In 1642, Anthony Van Corlaer died while attempting to swim across the Hudson from nearby Spuyten Duyvil. A witness to Van Corlaer's death stated that "the devil" in the shape of a giant fish swam up and proceeded to "seize the sturdy Anthony by the leg and drag him beneath the waves." This may be the earliest recorded shark attack in the New World. In the late 17th century, Frederick Philipse, the lord of Philipse Manor in Westchester County, received permission to construct a bridge across Spuyten Duyvil Creek and charge tolls. "King's Bridge", which was located roughly south of and parallel to where West 230th Street lies today, opened in 1693.
Early in its residential development, Riverdale was a 19th-century estate district where many of Manhattan's moguls built their country estates; for example, in northern Riverdale, what is now Fieldston was part of the estate of Major Joseph Delafield, who purchased 250 acres (100 ha) in 1829, and named it after his family's estate in England. At the turn of the century, the new popularity of railroad commute enabled wealthy businessmen to make Riverdale their year-round residence. Fieldston, owned by a private association, is a particularly intact example of a turn-of-the century upper class suburb. The Hudson Hill neighborhood retains many of its historic mansions. Riverdale's elite private schools and historic churches also reflect this past. Development of the neighborhood began in the latter half of the 19th century once the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad came through. The tracks originally crossed Spuyten Duyvil Creek and into Manhattan on the west side, but Cornelius Vanderbilt wanted to consolidate his railroad operations into one terminal. He had tracks laid along the north side of the Harlem River so that trains coming south from Albany could join with the Harlem and New Haven lines and come into Manhattan down the Park Avenue main line, along modern-day Park Avenue, into his new Grand Central Depot. This is the route still used by the Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line.
The Delafield family laid out lots in Fieldston in 1909 – the year after the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line (present-day 1 train) was extended to Van Cortlandt Park–242nd Street, intending to develop the land, which at first was called "Delafield Woods". Rather than use a grid plan, civil engineer Albert E. Wheeler, following the suggestions made by Frederick Law Olmsted and James R. Croes in 1876, designed a street plan which followed the contours of the land and preserved as much of the wooded areas as possible. The first house was begun in 1910 and finished in 1911; by the beginning of the 21st century, Fieldston, a privately owned community, was one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City. Leland Weintraub, the commissioner who moved for the district's creation, noted that "most of the features commonly associated with the American romantic suburb of the mid-19th century", including "a picturesque site, landscaping and architecture; connection to the city by accessible transportation and a layout adapted to the topography" are present in the area.
In 1928, Genevieve Ludlow Griscom, who was a member of a small religious group called the Outer Court of the Order of the Living Christ, built a 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) mansion at 360 West 253rd Street – also addressed as 5200 Longview Place – for the express purpose of housing Jesus Christ when the Second Coming occurred. After being derelict for a number of years under successive owners, the mansion was bought in 1987 by entrepreneur Jerry Galuten, who renovated it into an even more opulent 17 room home. After being on- and off-the market for eight years, with an asking price as high as $15 million, the house sold in January 2017 for $6.25 million.
As the 20th century progressed, upscale apartment buildings and smaller houses were added to the neighborhood. To this day, Riverdale continues to maintain its character as an affluent enclave in the city of New York. The rich history of Riverdale has led to the creation of the Riverdale Historic District.
Central Riverdale (the "downtown" area of Riverdale – from Manhattan College Parkway to West 232nd Street and from the Henry Hudson Parkway to Riverdale Avenue and Waldo Avenue)
Fieldston (Riverdale south of West 250th Street, east of the Henry Hudson Parkway, north of Manhattan College Parkway, and west of Tibbett Avenue)
Hudson Hill (Riverdale above West 246th Street and west of Henry Hudson Parkway)
North Riverdale (Riverdale above West 254th Street and west of Fieldston Road)
Mosholu (Riverdale East of Fieldston Road and above West 254th Street, includes Spencer Ave, Huxley Rd, Post Rd, and Broadway)
Spuyten Duyvil / South Riverdale (the southernmost section of Riverdale, below West 232nd Street or West 239th Street by some definitions. Also included is the business, commercial and shopping district located at West 231`Street and Broadway)
Villanova Heights (a sub-division bounded by Fieldston Road on the east, 250th Street on the south, and the Henry Hudson Parkway on the west and north)
Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Riverdale was 27,860, a change of -153 (-0.5%) from the 28,013 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 1,139.68 acres (461.21 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 24.4 inhabitants per acre (15,600/sq mi; 6,000/km2).
