this is a freedom of speech article, I too have been awarded that right under the Constitution, but the difference between you and me is that I lived it.

    1. Susie,

      Thank you so much for your valuable insight on the Belmont area. As someone who is not from the Belmont area, I obviously do not have as clear of a grasp on the history and particularities of the neighborhood. However, with that being said, I believe that if you take a closer look at my piece, that much of what is stated therein agrees with many of the points you make in your comment. Further, I do want to reiterate that the data included in this article is accurate, and that rent increases do in fact result in the flight of long term residents from neighborhoods, including Belmont. Here is a link that supports my argument: . Let me know if I can further clarify anything mentioned in this article.


      Suresh Hanubal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s