A Bronx Tale: Tour Offers ‘Ghetto’ Tour Of The South Bronx, Outrages Residents

May 23, 2013  |  

It seems like a comedy sketch from Saturday Night Live — tourists getting a tour of a New York City “ghetto.” But it is reality. Or at least it was until outraged residents and politicians put an end to it.

A company called Real Bronx Tour promised to take tourists on a “hood tour” of the South Bronx where they can see a real-life ghetto. In fact, the tour ran three times a week and attracted mostly Europeans and Australians. The $45-tour, reports The New York Post, included  stops at food pantry lines and a “pickpocket” park.

The tour painted a desolate, dangerous picture of the Bronx as a place where crime and poverty are the only things to be found. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor and former Secretary of State Colin Powell are from the area. According to The Post, on a recent tour, guide Lynn Battaglia, from Pittsburgh, said of St. Mary’s Park, “I might 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.”

The tour outraged Bronx residents—and they took action. According to the Associated Press, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito sent an open letter to the company owner, Michael Myers, saying they were “sickened by the despicable way” the borough was being portrayed to outsiders.

“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,” they said in the letter.

The action and attention seems to have worked. The tours have stopped, though there’s no word whether it’s permanent.

While Real Bronx Tours is painting a negative picture of the Bronx, other tours highlight the growth and continued development of the borough. As the AP points out, NYC & Company, the city’s tourism bureau, recently launched a campaign, billing the  Bronx as “one of our safest, most exciting boroughs.” In the MadameNoire offices, there was also anger, not only about how callous the tours are, but that when faced with people in need of food, tourists were snapping photos instead of trying to help. Shameful.

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