Fordham: The Bronx’s Burden


Last week, The Fordham Ram published a video highlighting various student opinions regarding university students’ impact on the Bronx community. Students expressed nuanced positive and negative views. On the positive side, students said the university has aided the Belmont community economically by supporting local businesses. On the negative, students noted the nuisance that student nightlife can become. 

While it is fair to say that the economic boost that Fordham students have given to local businesses is substantial, the same boost has also had largely negative effects on locals who are not small business owners. All you need to do, for example, is compare the cost of living in Belmont, the neighborhood south of Rose Hill and where students live off campus, to the average household income of local Bronx residents. 

An economic analysis by the New York Times showed that as of 2017 the average Fordham student comes from a household whose median income is about $151,000. Compare this to the median household income in Belmont, Crotona Park East and Tremont: $29,158.

When Fordham students begin moving off campus and renting apartments in the Belmont neighborhood, their wealth advantage creates an economic disparity between local real estate companies and Bronx residents. Real estate companies will raise their prices on apartments and housing units to accommodate the wealthier class of students, creating an environment in which economically disadvantaged locals can no longer afford rent in their neighborhoods. This is the basic rule of gentrification. 

Well-intentioned finance advisors will often talk about the 30% rule — monthly rent should cost just 30% of the renter’s average monthly income. According to the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, as of 2019, only 27% of rental units in Belmont and East Tremont fit within the 30% for local residents. Residents are much more likely to obtain an apartment if they are willing to allocate 80% of their monthly income to rent (not including other factors of living like utilities, groceries or transportation). The same demographic analysis showed that low-income and severely rent-burdened households make up 43% of households in the neighborhood. 

Affordable housing is nearly impossible to find in the area, with the most expensive housing just blocks away from Fordham’s campus (where a two-bedroom apartment below $1,600 is functionally nonexistent). While apartments tend to get cheaper farther away from campus, the price decrease is negligible. 

This is not a stagnant or declining trend. If anything, this trend is on the rise and shows no sign of stopping. 

It’s important to note that, for the most part, this gentrification seems to be mostly focused around Belmont and residential areas. Commercial zones, like Fordham Road, benefit from the economic injection brought forward by students who can afford to spend more. However, this also has a negative consequence for locals. Business owners will respond to the adapting neighborhood and raise their prices to an affordability accessible to Fordham students, but not so much to locals. This process works much the same way as it does for housing.

In a space undergoing gentrification, one of the basic living needs — housing — is treated no differently than coffee. 

Beyond the negative economic impact on locals, student life off campus can also be incredibly disruptive to the neighborhood and its residents. Every Friday night, swarms of students roam the streets searching for parties. For working-class residents who have to wake up early for morning shifts on Saturday or Sunday mornings, having Fordham students loudly and obnoxiously partying until 2 a.m. directly outside their apartments is disturbing. 

The morning after, empty cans, vomit and general trash generated by the previous nights’ misadventures dirty the neighborhood’s streets. 

All in all, student life encroaching on local streets ultimately does more harm than good. It’s crucial to remember that if we want to do better and keep the peace around us, the best we can do is have respect for our neighborhood and those who live in it.