Although Belmont is not a very large neighborhood, it is very rich historically and culturally. It is home to some large and important institutions to the City of New York, mainly Fordham University, and the Bronx Park (where the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Gardens are located). The Belmont Arthur Avenue Local Development Corporation, the Belmont Italian-American Playhouse, and the Arthur Avenue Retail Market are some of the other many institutions that serve this community.
Fordham University is located northward of Arthur Avenue. Established in 1841 it is “an independent university in the Jesuit tradition”. There are 14,544 students enrolled in the university. 7,950 of these are undergraduates, and about half of them live in University housing. This makes the university very important for the businesses in the Belmont, since many students are customers at stores in the area (as can be seen by signs on restaurant windows giving discount to Fordham students).
The Bronx Park is located to the east of Arthur Avenue and has an area of 718 acres. The original land for the park was acquired in 1888. Fordham University owned some land adjacent to the park and sold it to the City of New York with the purpose of becoming a zoo and a garden. The Bronx Zoo opened in November 8, 1899. It is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, having an area of 265 acres. As of 2010, the Bronx Zoo had more than 4,000 animals of 650, including species from all over the world. The 250 acres of land for the New York Botanical Garden was set aside in 1891. Today the Garden has more than 1 million plants and is a worldwide reference in terms of botanical research.
The Belmont Arthur Avenue Local Development Corporation (BAALDC) was founded in 1981 in cooperation with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Its main goal is to prevent the deterioration of buildings in the Belmont community. The BAALDC has also worked to improve the appearance of the neighborhood, including the façade of business.
The Arthur Avenue Retail Market is one of the most known places in Belmont. Created in 1940 by Mayor LaGuardia, the market put together in an indoor space a variety of food shops that were already present in the area. One of the most important businesses within the market is Mike’s Deli.
One of the cultural institutions in the area is the Belmont Italian American Playhouse. Founded by Dante Albertie and Marco Greco, it is located above a grocery on Arthur Avenue and has received a lot of support (including from actor Robert De Niro). According to the founders, the purpose of creating the playhouse was “helping young Italian-Americans discover more about their heritage”.
In addition to these institutions, Belmont also includes the Bronx Dance Theater, the Enrico Fermi library and Center for the study of Italian-American culture, St. Barnabas Hospital, as well as many dozens of Italian restaurants and businesses – some over a century old.