The entirety of Community District 8, which comprises Riverdale, Fieldston, and Kingsbridge, had 102,927 inhabitants as of NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile, with an average life expectancy of 80.9 years.:2, 20 This is about the same as the median life expectancy of 81.2 for all New York City neighborhoods.:53 (PDF p. 84) Most inhabitants are youth and middle-aged adults: 20% are between the ages of between 0–17, 28% between 25–44, and 25% between 45–64. The ratio of college-aged and elderly residents was lower, at 9% and 18% respectively.:2
As of 2017, the median household income in Community District 8 was $53,986. In 2018, an estimated 15% of Riverdale residents lived in poverty, compared to 25% in all of the Bronx and 20% in all of New York City. One in eleven residents (9%) were unemployed, compared to 13% in the Bronx and 9% in New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 52% in Riverdale, compared to the boroughwide and citywide rates of 58% and 51% respectively. Based on this calculation, as of 2018[update], Riverdale is considered high-income relative to the rest of the city and not gentrifying.:7
Riverdale is home to the modernist landmark Saul Victor house, designed by Ferdinand Gottlieb in 1967. Other famous mansions in the Hudson Hill neighborhood include: Greyston (1864), Alderbrook (1880), Stonehurst (1861) and Oaklawn (1863). Since 2005, Central Riverdale has experienced a building boom with the addition of many mid- and high-rise condominium buildings. With a median residence value of $579,196 as of 2013, Riverdale is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City and is considered one of the most sought-after residential neighborhoods.
Before the wider development of Riverdale, housing consisted of large, architecturally distinguished mansions built in the early 20th century, mostly in Georgian- and Tudor-revival styles, which recall scenes of "rural Connecticut" rather than the city. These are mostly concentrated in the Fieldston section of Riverdale, known as the estate area. In addition, more affordable pre-war buildings and smaller houses are scattered throughout Riverdale. The 1950s saw the construction of many low-rise (six-story) brick buildings. By the early to mid-1960s, a number of larger brick towers (10–20 stories) started popping up. Many of these full-service buildings featuring doormen were designed by architect Philip Birnbaum, who designed over 300 buildings in the city, including Skyview, the Windsors, and the Whitehall.
In 1974, a large, fortress-like residential compound and school was established in North Riverdale by the Permanent Mission of the USSR to the United Nations (now the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN) to house diplomats and their families. The 20-story building was constructed from the top down, with the upper floors built first.
By the 1980s, most of the apartment buildings that were owned by single landlords and rented, were converted into cooperatives. Unlike most of the Bronx, Riverdale is mostly owner-occupied housing. Spuyten Duyvil has the greatest concentration of high rises in Riverdale with the Century, 555 Kappock, and Winston Churchill next to one another. Since 2005, Central Riverdale has experienced a building boom with the addition of many mid- and high-rise condominium buildings that contrast with the older brick style. In August 2008, Columbia University purchased an almost-completed apartment building near Henry Hudson Parkway for use as faculty housing.
Riverdale is patrolled by the 50th Precinct of the NYPD, located at 3450 Kingsbridge Avenue. The 50th Precinct ranked 13th safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010. With a non-fatal assault rate of 40 per 100,000 people, Riverdale's rate of violent crimes per capita is less than that of the city as a whole. The incarceration rate of 225 per 100,000 people is lower than that of the city as a whole.:8 Riverdale is known for having some of the lowest crime rates in New York City.
The 50th Precinct has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 81.5% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct saw 7 murders, 15 rapes, 110 robberies, 147 felony assaults, 105 burglaries, 458 grand larcenies, and 97 grand larcenies auto in 2018.
Riverdale contains a New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fire station, Engine Co. 52/Ladder Co. 52, at 4550 Henry Hudson Parkway East. Engine Co. 52/Ladder Co. 52 is the only firehouse in Riverdale and the northernmost fire station operated by the FDNY.
Preterm births are slightly more common in Riverdale than in other places citywide, though teenage births are less common. In Riverdale, there were 89 preterm births per 1,000 live births (compared to 87 per 1,000 citywide), and 13.1 teenage births per 1,000 live births (compared to 19.3 per 1,000 citywide).:11 Riverdale has a relatively average population of residents who are uninsured. In 2018, this population of uninsured residents was estimated to be 16%, higher than the citywide rate of 12%.:14
The concentration of fine particulate matter, the deadliest type of air pollutant, in Riverdale is 0.0075 milligrams per cubic metre (7.5×10−9 oz/cu ft), more than the city average.:9 Ten percent of Riverdale residents are smokers, which is lower than the city average of 14% of residents being smokers.:13 In Riverdale, 24% of residents are obese, 12% are diabetic, and 28% have high blood pressure—compared to the citywide averages of 24%, 11%, and 28% respectively.:16 In addition, 21% of children are obese, compared to the citywide average of 20%.:12
Eighty-six percent of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day, which is less than the city's average of 87%. In 2018, 83% of residents described their health as "good," "very good," or "excellent," higher than the city's average of 78%.:13 For every supermarket in Riverdale, there are 10 bodegas.:10
Riverdale generally has a similar rate of college-educated residents to the rest of the city. While 45% of residents age 25 and older have a college education or higher, 18% have less than a high school education and 37% are high school graduates or have some college education. By contrast, 26% of Bronx residents and 43% of city residents have a college education or higher.:6 The percentage of Riverdale students excelling in math rose from 21% in 2000 to 48% in 2011, and reading achievement increased from 28% to 33% during the same time period.
Riverdale's rate of elementary school student absenteeism is about the same as the rest of New York City. In Riverdale, 20% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year, higher than the citywide average of 20%.:24 (PDF p. 55):6 Additionally, 78% of high school students in Riverdale graduate on time, higher than the citywide average of 75%.:6
The area also has several preschools. Kinneret Day School is a private Jewish day school in Spuyten Duyvil, serving grades K through 8 in addition to pre-school. Others are BedRock Preschool, the Riverdale Temple Nursery School, Spuyten Duyvil Preschool, SAR Academy (Early Learning Center), Riverdale Nursery School and Family Center, the Riverdale Presbyterian Church Nursery School, and Riverdale Montessori School.
The Van Cortlandt branch is located at 3882 Cannon Place. The two-story, 5,800-square-foot (540 m2) branch opened in 2019, replacing a smaller one-story branch a few blocks away, which opened in 1969 and consisted of a single room.
The Riverdale branch is located at 5540 Mosholu Avenue. The branch opened in 1967, replacing a smaller library, and is located in a one-story L-shaped brick building surrounded by a garden.
The Spuyten Duyvil branch is located at 650 West 235th Street. The one-story branch opened in 1971 and was designed by Giorgio Cavaglieri.
Bronx Community Board 8 is a group of community members working under the mandate of the City Charter to monitor the delivery of city services, establish budget priorities, and influence land-use decisions.
Riverdale Hatzalah Volunteer Ambulance Corp. is supported by community donations, and offers fast, reliable medical treatment and transport free of charge.
Riverdale YM-YWHA is a community center for youth, adult and senior activities.
Riverdale Children's Theater is a local theatre company that has performed many pilot productions of musicals.
Derfner Judaica Museum maintains a collection of approximately 1,400 objects used in traditional Jewish ceremonies and rituals, as well as Jewish art.
Wave Hill, the former residence of Mark Twain among others, is a botanical garden featuring two preserved historic mansions. It has exhibit spaces with a rotating series of art exhibitions, and performance spaces with a noted series of concerts.
Riverdale has often been cited in literature, film and television. Exteriors of many of Riverdale's locations have been used in both television and movie production.
In On the Road, Horace Mann School-educated Jack Kerouac writes about getting off at a subway stop in Riverdale: "Filled with dreams of what I'd do in Chicago, in Denver, and then finally in San Fran, I took the Seventh Avenue Subway to the end of the line at 242nd Street, and there took a trolley into Yonkers; in downtown Yonkers I transferred to an outgoing trolley and went to the city limits on the east bank of the Hudson River."
Elia Kazan's 1961 Splendor in the Grass starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty included several high school scenes shot at Horace Mann School, such as a post-party scene outside Horace Mann's Prettyman Gymnasium. The scenes at the asylum where Natalie Wood's character goes for treatment following her nervous breakdown were shot on one of the campuses of Riverdale Country School.
In the 1974 film Crazy Joe, an aerial shot follows characters driving from Manhattan, over the Henry Hudson Bridge, past buildings along the Hudson River, to Wave Hill, where an outdoor scene continues.
^ abcd"Editorial comment: Where we live now". The Riverdale Press. The Bronx. July 10, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2013. Just what are Riverdale’s boundaries? Community historians and residents have been trying to answer that question for decades.
