The Facts

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Juan "Jay Dukes" Sanchez in Los Sures, 2016.

Jay Sanchez loves Los Sures. That’s a fact. An unquestionable truth apparent in his eyes, in his tone, in the way his grin grows as he tours me around the neighborhood late on a Thursday night in April. Every corner, every block, every building has a connection, a reaction, a memory that flows and ebbs though our conversation as we wonder the streets, the noises of the city echoing and crackling in the background of the recording. A child died here. A doctor worked there. “And this is where my mom met my stepfather” and “this is where we played” and “this is all the same” and this is not. “We have so many memories here; It’s incredible,” Jay will tell you, looking back with tenderness and adoration and perhaps a dose of fear. Los Sures is his home, undoubtedly, despite not having lived here in 37 years. The neighborhood is, as its always been, the epicenter of his universe: his glue and his gospel.

Jay and I decided to conduct our oral history in an organic manner. We agreed that he’d take me on a walk around the neighborhood, a tour I should say, of the place from which he sprouted and of which he visits incessantly, living in Astoria for past three decades. Pieces of his family still live here, an aunt and baby brother on South 4th, friends and cousins scattered throughout. As we walked the quiet blocks of Los Sures, I found that Jay was and is a popular man. People stop him on the street. Everyone says hello. “I knew everybody. And everybody knew me,” he’ll say of his childhood and adolescence with clear sincerity. And its obvious that that’s translated into adulthood, for Jay is someone to know. 

He lived at 155 South 4th Street from the age of 7 to 19 with his mother, a Puerto Rican immigrant, stepfather, and 6 siblings in an apartment on the second floor. His youngest brother still lives there, “sort of inheriting” it from their mother after she passed. Jay grew up playing in abandoned lots and warehouses, climbing the rafters to retrieve handballs, swimming in the East River at Grand Ferry Park, hanging out on the fire escapes at Saint Peter and Paul on hot summer nights. He is a product of Los Sures, for good or for bad, and his identity lies firmly in that fact. He knows every alleyway, every route, how the rents have changed ($100 rent on South 4th used to be “pretty high for that time”), and that Berry Manilow used to lived on corner of South 4th and Driggs before he became famous, right across the street from his family. 

Transcript.pdf

Jay Sanchez Oral History Transcript

The Facts