Looking Back on the "Old Days"

8632168707_67b1c715d0_z.jpg

Engine 221 & Ladder 104, 161 South 2nd Street. [29]

     Adrienne and Denise spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the days of their childhood-- the differences seem remarkable for a mere ten years ago. They speak of a Los Sures quite contrary to what we witness here today. Ten years ago, it was a neighborhood without the Manhattan spillover effect, a place where everyone knew each other on the streets, and actually greeted friends rather than opting for the head-down-headphones-in-ears practice that is so common now. As for when things began to noticeably change in Los Sures, a slow, yet steady result of a urban renewal, Denise notes the development of the Williamsburg Cinemas on Grand Street and Driggs Avenue. “I love the theatre,” Denise, now a resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant, comments. “I used to go there every day when I lived in the neighborhood. I loved it, but it just… it just changed. Like, because it got built in a place where there’s no parking, parking sucks around here you can’t find any kind of parking. Um, and then it’s actually pretty big. To top it off, you have all these strange people coming from nowhere…” [30] Perhaps this influx of new people best helps to nail down this intangible concept of gentrification. With this phenomenon comes shiny new buildings, vamped up parks and waterfronts, charter schools, and new restaurants, but the danger comes when the community loses control over these new developments. Just a decade ago, Adrienne and Denise fondly recall the kindness of local store owners who had developed a system of “store credit” with customers, meaning customers could create a tab with store owners, paying them whenever they received their weekly income. “We used to be able to make an account with the store owner, like, ‘No, we’re gonna pay you tomorrow,’” Denise recalls. “You know, ‘cause we knew the people. They were like neighborhood people who were running the store. Now you can’t do that because they want their money then and there, like, which is understandable.” [31] New, unfamiliar owners meant an end to a standard culture of trust among members of the community. Adrienne and Denise note an increase of younger people moving into the neighborhood as time progresses. Often times, they do not speak Spanish, thus unintentionally severing potential connection among neighbors. It's certainly hard to develop relationships with those around you if verbal communication is not possible.   

     As for the future of Los Sures? Adrienne says, “In ten years I think we’re gonna live in giant, skyscraper condominiums.” And Denise, “I’m not usually a negative person, but um, I kind of think that we’re gonna get squashed out very soon.” [32] But what begins as somewhat saddening responses to my inquiry about the future, Adrienne and Denise highlight some of the great things happening in Los Sures in this day and age. For instance, last year’s block party, which united together the residents of the neighborhood and reminded them of the old days when parents and grandparents would spend time outside, relaxing and playing Dominos, always happy to include the younger generation, offering out life advice and stories from their pasts. Denise expresses particular excitement at the community effort to save fire station Engine 221 & Ladder 104, located at 161 South Second Street. After the community came together and petitioned against the closing, Denise said, “It was really awesome ‘cause in that one situation, the neighborhood got together and spoke up and said, ‘We need them.’ Like, if they’re not there, there’s so much that could happen. And they have access to helping us. And you’re taking them away from us? When we’re, you know, growing. Williamsburg is growing. If we can do it the positive way, it’d be awesome. But it just takes a lot of unification, and everybody learning to deal with one another, and actually speaking and uniting to be able to make it into a positive Williamsburg, not just one class and the other class clashing and bumping heads all the time” [33].

Looking Back on the "Old Days"