A tour bus company that offered customers a chance to gawk at ghetto neighborhoods in the South Bronx has stopped the rides after severe backlash from the community. Real Bronx Tours took tourists, mostly European visitors, to the New York City borough to point out public housing projects, food pantries and “pick-pocketing parks” from a “safe distance,” Pix 11 reports.
“To have foreigners come and gawk at a long line of people who are less fortunate than they are and to make money off of that and to view them as they are some sort of entertainment is pretty disgusting,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. told the New York Post.
Last week, a reporter for the Post took the $45 tour, which is described as a way to reflect on the Bronx’s rough history in the 1970’s and ‘80s, when the area was “notorious for drugs, gangs, crime and murders."
The tour guide, Lynn Battaglia, mocked the Grand Concourse, a major thoroughfare, to a couple from Paris. “Do you feel like we’re on the Champs-Elysées?” she asked them.
When she brought the tour to St. Mary’s Park, she warned tourists that the park is dangerous.
“I might not encourage you to walk with a New Yorker, not because you’re going to get shot, just because sometimes people take advantage if they know you’re a tourist, either charge you too much or maybe someone would pick your pocket,” she said.
Borough residents heard about the tour and took to Twitter to express their rage and collected signatures to stop the tour. On Monday, Diaz and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito sent an open letter to the company owner, Michael Myers, demanding the tour be stopped, CBS New York reports.
“We strongly urge you to stop profiting off of a tour that misrepresents the Bronx as a haven for poverty and crime, while mocking everything from our landmarks to the less fortunate members of our community who are availing themselves of food assistance programs.”
A TripAdvisor review for Real Bronx Tours describes the activity as “borough of diverse ethnic groups and neighborhoods, cultural institutions and surprising natural beauty.”
Al Quinones, caretaker of a community park, points to the Bronx’s revival since the days when buildings were intentionally burned by landlords to collect insurance money.
"We've had enough of the gawkers who come to ghettoize us," Quinones told AP. “Their timing was bad. The Bronx is not burning, not now! Now, it's resurgence."