A Peek at Gun Hill Road

Map of Gun Hill Road Station, Google Maps


Unfortunately for Bronx residents like myself, when the name “Gun Hill Road” comes up, it is usually with moderately negative connotations. This is due to the notoriously high crime rate that the Bronx has in comparison to the other boroughs in New York City. This results in Gun Hill Road being brought up in discussions of dangerous areas in the city, alongside with many other locations in the Bronx. However, this should not represent what Gun Hill Road really is; when I look around the area surrounding this station, I see a community of hardworking African, Caribbean, and Latin-American immigrants that work together and foster a welcoming environment for people with similar backgrounds, interests, and values. This is reflected in the variety of signs and advertisements that adorn the borough, and that paint a picture of the diversity and cultural pride that New York City was built off of. The images below are pictures of a wide variety of advertisements taken from East 213th to East 210th Street on White Plains Road, and they are great examples of how the local community works to create comfortable conditions and communicate with each other.

Aiding Immigrants

Walking around the block you’ll find advertisements for services that are targeted towards African and Latin-American immigrants, ones that help send money back to their home country (Figures 1 and 2). Uncoincidentally, these happen to be near a Western Union establishment, which also deals in money transfers to other countries. Some of these advertisements are in English, but some are also in other languages, particularly the languages spoken by the surrounding community of immigrants and from the countries they originated from. Primarily, the language is Spanish, but that doesn’t come as a surprise considering that more than half of the Bronx population is made up by Hispanics; they are working to make their current living area more comfortable and accommodating, but simultaneously showing love and support for the places where they or their families originate from. While companies like Viamericas (Figure 1) offer services to many countries and can transfer money to America as well, they’ve demonstrated that they see assisting migrants as a priority. Even more mainstream advertisements for brands such as T-Mobile are in Spanish (Figure 3), which once again help non-English speakers from the local area get access to products that are constantly advertised to English speakers in America. This sense of care and mindfulness of people other than English speakers goes a long way, and is worthy of appreciation.

The Hispanic Community

Along with these commercial products being promoted in other languages, there are also advertisements that are posted up by the local community (Figures 4, 5, 6, and 7)– these can range from promotions for local Churches or nearby apartments for rent. A common theme for many of these advertisements is that they are predominantly only in one language, that being Spanish. The difference between these advertisements and the mainstream ones pushed by brands is that the brands have them translated to reach a wider variety of customers, but the ones posted up by individuals are only in Spanish because the advertiser likely doesn’t speak English at all. What this entails is that some of these advertisements are made for Spanish speakers, by Spanish speakers. They aren’t targeted towards people who speak English, despite the fact that the language most spoken in New York City, which shows that the priority of these advertisements is to help maintain a comfortable ecosystem for non-English speakers in the Bronx. The ecosystem thrives because of minorities sticking together and creating spaces where they can conduct business and operate spaces with each other through the only language they can communicate in, or at least the language that reaches the group of people they are interested in interacting with. There’s also something to be said about the content of some of them, such as the advertisement promoting the church (Figure 6)– this advertisement can express a local unison in faith, specifically Christian faith. What this demonstrates is that the surrounding community is largely curated to be made up of people who speak similar languages, have similar religious beliefs, and similar needs. However, even if it doesn’t completely represent the local beliefs, the fact that they are allowed to be posted up and used conveys that the community is tolerant of it, at the very least.

Local Pride

Figure 8, Sign For a Barbershop Called “Uptown & Fresh

Some signs are meant to attract local patrons regardless of language and race– such as this barbershop sign that says “Uptown & Fresh” (Figure 8), but while there is no language or racial barrier (apart from the fact that you do need to speak English to understand that it is a barbershop), there is a culture barrier. The name itself calls out to people who are more from the Bronx, and who may use slang such as “fresh” to describe themselves. It creates a welcoming environment for people from the local area, like me, to get a reliable haircut because they know that they’re getting their services from other people who share the same culture as themselves. The logo being a 2 train, like the ones that stop at the station nearby, only help elevate that feel of local pride and comfort. All these features combine create an establishment that somebody who may not be from New York, or even just the Bronx for that matter, may not feel familiar with and may not visit. However, this environment caters to people who are familiar with the local culture and area, making it a much more welcoming place to get haircuts for them. This demonstrates the strength of the local pride in Gun Hill Road, and how it’s woven into the small-businesses.

Mindful Graffiti

There are also a lot of graffiti tags around on various objects and surfaces, which aren’t particularly meant to be large murals or artworks, but function more as flags that indicate that people were here. The placement of these tags is key, as you can notice that despite a few outliers, a majority of the tags attempt to avoid the key things that they are surrounding in order to leave the view unobstructed. On the local clothing bin, for example, are two signs that help motivate people to donate their clothes to less fortunate people (Figure 9). These signs are on the center of the bin, and judging by some of the scratches, have been there for a decently long time.  Despite this, the taggers largely avoid the signs when using their graffiti, which indicates that while they are tagging out of self-interest and fun, they don’t want to hurt the community or damage any materials that could help those who need it. This is a similar case in the photo of the black door with the ‘NOTICE’ sign on it; despite the amount of tags on the door, they still tend to avoid the sign on the center which is meant to provide information to people who walk by it. Naturally, some people are bound to get in the way, but thankfully it appears that not many other people tend to follow suit. It operates as an unwritten rule, of sorts, which makes the community feel more connected and understanding of each other. While murals are more often seen as the indicators of a tight community with shared beliefs, the structure of these tags also subliminally serve the same purpose.


I hope this small glimpse of my area in the Bronx makes people understand that there are flowers blooming out of the asphalt. These advertisements may be purely for business purposes and product placements, but they reflect an overlooked cultural pride and dignity that resonates across the borough. The variety of languages, formats, and locations shed light on how the differences of the demographics here don’t affect the innate drive to participate in the community. Despite the fact that there are many people who don’t come from here or have vastly different cultures and languages, everyone is just trying to lead happy and safe lives, and preserve their heritage in the place they call home.