Monday, February 27, 2006


My father grew up in Yonkers in the thirties and forties. As a kid he told me about something called the "Alexander Smith Carpet Factory." It was the largest carpet factory in the world and I think one of the largest factories period in the world.

His grandfather had worked there as a carpet designer in the late 19th and early 20th century. My dad said the company was miserable and a had a habit of letting people go a few years or so before they vested their pensions so they never had to pay them. I think it's what happened to my great-grandfather and I know it one of the many reasons my very white-collar, never unionized dad always supported legitimate labor unions.

He told me how the managers at his company would crow about keeping the unions in line only to be let go by the higher ups when they started costing too much. I guess that's my own stand. Sure there are too many examples of venal unions these days that don't really take the right stands for their members. But, imagine how much better life would be for all the white collar drones if they had some sort of organization standing up for them.

Which is all off track from where I was starting. So I drove to Yonkers yesterday with hopes of seeing the old factory complex. From what I could see on Google Earth it sure looked like something was still there. Several long blocks worth of something still there.

It's a fairly short ride, maybe an hour or so and from 9A you come right out on Palmer Road which takes you right to the backside of the factory.

It's not just one big building, which even though I knew beforehand that it wasn't, that's still the picture I had in my head. Some sort of nightmarish Upton Sinclair/Charles Dickens/William Blake soot-stained mill with towering smoke stacks.

Instead it's a series of huge but low building strung out for five or six blocks. Since a third of them have been occupied by various businesses and the city is trying to attract new tenants it's all pretty clean and polished. The windows are unbroken and there's a distinct lack of garbage and graffitti.

I was overwhelmed by the scale of the place. Even the old ship factories in Mariners Harbor (they built destroyers on Andros Ave.) pale in comparison. But I was disappointed at the tidiness of the whole thing. Oh, well.

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