Did you know New York City has official borough historians for the five boroughs?
Lloyd Ultan, a native Bronxite, has been working as the Bronx Borough Historian for almost 20 years. He was appointed by then-Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in 1996 and has served three borough presidents.
Ultan says many people are not aware that his job exists, but he occasionally receives inquiries from the public. His main responsibilities include answering questions about history of the borough from the public, researchers and journalists. He has also written a number of books about history of The Bronx.


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Lloyd Ultan, 77, was born in The Bronx as a son of Eastern European immigrants who were Jewish. He grew up on the Grand Concourse neighborhood and currently lives in Marble Hill. He has never lived outside the borough of The Bronx.
Ultan has witnessed drastic changes of the borough through over 70 years of his life: Flourishing period of 1940s-50s, deteriorating period of 1960s-80s and recovering period of 1990s-2000s.
Since his appointment as the Bronx Borough Historian in 1996, Ultan has served three borough presidents.
To make his living, Ultan commutes by bus to New Jersey three times a week to teach history at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He also works at the Bronx County Historical Society every Friday.
Ultan has written 13 books about the borough. His book titles include “The Birth of the Bronx: 1609-1900,” “The Bronx in the Innocent Years: 1890-1925” and “The Beautiful Bronx: 1920-1950.” His new book “The Bronx: The Ultimate Guide to New York City’s Beautiful Borough” is schedule to come out in June 2015.
Even though his love and passion toward The Bronx has never changed, Ultan says the borough has gone through ups and downs in the last half-century. In particular, the borough has long suffered from the stigma of 1970s when many of the neighborhoods deteriorated due to the economic and social changes.
As recent years have seen rapid gentrification in many of the borough’s neighborhoods, an increasing number of new residents are moving into The Bronx. The borough has gradually overcome the stigma from “The Bronx is burning.” Ultan is convinced that his duty, as the borough historian, is to educate the public about its history.



Hello, this is Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx Borough Historian…
I got a telephone call from the Borough President’s office and they asked the question “Would you want to be a next borough historian?” And I said, “Wait a second. Yes!” And so, in October of 1996 I was appointed the Bronx borough historian.
My name is Lloyd Ultan. I was born February 16, 1938 in The Bronx, New York.
What I am supposed to do as a Bronx borough historian is to make recommendations to preservation of records. I am supposed to track down those records that wonder around and bring them back. I am supposed to encourage private businesses and organizations and institutions to preserve their records. And then, I am supposed to use all these records to write the history of the borough of The Bronx.
According to the New York state law, I like to say I get a six-figure salary. But, unfortunately by that law, all six figures are zero. I am not paid for being the Bronx Borough Historian.
I have never considered there was any challenge to be a historian of the Bronx borough. The only thing I would have to say is that sometimes I have to explain to them what I do and what the office is all about. In other words, why should I pay attention to you anyway?
I get a telephone call from somebody who said “I am not asking this for myself, but for my neighbor. She is a Holocaust survivor. And, now the Federal Republic of Germany is giving reparations to all the Holocaust survivors. But, they demand documentation of what happened to them afterwards. She remembers that after the war she came to the United States as a girl, she was put into an orphanage in Hunts Point in The Bronx. Do you know the name of the orphanage so that we can find some documentation?” So, an hour and half later, I called back. I found it in an old atlas. And, I said “It was the Shield of David Home for Orphan Girls. It was a Jewish orphanage. And, it was located on Faile Street in Hunts Point. And, it no longer exists today. But, that was the orphanage. And, the guy says “That’s wonderful. I think we have now the documentation.” And, I felt great with that. That was the greatest feeling when I did that.


For more information, contact:
Ken Aragaki
CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

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