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‘Ghetto’ tours of Bronx ended after outrage

Posted at 1:17 PM, May 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-24 13:57:56-04

NEW YORK (CNN) — A New York company offering tours of Bronx neighborhoods has shut down after officials objected to its advertising that claimed to give visitors “a ride through a real New York City ‘ghetto’,” according to a statement from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

The tour’s controversial description states that when thinking of the Bronx, people envision when the borough “was notorious for drugs, gangs, crime and murders.” It promises to take visitors on a three-hour journey into “this diverse and mysterious borough called the Bronx.”

The website for the tour company, Real Bronx Tours, was no longer accessible on Thursday, but an advertisement for the tour is still viewable on, a site intended for purchasing tourism tickets.

According to an open letter on Monday from Diaz and New York City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, the tour strongly misrepresents the borough.

The letter, addressed to Real Bronx Tours company owner Michael Myers, urges the company to stop profiting off of a tour that paints the borough “as a haven for poverty and crime, while mocking everything from our landmarks to the less fortunate members of our community who are availing themselves of food assistance programs.”

“Using the Bronx to sell a so-called ‘ghetto’ experience to tourists is completely unacceptable and the highest insult to the communities we represent,” the letter read.

In a second statement from Diaz on Tuesday, he announced that in response, the tour company had decided to end its “inaccurate and disrespectful tours.”

“I am relieved that this company has listened to the overwhelming complaints of community members, as well as public officials, who were outraged and sickened,” the statement read.

Representatives of Real Bronx Tours did not return CNN’s calls seeking comment.

Diaz now is also asking the company to apologize to the residents of the Bronx “for their terrible portrayal of our communities.”

Mark-Viverito told CNN it is a great victory for the community and that in the future, tours should instead highlight the beauty in the Bronx.

The Bronx is one of the five boroughs of New York City and currently has a reported 1.4 million residents.

Chris Heywood, senior vice president of communications for NYC & Company, which calls itself the official guide to New York, said Thursday that Real Bronx Tours is completely outside the realm of anything they would ever promote. “We condemn what they were promoting.”

In an effort to highlight the vibrancy of the borough, Heywood said the company has launched a new global communications effort called Neighborhood x Neighborhood, which recently showcased the South Bronx. The program focused on many of the Bronx’s most famous attractions, including Yankee Stadium and the Grand Concourse.