The Nicest Place in New York: Harding Park in the Bronx

NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2019 FINALIST
"Bronx's Best-Kept Secret"

Crimes of compassion are nothing new in this melting pot, where everyone gets along, no matter what part of the world they came from.

Three years ago, when Lydia Clark-Sumpter moved to Harding Park, a blue-collar neighborhood of 236 tidy homes on the East River in New York City’s Bronx borough, there was a big smiley-face balloon tied to her front gate, and no clue as to who left it.

She didn’t know it at the time, but Clark-Sumpter, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital, was the victim of a crime of compassion. She would soon find out that there were kindness vigilantes on the loose in her new neighborhood, a diverse enclave, where 22 flags representing the nationalities of the people who live there fly outside the homeowners association.

That winter, after a bad storm, Clark-Sumpter opened her door, ready to dig herself out, only to find that someone had already saved her the trouble.

“Not only did they shovel, but they came in the gate and all the way up to the front door,” she says. Later that year, she returned from work to find a bag of fresh-picked tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants on her patio.

Clark-Sumpter wasn’t the only victim. Retired NYPD detective Elbin Mena, who has lived in Harding Park for 35 years, also found his walk mysteriously shoveled that winter. He knew to expect such things and was prepared. He has motion-sensor cameras, and when he reviewed the video footage, he was able to identify—and thank—his neighbor.

On that same block, garbage cans are mysteriously hauled back up driveways on garbage day. José Gonzalez, president of the Harding Park Homeowners Association, knows who is responsible: It’s Mena who is sparing his neighbors that little pain. (Until now, Gonzalez had kept Mena’s secret.)

As for the welcoming neighbor who tied a balloon to Clark-Sumpter’s front gate? The perpetrator is still on the loose. When you live in Harding Park, you have to get used to that kind of thing. That’s just life in a high-crimes-of-compassion neighborhood.

—The Editors

The Nomination

This area of the Bronx is peaceful, quiet, friendly with a water view of the Manhattan skyline and most New Yorkers have no idea it exists.

harding park NY nicest placeCourtesy Lydia Clark-Sumpter
Believe it or not, there’s fishing in New York City!

Harding Park is a waterfront neighborhood in the Bronx that turns 100 years old next year. The homes were all built in the 1920s and are all cottages, bungalows and ranch style homes. No home looks like another. The neighbors are friendly and like the quiet and privacy this neighborhood offers. The river views and sunsets are awesome! One of my neighbors, last summer had a bag of vegetables from her garden left in front of my door when I got home from work. One winter, someone shoveled the outside of my house to my front door. I still have no idea who it was. Harding Park is beautiful.

 

This nomination came through ourpartnership with Nextdoor, the world’s largest social network for neighborhoods.