THE BRONX — A Manhattan writer recently found out what happens to those who mess with the Bronx.
Columnist and attorney Deyan Ranko Brashich wrote an opinion piece last week for a newspaper in Connecticut, where he used to live, that combined a gushing review of a New York Botanical Garden exhibit with disparaging descriptions of parts of The Bronx.
Brashich, 71, began his review of “Monet’s Garden” at the Botanical Garden by referring to The Bronx as a “frayed at the edges, frantic teeming ethnic slice of New York.”
He went on to evoke “graffiti scared public housing,” “bleak warehouses” and Arthur Avenue, regarded as Bronx’s Little Italy, as being in “Sicilian Vespers death throes” brought on by "hard eyed" Albania immigrants, whom he calls “America’s newest version of the Mafia.”
The response in the borough was scathing and swift, spreading rapidly from the blogosphere to the office of the borough president.
“These are disgusting, false descriptions, and serve no purpose other than to denigrate the amazing community myself and 1.4 million others call home,” wrote Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a letter to the editor of The Litchfield County Times, the newspaper in northwest Connecticut that ran the column.
Diaz also called Brashich’s piece “libelous” and “unforgivable,” and demanded “a retraction of this garbage.”
“This is something you come across a lot,” he said. “People trashing The Bronx and using outdated stereotypes, with no mention of the great stuff that is going on right now.”
García Conde and others pointed out some factual errors in the writing as well — most egregiously, the title, “Monet on the Hudson, a Bronx Tale.” The Monet Exhibit sits along the Bronx River.
Dozens of commenters piled up on the author on the Litchfield County Times website, charging “ignorance,” “arrogance” and even “racism,” and listing some of The Bronx attractions the author neglected — its many parks, its numerous colleges and universities, the diversity of its residents and the new investment that has begun to stream into the borough.
Even the president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, Marlene Cintron, weighed in.
“There are businesses that are scrambling to come into The Bronx,” she wrote. “All in all, over 1 billion dollars are being spent by private investors in just ten projects that I can cite off the top of my head.”
After the newspaper ran Diaz’s letter to the editor on its website this week, it posted Brashich’s response.
After explaining that he grew up in Flushing, Queens, Brashich noted that he has spent many hours in The Bronx, at Yankee Stadium, Van Cortlandt Park and Arthur Avenue.
“I revel in the Bronx in all of its incarnations good, bad and ugly,” he wrote. “You gots to call a spade a spade, but I love the Bronx, warts and all, and always will.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Brashich said he was caught off-guard by the fierce reaction to his piece, but added, “I do not apologize for it.”
He said he was born in the former Yugoslavia, moved to Flushing as a child, then became a defense attorney, arguing many cases in the Bronx Criminal Court. After buying a house in Washington, Conn., in 1980, he split his time between there and New York, until recently, when he sold his Connecticut property.
Brashich explained that he had tried to write a “mood piece,” and that he had strived to “balance the beauty along with the lack of beauty in parts of The Bronx.”
And, he added, “I ain’t got no fact checkers.”