Tracy's New York Life | A Blog About Life in New York City: Alexandra Maruri Gives Back to the Bronx One Tour at a Time

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Alexandra Maruri Gives Back to the Bronx One Tour at a Time

METROPOLITAN LIVES
by Tracy Kaler


Alexandra Maruri founded MCNY Tours in the Bronx in 2011

Since her childhood in the 1970s, Alexandra Maruri has been intrigued by New York's rich culture and history, and was destined to use her background and love of the city to better it. 

Maruri, who grew up in the Bronx, lived near Yankee Stadium as a child. Often during games, she and her neighborhood friends sat in their secret meeting place outside the Andrew Freedman Home listening and waiting for one of the players to hit a home run. The kids talked about what they would be when they grew up, or where they would live. They dreamed big ---imagining a life inside that mansion and becoming local business owners.
Maruri started on the path to owning that business at a young age. At 15, she landed her first part-time job in a local print shop and eventually moved  to full time. She went on to work in graphic design, followed by advertising/marketing, and eventually had a successful career in management and tourism.

While working for a popular Midtown hotel chain, customers constantly asked her about a quiet, removed place in NYC. Maruri, who often drew maps or offered suggestions for the best locations to visit, would then state the obvious, “You should come to the Bronx, where I live.” And the tourists would respond with the obvious, “I wouldn’t go there alone. I’ve heard too many negative things about it.”


Maruri in the Woodlawn area of the Bronx

Maruri then realized this was her opportunity to change the perception of the borough in which she lives and calls home. When one tourist said, “I’d only go if you went with me,” a light bulb went off and she hasn’t looked back. She founded MCNY Tours in 2011, and for the past two years, the Bronxite has been giving both private and group tours in historic areas of the borough. That childhood dream of owning a small business became reality.

“I started to gather all the information to start a tour company that would offer services to various parts of the Bronx at reasonable prices, and make the tours of places they probably never heard of,” such as Little Italy and Little Ireland. During this time, Woodlawn Cemetery received National landmark status, and a few months later, part of the Grand Concourse was declared a historic district with landmark status. But even with these impressive credentials for the borough, Maruri had an uphill battle. 

Little did she know how difficult it would be to attract tourists to the Bronx, and the few people interested in visiting her borough surprised Maruri. But being from the Bronx herself, she certainly isn’t thin-skinned or meek, “I am no stranger to adversity and challenges,” she said. She’s managed to stay focused and move full steam ahead.


Delicious options in Little Italy--courtesy of Giovanni Paolo of the Bronx's Little Italy

Most tourists and even many New Yorkers hesitate to visit the Bronx due to a stigma from the past. But according to Maruri, who has lived near Yankee Stadium, the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage, and finally near Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx has been overlooked or even avoided because of public misconceptions. More recently though, things are looking up --- the Bronx now attracts visitors as well as residents of the other boroughs who flock to areas like Arthur Avenue in Little Italy, Riverdale, and City Island.

Wave Hill in Riverdale--courtesy of MCNY Tours

Maruri escorts sightseeing, food, and drink tours regularly throughout the borough, as well as historic tours to sections like Woodlawn and the Grand Concourse. Some are walking tours and others are by bus, and tour-goers have the option of an all-inclusive dining menu including an original Irish lunch or an traditional Italian lunch. "We have options for every visitor and also customize school tours," Maruri said. MCNY offers separate tours for families with children that don't involve beer or wine if requested.
   
Bronx map in stone by the Bronx River in Woodlawn

Proud to be a Bronxite and grateful for the many opportunities the Bronx has given her over the years, Maruri explained, “I wanted to do this for the borough." She feels overwhelmed with emotion when she speaks about the borough she knows so well. Since starting her company, Maruri has been determined to bring both New Yorkers and visitors to this section of NYC, showing them what the Bronx is really about.

Like most of us, this New Yorker loves her town.  But outside of her northernmost corner, what does she love most? “Even though I wholeheartedly support my borough and the businesses, I like going to the city on my days off because I get to relax and see something new.” A fan of film festivals, Maruri attends the Brazilian Film Festival at Moma, the TriBeCa Film Festival, and the International Film Festival each year. “I also enjoy ethnic neighborhoods like East Harlem and Jackson Heights - I'm simply fascinated by other cultures.”

Maruri commented how special the city is at Christmas. “I also always encourage people who take my tours to come during the holidays,” she said. “There is no place like NYC” during the holiday season. “There is something magical. New York City is beautiful.” 

To learn more about MCNY Tours and Bronx Neighborhoods, visit the website.

  

3 comments:

Nubia DuVall Wilson said...

Love this post. I am guilty of not exploring the Bronx, but this has inspired me to do so! Thanks for sharing.

tracy kaler said...

Thank you Nubia! I am guilty as well, but I am going to take one of Alex's tours when the weather warms up. And one weekend, hubby and I are going to explore Little Italy--can't wait since we both adore Italian food.

Phil Holtberg said...

Terrific post on the Bronx! There is so much to see and do there, and eat!
Little Italy and Little Ireland are a must visit. Lots of history up there. I need to go up there more for other than Yanks games.

Phil
www.blog.theregularguynyc.com

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