Friday, April 04, 2008

Sorry - Here's the New Pictures

So I promised pictures and I didn't deliver right away. I apologize.

I have a few bigger projects connected with this site percolating right now and they, plus work, plus wedding have led to distractions. I did manage to drive around and collect some cool pictures but I failed to get them up in a timely fashion. Let's go.

This is the intersection of Port Richmond Avenue and Richmond Terrace in, naturally, Port Richmond. Once the commercial center of the western side of the North Shore, the neighborhood fell on hard times with the opening of Forest Avenue Shoppers' Town in the sixties and died with the opening of the Staten Island Mall in the mid-seventies. It struggled on for years, trying unsuccessfully to reinvent itself as a location for furniture dealers. When that failed it became a neighborhood for Mexican immigrants, legal and otherwise.

Now on a typical morning you can see dozens of men shaping up to bust their humps for inadequate pay. The old Jewish and Italian owned shops have mostly been replaced with dollar stores and Mexican delis. The old apartment buildings and apartments over all the stores are now packed to the gills with far too many people to be safe for their inhabitants.

I first noticed this particular building when I took to biking along the Terrace to get to the Bayonne Bridge. At the time it looked like it probably did at the turn of the last century. It was built by a local industrialist and by the eighties had become a residence for older, single men.

Since then, about 1982, several of the buildings on the left have burned down and the whole area has fallen down the tubes. I think the building on the right was still open as a bank, but now, after a fleeting time as evangelical church it's abandoned.
I wasn't able to get the exact same perspective as the original picture because there are buildings on the spot the original must have been taken from.

When I first saw the picture of St. Mark's Place in St. George from the 30's I thought I recognized the turreted home on the left. When I went to get the comparison shot I was disabused of that notion. Nothing in the old picture exists anymore except part of the stone retaining wall. The beautiful homes and the small stores are all gone, replaced by some of the ugliest buildings on the Island. The original Brighton Heights Dutch Reform Church, built in the 1820's, burned down in 1996 during a renovation project gone awry when heat guns went wild.

I've also added a picture cribbed from Staten Island historian, Thomas Matteo's book, "Then & Now Staten Island". It's a closer look at the church and the pretty brick home next to it that's tantalizingly unclear in the first picture. Today its lot holds an ugly little building that used to house a Manufacturer's Hanover bank, then a church and now, nothing, I think. Ah, architectural progress. Can it get any better?

I have no specific knowledge of the Stork's Nest or the Stork's Nest II. It's one of those neighborhood bars that I've seen from the bus all my life, but not living in the exact neighborhood (Tompkinsville) never really knew anything about or anyone who went there.

At some time in the past it was obviously some sort of big deal. Now it's subdivided and the ornamental stork has long flow the nest. It's a little hard to tell from the present day picture (the park across the street from where I'd need to be to get a matching shot is fenced off for renovations), but the left side of the original Stork is now a Central American restaurant.

When I was little, Tompkinsville was heavily Italian with some black families starting to move in. Later the older Italians died off and their kids moved out of the area. At some point a lot of the clientele of the methadone clinic in Stapleton seemed to be living in the old apartments above the stores in the area.

In the nineties the neighborhood changed again. Like in Port Richmond there was a sudden influx of immigrants of both legal and illegal status. Many of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and the rest of Central America. Over the years their presence has led to the establishment of shops geared towards their tastes and wants. This is one of those places.

No comments: