In 1940, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company opened a planned community in the East Bronx, New York. A model of what the neighborhood would become was first displayed to an excited public at the 1939 World’s Fair. Parkchester was celebrated as a “city within a city,” offering many of the attractions and comforts of suburbia, but without the transportation issues that plagued commuters who trekked into New York City every day. This new neighborhood initially constituted a desirable alternative to inner city neighborhoods for white ethnic groups with the means to leave their Depression-era homes. In this bucolic environment within Gotham, the Irish and Italian Catholics, white Protestants and Jews lived together rather harmoniously. In Parkchester, Jeffrey S. Gurock explains how and why a “get along” spirit prevailed in Parkchester and marked a turning point in ethnic relations in the city.
Gurock is also attuned to, and documents fully, the egregious side to the neighborhood’s early history. Until the late 1960s, Parkchester was off-limits to African Americans and Latinos. He is also sensitive to the processes of integration that took place once the community was opened to all and explains why transition was made without significant turmoil and violence that marked integration in other parts of the city.
As a child of Parkchester himself, Gurock couples his critical expertise as a leading scholar of New York City’s history with an insider’s insight in producing a thoughtful, nuanced understanding of ethnic and race relations in the city.
Jeffrey S. Gurock is the Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. He is the author or editor of twenty-one books and over 100 scholarly articles and reviews. A leader among American Jewish historians, he served for 20 years as an editor of American Jewish History, the leading journal in the field and was twice the chair of the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research and the New York Academy of History.
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