Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ghosts of Long Ago Jersey Street

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From what I've been able to gather, Jersey Street was once a vibrant working class immigrant community stretching from the Terrace to Castleton Avenue. The Richmond Terrace Houses seem to have gutted the community when they were built before I was born (completed 1964). by the time I was in high school in the early eighties several run down blocks of apartments and stores were demolished and replaced with ugly row houses. The A&P closed and eventually the uniform factory by the projects closed up shop.

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Today Jersey Street is a grim shadow of the vibrant neighborhood it once was. The ornate old PS 17 that once looked down from Prospect Avenue burned down and the present PS 31 is routinely ranked one of the worst elementary schools in the city.

There are a few stores but none that are noteworthy and a few that are a bit scary. The rampant drug dealing of the eighties and early nineties isn't as obvious as it was then but there's still crime and all too frequent shootings.

Even when I was little Jersey Street had a bad reputation. Unfortunately I suspect that mostly had to do with the fact that it was becoming a predominantly black neighborhood and nothing to do with any actual crime. My mother took me with her all the time to visit her friend Peggy D. in the projects and we never had a problem or worried about anything. Still, as I grew I guess I took on the same attitude about the neighborhood as most of the people around me. Perhaps if people hadn't been so ready to assume the worst they wouldn't have stood by when the worst did happen and they might have helped or demanded that the police stepped in. Instead they stood by and said "What do you expect?"

REMEMBER: Clicking on the old timey pictures enlarges them and also shows you the entire picture. Sometimes the site doesn't do that with the visible versions.

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Tomorrow: the churches of Jersey Street and environs

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