^Home page. Russian Mission School in New York. Retrieved on April 14, 2015. "Адрес: 355 West 255 Street Bronx, NY 10471 Адрес: 355 Вест 255, Нью-Йорк,10471,США"
^Deutsch, Claudia H. "WHEN DIPLOMACY BEGINS AT HOME." The New York Times. May 28, 1986. Retrieved on April 14, 2015. "Soviet citizens who contacted Americans were primarily Russians based here - students from the Russian mission school in Riverdale meeting with American high school children, for example. "
^Gulizia, Stefano. "Bartók in New York: I. Manhattan Noise (Allegro non troppo)", Alla Turca, March 7, 2014. Accessed March 16, 2017. "At this stage, the whole family had already moved into a second flat in Riverdale, in the Bronx, which was leafy and quiet then, not too different from the suburban area of Csalán út in Hungary where they used to live."
^Oestreich, James R. (September 3, 1997). "Rudolf Bing, Titan of the Met, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2008. Sir Rudolf Bing, who as the...general manager of the Metropolitan Opera from 1950 to 1972...died yesterday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers. He was 95 and lived at the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale in the Bronx.
^Pace, Eric. "EX-REP. JONATHAN BINGHAM, 72, DIES", The New York Times, July 4, 1986. Accessed November 5, 2016. "Former Representative Jonathan B. Bingham, the veteran liberal Democrat from the Bronx, died yesterday at Presbyterian Hospital. He was 72 years old and lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx."
^"Eric R. Kandel - Biographical". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013. Finally, Denise was on the Columbia faculty and our house in Riverdale was near Columbia
^McPhee, Michele; Wedge, Dave (August 2005). "The Fall of Joan". Boston. Archived from the original on May 21, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2008. Virginia Joan Bennett was born September 9, 1936, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx...
^Gross, Max (April 24, 2008). "Riverdale Run". New York Post. Retrieved May 3, 2008. John F. Kennedy spent his youth in an enormous white mansion on Independence Avenue
^Bernstein, Nina; Stein, Robin (December 16, 2004). "Mystery Woman in Kerik Case: Nanny". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2008. Most puzzled about the nanny, perhaps, are former neighbors of the Keriks and their kin. In the Riverdale section of the Bronx, where the family lived in a first-floor apartment for years
^ abcdefghJackson, Nancy Beth (February 17, 2002). "If You're Thinking of Living In/Fieldston; A Leafy Enclave in the Hills of the Bronx". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2008. Fiorello H. La Guardia, a three-time mayor of New York, lived and died at 5020 Goodridge Avenue.... After World War II, Richard Simon, founder of Simon & Schuster, bought a Georgian red-brick Baum house where he brought up his three musical daughters: Joanna, Lucy and Carly. TODAY, residents include United Nations ambassadors from Benin and Guinea; Jennifer J. Raab, president of Hunter College and former head of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission; and G. Oliver Koppell, the former New York attorney general newly elected to the City Council. Theodore Kheel, the labor lawyer, has a house around the corner from Ruth Friendly...
^Kuvadia, Aimee; and Sugarman, Raphael. "Chris Lighty, hip-hop pioneer, commits suicide", Riverdale Press, September 5, 2012. Accessed November 30, 2019. "Hip-hop mogul Chris Lighty, 44, born Darrell Lighty, died the morning of Aug. 30 in his single-family home in Spuyten Duyvil from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to police."
^Dunlap, David W. (November 16, 1987). "Bronx Residents Fighting Plans Of a Developer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2008. A group of neighbors from Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil has demanded that the city acquire as a public park the 4.75 acre parcel known as the Douglas-U Thant estate, north of 232d Street, between Palisade and Douglas Avenues.
^Frank, Mortimer H. (April 2002). "A Toscanini Odyssey". The Juilliard Journal Online. Retrieved February 26, 2008. That archive was housed at Wave Hill, Toscanini's Riverdale residence during World War II
^Stern, Eliyahu (May 24, 2002). "Leaping to respectability". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2008. Based in the affluent Jewish enclave of Riverdale, in the New York City borough of the Bronx, Weiss has never really been accepted in the upper echelons of the US Jewish establishment.
^"Rosalyn Yalow - Biographical". Nobel Media AB 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013. During that period Aaron and I had two children, Benjamin and Elanna. We bought a house in Riverdale, less than a mile from the VA.
^Kerouac, Jack (2007). On the Road (50th Anniversary edition). Viking. p. 10. ISBN9780670063260.