Hip Coffee Houses Reflect a Changing Borough

A+new+coffeehouse+in+the+South+Bronx+has+led+many+to+start+talking+about+the+effects+of+such+examples+of+gentrification.+%28Michael+Dobuski%2FThe+Fordham+Ram%29
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Hip Coffee Houses Reflect a Changing Borough

A new coffeehouse in the South Bronx has led many to start talking about the effects of such examples of gentrification. (Michael Dobuski/The Fordham Ram)

A new coffeehouse in the South Bronx has led many to start talking about the effects of such examples of gentrification. (Michael Dobuski/The Fordham Ram)

A new coffeehouse in the South Bronx has led many to start talking about the effects of such examples of gentrification. (Michael Dobuski/The Fordham Ram)

A new coffeehouse in the South Bronx has led many to start talking about the effects of such examples of gentrification. (Michael Dobuski/The Fordham Ram)

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By Michael Dobuski 

A new coffeehouse in the South Bronx has led many to start talking about the effects of such examples of gentrification. (Michael Dobuski/The Fordham Ram)

A new coffeehouse in the South Bronx has led many to start talking about the effects of such examples of gentrification. (Michael Dobuski/The Fordham Ram)

Mott Haven, like many other neighborhoods in the South Bronx, has been the center of a major real estate development boom over the past few years. A new popular coffee h. Filtered Coffee, located on the corner of Third Avenue and East 134th Street, celebrated its grand opening in early AprilThe new shop is owned by Karen Paul and Aaron Baird, who run three other coffee shops, including another Filtered Coffee location in Harlem.

Filtered Coffee joins a number of other recent projects in the South Bronx supported by two popular developers in the South Bronx, Somerset Partners and the Chetrit Group. Moves to develop real estate in the Bronx into places such as Filtered Coffee, a business that seems more at home in SoHo or Williamsburg, have only continued to fuel discussion on gentrification in the borough, which is an issue that impacts both Fordham students and other Bronx residents.

The former commercial building that became Filtered Coffee was transformed into a modern venue for music, poetry readings and, of course, sipping coffee by Barcelona-based architect Alonso Balaguer. The interior of the space is filled with tasteful wooden tables and a grey tile floor in addition to comfortable couches and armchairs. A chalkboard behind the countertop displays the store’s beverage options, and a large skylight and several large windows keep the seating area airy and well-lit.

Somerset Partners head Keith Rubenstein was roundly criticized for his co-hosting of the “Macabre Suite,” a Bronx-themed party held at the end of October to drum up support for the Piano District project. The event, which was attended by celebrities such as Adrian Brody and Kendall Jenner, took place in a former piano factory. Many interpreted the party as an exploitation of the Bronx’s struggle with housing and crime in the 1970s and 1980s.

In contrast, Filtered Coffee’s Bronx location debuted to more fanfare. “It is definitely a great place to relax and enjoy a beverage. I’m looking forward to coming back,” said a local Bronx resident and Filtered Coffee customer. Future plans for the coffee shop are to offer free WiFi to customers and host poetry readings and live music events.

“My biggest concern with this new shop is the exclusivity and displacement it might create,” said Serena Robert, GSB ’16. Robert, who works as a barista at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters in Midtown Manhattan, said, “I can only hope that this shop fosters a friendly and artistic environment and seeks to represent the power that coffee has to connect communities and people together, rather than becoming a force for gentrification.”

Filtered Coffee is supported by two of the most prominent developers in the South Bronx: Somerset Partners and the Chetrit Group, who made headlines in several New York newspapers like the Daily News late last year following their 58 million dollar purchase of two waterfront properties in Port Morris. The project promises to offer 2,000 luxury waterfront apartments in addition to “world class dining, fashion, art and architecture,” according to a billboard that the developers erected in the South Bronx, which also dubbed the area “The Piano District.”

Filtered Coffee joins other new, youth-oriented establishments in the South Bronx such as the Mott Haven Bar & Grille and Charlie’s Bar & Kitchen, the latter of which is located on the ground floor of the Clock Tower, a piano factory-turned apartment complex that offers lofts for $2,500 per month. Another coffee shop, Birch Coffee, is expected to compete with Filtered Coffee at their location in Hunt’s Point when they open later this month, following a postponement of their original grand opening date of April 19.