Bronx Acclaim: Sexy? Sure. But Deserving?
This weekend, the Bronx will honor its accomplished sons and daughters by including them on the borough’s Walk of Fame. For the ages, their names will be etched onto yellow signs affixed to lampposts lining the southern stretch of the Grand Concourse.
Among this year’s five honorees are the hip-hop titans Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers and the Rock Steady Crew. Also included is someone known for a different kind of hip movement, Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, the sex therapist. But as The Village Voice pointed out this week, Dr. Ruth has never lived in the Bronx. She has lived in Washington Heights — across the river in Manhattan -– for decades.
Could this be some nefarious plot?
“Maybe they thought that Washington Heights was annexed by the Bronx,” she said in a phone interview today. “My Washington Heights is where I have lived, in the same apartment for the last 43 years overlooking the Hudson. They call it Hudson Heights now. But it will not be annexed!”
(Truth be told, these days it looks more like Washington Heights is annexing the West Bronx as more and more Dominican immigrants priced out of the Heights end up in High Bridge. But that’s another story.)
Actually, Dr. Ruth — who could forget her visit to Condomania (note video’s content) with Arsenio Hall back in 1994? — has become the first “Honorary Bronxite” chosen for contributions to the life of the borough, according to Anne Fenton, communications director for Bronx borough president, Adolfo Carrión Jr. The letter informing her of this honor referred to her “meaningful roots in the community.”
Detailed information on this year’s Walk of Famers has been elusive. The inductees’ link on the newly-redesigned Web site for the Bronx Tourism Council only says “Coming Soon” — a statement of fact regarding this weekend’s ceremonies, but not very useful for learning about the honorees. Nor is there much on Mr. Carrión’s own Web site.
The borough president’s decision was mocked in some quarters — a cartoon in The Riverdale Review suggested making Brooklyn’s Marty Markowitz the “Honorary Bronx Borough President.” But Dr. Ruth betrays more than a bit of pride in her connections to the borough.
Her daughter, Miriam, was born in the Bronx and is the president of the board of trustees at the Riverdale Y. Her son, Joel, went to Horace Mann in Riverdale. Dr. Ruth said that she belongs to a conservative synagogue in Riverdale. While studying for her doctorate, she trained paraprofessionals in the Bronx for Planned Parenthood.
“I was a super trainer,” said Dr. Ruth, who turned 80 this month. “They all got better jobs because they were all well trained.”
She taught psychology at Lehman College in the northwest Bronx from 1970 to 1976. The city’s fiscal crisis resulted in cuts that eliminated her job, leaving her in tears. But the end of one career set her off on another.
“I say thank you for kicking me out of Lehman,” she said. “What happened to me would not have happened if I had not been kicked out.”
Many of her friends live in Riverdale, and she spends a lot of time visiting them, she said. She is also in love with Wave Hill. Given her enthusiasm for the borough, the honor does not seem so surprising. The bigger surprise might be for New Yorkers who live in the rest of the city:
Riverdale is in the Bronx.