Fordham Road and Grand Concourse Intersection Renamed “Big Pun Plaza”


The East Fordham Road and Grand Concourse intersection is renamed “Big Pun Plaza” in honor of the late rapper. (Courtesy of Chris Capuano/The Fordham Ram)

One of the greatest rappers to ever grace a microphone was honored Monday with a renaming of the Fordham Road and Grand Concourse intersection in the Bronx.

The intersection, one of the borough’s liveliest, will now be known as Big Pun Plaza after a ceremony attended by family, friends and fans of the late rapper.

The dedication was originally scheduled for February, but a series of snowstorms in New York delayed the plaza’s inauguration. On Monday, however, there was no snow in sight.

“It’s a beautiful day, and it’s only right,” said DJ Doo Wop, who provided the plaza with a mix of ’90s and early-aughts hip-hop anthems (many of which were Pun’s own) throughout the sunny afternoon.

Big Pun, born Christopher Lee Rios, rose to prominence in the late ’90s after meeting fellow Puerto Rican rapper Fat Joe, sparking buzz in the underground with features on a couple of Joe’s tracks. In 1997, he released his acclaimed, Grammy-nominated debut album “Capital Punishment,” which became the first album by a solo Latino hip-hop artist to go platinum. His storied and tragically shortened career (he passed due to cardiac arrest in 2000 at the age of 28) would later see him become a founding member of hip-hop collective Terror Squad and gain widespread appreciation as one of the greatest lyricists of all time.

“This is long overdue,” said Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. “This is long overdue for [Big Pun’s wife] Liza and the family, this is long overdue for Pun, this is long overdue for the BX, this is long overdue for hip-hop.” He explained how important Pun was for the Puerto Rican community and joked about the everlasting complexity of the rhymes he wrote. “To this day, I still gotta view the lyrics on YouTube to follow them.”

Pun did not originally hail from the Fordham neighborhood – he grew up in the South Bronx. But the designation of what NYC council member Fernando Cabrera called “the most famous and important intersection in the entire Bronx” is proof of the impact he left on the entire borough and beyond.

“With Big Pun, Latinos had an artist who represented the synergy of Blacks and Latinos as reflected in the streets of the Bronx,” said Riggs Morales, a record executive and former music editor of The Source magazine. He ran through the long list of accolades Big Pun received, both during his lifetime and after his death, before launching into a rendition of one of Pun’s (and rap music’s) most famous couplets:

“Dead in the middle of Little Italy, little did we —” Morales tripped over his words. “Can anybody help me out here?”

Pun’s son Chris Rios, who also raps under the alias Chris Rivers, stepped up to the podium.

“Dead in the middle of Little Italy, little did we know / That we riddled two middlemen who didn’t do diddly!” The crowd cheered. 

“I set that up,” Morales grinned. He went on to call the dedication “one of the proudest days in hip-hop history.”

It was fitting, then, that the ceremony was attended by some of Pun’s closest collaborators, from Grandmaster Caz to Cuban Link. But none of the artists in attendance shone brighter than Pun’s wife Liza Rios, whose radiant yellow outfit was a constant reminder that the afternoon was one for celebration, not mourning.

“This is a moment we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Rios said. “I want to thank the fans… because of you, he lives on. This is forever.”

Pun’s song “100%,” the second single released from his posthumous album “Yeeeah Baby,” played over the plaza while the street sign was prepared for the unveiling.

As the sign preserving Pun’s legacy in green and white was revealed to applause and cheers, a Puerto Rican flag flew over the crowd, and Pun’s voice echoed through the speakers.

“F— around my town, Boogie Down my city!”

The full ceremony can be viewed on Facebook courtesy of News 12 Bronx.