Picture this. You are a parent walking down the street with your child, maybe you’re on your way to buy ice cream, maybe you’re just on the way to your neighborhood park. A tour bus pulls up to the curb and you hear the amplified voice of a tour guide talking about how bad your neighborhood is, she cites crime stats, and says your neighborhood park is nicknamed “Pickpocket Park”.
This is actually happening in New York City. For $45 per person, Real Bronx Tours squires tourists through the Bronx while pointing out soup kitchen lines and telling their clients never to walk through St. Mary’s Park unless they are escorted by a New Yorker. Highlights of the tour include Yankee Stadium and Edgar Allen Poe’s home, but you can be assured that if they drive by the Bronxdale Housing project they wouldn’t say, “This is where United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor lived until she left for Princeton University”. We’re pretty sure that if they drove through Fox Street, they wouldn’t have pointed out where Colin Powell grew up. And of course the tour would not drive past the home where John F. Kennedy lived because the Riverdale section has never been considered “ghetto” and this degrading tour appears to have one sole focus, to show the “haves” where the “have-nots” live.
“Ghetto Tours” are not a new phenomena and can be found in many countries. The Favela Tour in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most famous. Tourists are taken through the favelas where they can get a glimpse of the “real” Brazil and can actually stay in a host home. In the Dominican Republic, tourists get to visit a “typical” home and walk through the family’s living room. While advocates of these tours would argue that the tourists are pouring money into the neighborhoods, common sense would dictate that the voyeuristic nature of the tour would make most people uncomfortable.
The Bronx tour is not the first of its kind in the states, three years ago a “Gangland Tour” debuted in Los Angeles where for $65 you can be escorted by former gang members through graffiti marked streets. Of course, that tour was run by a non-profit agency who was actually trying to make a difference in the community, not making fun of the area, as the Bronx tour has been accused of doing.
The company has removed the tour from its website, but that is no guarantee that the tour no longer exists. If you want to help eliminate this tour, you may sign the petition on the Change.org website.
If you are a tourist and want to see the Bronx in all its true glory, take a ride on the Bronx Cultural Trolley. Don’t pay some troll who doesn’t know squat.
Signed, Someone who grew up in The Bronx