Report: The South Bronx Posts Impressive Economic Growth Despite Pandemic Challenges

Public-private investment kept mom-and-pop stores open, provided safe and quality housing for residents, and decreased historic poverty levels — and boosted jobs and businesses by 25% and 20%, respectively.

South Bronx saw a boost in jobs and businesses, led by the health care and social assistance sectors.
South Bronx saw a boost in jobs and businesses, led by the health care and social assistance sectors.

ALBANY—The COVID-19 pandemic hit the South Bronx especially hard, but the area’s economy has shown resiliency, according to a report released recently by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“The South Bronx was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic but was resilient because of dedicated and hardworking neighborhood groups and advocates, and the strength of its residents,” said DiNapoli. “Still, the need for more affordable housing, jobs and quality of life improvements remain pivotal to the community’s long-term success.”

Despite the impact of the pandemic, jobs and businesses grew faster in the South Bronx than the rest of the borough and city. This was due in part to community-led investments through the pandemic, stemming from the city’s public-private partnerships to develop commercial, housing and cultural projects. From 2011 to 2022, the South Bronx saw a 25% and 20% increase in jobs and businesses, respectively, led by the health care and social assistance sector. While the area lost 7.7% (6,150) of jobs gained the decade prior due to COVID, the South Bronx added 4,679 jobs in 2022, while new businesses saw an uptick. Federal pandemic assistance helped many South Bronx businesses stay afloat, and in 2022, the area had 78,476 private sector jobs, which accounted for almost one-third of jobs boroughwide.

“The Comptroller`s report highlights exactly what we know to be true—that the Bronx is resilient and that our residents and small businesses are creating the blueprint for promoting economic growth and prosperity in our city,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “Despite the South Bronx being one of the neighborhoods in our borough hardest hit by COVID-19, we are seeing this community rebound as a result of public-private investment that has helped to keep our mom-and-pop stores open, provide safe and quality housing for our residents, and decrease historic poverty levels that for years have prevented Bronxites from achieving the American dream. The data from this report is promising and is a beacon of hope for our borough. But for us in the Bronx, this is the floor and not the ceiling. In partnership with our Bronx Economic Development Corporation, colleagues in government, nonprofits, and private partners, we will continue to fight for economic justice and equity in our borough.”

“In the face of the COVID-19 storm, the South Bronx stood resilient, fortified by the dedication of neighborhood groups and advocates, like the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, specifically the Small Business Resource Network Program, and the unwavering strength of its residents,” said Lisa Sorin, President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “Amidst the challenges, the community's growth, both in jobs and businesses, became a testament to the power of collective efforts and strategic investments, showcasing the transformative impact of public-private partnerships and community-driven initiatives. As we celebrate their success, it is vital that we continue to invest in programs that help them grow and thrive.”

“During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, business declined more than 30% at Hunts Point Produce Market, a South Bronx staple,” said Phillip Grant, CEO of the Hunts Point Produce Market. “Despite these initial setbacks, the market proved its resilience and ability to withstand economic shocks." He added, "As an essential business, we remained open and fully staffed during the worst of the pandemic, providing the New York region with an uninterrupted supply of fresh fruit and vegetables amid global shortages. Of the market’s 2,000 workers, 65% were Bronx-based. The market is proud to serve as one of the borough’s economic engines and looks forward to supporting its dynamic growth, particularly once our $650 million total renovation is completed.”

The South Bronx also saw the median household income rise 30.9%, poverty decline 3.4%, and more people move to the area from 2011 to 2021. According to most economic indicators, the area’s economy has proven more resilient than the borough as a whole following the worst waves of COVID. Still the South Bronx has a higher overall poverty rate (36.3%), a lower median household income ($32,381) and fewer adults who graduate from college (14%) when compared to the borough and city. The pandemic further shined light on systemic health, socioeconomic, and environmental disparities in the area.

Looking ahead, DiNapoli pointed out that more needs to be done to address the community’s concerns on crime, affordable housing, physical and mental health care, and quality of life. DiNapoli encourages continued engagement by elected officials to drive investment in the development and revitalization of the South Bronx, warning its economic recovery could otherwise stall.

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