PORT MORRIS, The Bronx (PIX11) -- To find the highest wages in New York City, look no further than Manhattan. But everybody knows that. What they may not know is that apart from the borough that's home to world's highest number of billionaires, the highest wages are in The Bronx. It's a key element in economic development that's underway in the city's northernmost borough in a significant way.
In an unscientific sampling of passersby on the Grand Concourse, nobody guessed that, after Manhattan, The Bronx had the highest average wages of any borough.
"That's a great thing," said Bronx resident Dawn Basnight, who pointed out that the wage figures show that people in the Bronx are hard at work. "That makes me feel good," she said.
The wage numbers were pointed out by one of the country's economic leaders. At a speech in The Bronx during Bronx Week, which ended on Sunday, the president of the New York Federal Reserve pointed out that Manhattan leads the five boroughs (and indeed, most of the country) in average wages, at $102,000 per year. After it, however, is The Bronx, averaging $47,000 per year. While that's obviously less than half of Manhattan wages, but it's a thousand dollars more than Queens ($46,000), and several thousand more than Staten Island ($42,000) and Brooklyn ($40,000).
"That was not a surprise to us," said Marlene Cintron, the director of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. It's a key unit of Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.'s wide ranging blueprint for outside investment in the borough.
"We have known we've been on an uptick for five years," Cintron said in an interview with PIX11 News. "Everyone [else is] just discovering that now."
She pointed out that having the second highest wages in the city, according to New York State Department of Labor, is the result of a variety of Bronx economic engines, including the medical sector -- The Bronx has the largest number of hospitals in the city. It also has city's main seafood and produce terminals in Hunts Point, filled with mostly well-paying, union jobs.
Also, nobody can count out the borough's greatest landmark from the economic picture. Figuring in to the overall average wages of The Bronx is what workers, vendors, front office executives and players on the New York Yankees pull in.
And now, because of rezoning, there is already significant development planned and paid for in The Bronx, particularly along its Port Morris and Mott Haven waterfront. It raised some concerns among some residents PIX11 spoke with, including Rob Torres.
"I'm kind of partial to small business," Torres said, voicing concern that business development in the borough in recent years has favored big box stores, such as the Target and Best Buy at the Bronx Terminal Market along the Harlem River. "Small business is the backbone of capitalism," Torres told PIX11 News.
However, the extensive new waterfront development for which investors have already spent more than $20 million buying up properties slated for high rise residential construction, is planned to have small shops, restaurants and boutiques on the street level of the new buildings.
Another concern, as development gets underway, is gentrification. "You're always going to have people with financial needs," said Bronx resident Socrates Ferman. "Hopefully, the government can come up with something that can help those people" as development continues in his home borough, he said.
The economic development chief said that there was no need to worry, especially noting some other Bronx statistics. "We have the largest number of public housing," said Cintron. She also said that the borough has the highest number of homeless shelters as well.
"We are number one in many good ways," she told PIX11 News. "We're also number one in ways that are challenging."
She said that, because of those factors, people below the poverty line will still be present, and part of Bronx economic development.
Evidence of that comes in one other statistic. The Bronx had been number one in New York State for unemployment, until three weeks ago. With nine percent unemployment currently, the city's northernmost borough is now ranked second statewide.