Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Fri 4 Dec 09 11:29
Hi, David-- I'm so glad you asked about the wedding photographer. He was known as Mr. Kirk, and his thousands of images, which his daughter has kept and protected well, are remarkable in many respects. You're absolutely right that they are sociological documents. In multiple conversations, his daughter described to me his extraordinary story, some of which was the focus of an article I wrote for the New York Times City section, entitled "The Memory Maker" and published in April of 2002. I hope that someday Mr. Kirk's images can be the subject of an exhibition or perhaps a book of their own. In addition to weddings, he photographed graduations, bar mitzvahs, soldiers going off to war and many, many family groups. His pictures give an incredibly vivid and intimate sense of what it was like to live in this part of the Bronx during much of the 20th century. I'm grateful to his daughter for protecting her father's images so well and telling his story so poignantly.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 4 Dec 09 13:06
Connie: is gentrification actually happening in The Bronx? I've taken a Google Maps "tour" of parts of The Bronx,noticed a whole slew of single family homes on Charlotte Street, right by Crotona Park, Carter stopped by in '77 and then Reagan in '80, looks like a part of suburbia transplanted into The Bronx,is this what you are referring to?
For Rosetti, wombats held a peculiar fascination (loris) Fri 4 Dec 09 20:00
trivial question: my favorite book by fantasy-writer peter s. beagle is 'lila the werewolf', written in the early 60s. it a sly knowing pitchperfect novella, set in the nyc of the early folkie and protest days. anyway, lila is a perfectly normal young woman --- except she's a werewolf... anyway, at the denouement of the story (which i wont spoil here), the best friend of the protagonist makes a comment to him about girls from the bronx. it was one of the time/place comments i couldnt quite get --- it seemed to imply something like 'those girls from the bronx --- everyone knows to avoid'. as lila was a nice jewish girl with parents who were members of the old left, i never knew what to make of the significance of her bronxyness. what would have been connoted -then- by such a remark?
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 4 Dec 09 21:45
Sounds to me like something being said by a Brooklynite, i've heard the same thing being said in The Bronx about girls from Brooklyn:-) Interesting wolf connection, there was a movie in 1981 titled Wolfen, set (and shot) in the South Bronx, starring Albert Finney. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfen_(film)
For Rosetti, wombats held a peculiar fascination (loris) Sat 5 Dec 09 09:35
wolfen was a hoot. 'lila the werewolf' very different in tone; deadpan funny --- the opposite of self-serious camp, like wolfen. i dont remember if the bf of the protag was from brooklyn, however...
David Wilson (dlwilson) Sun 6 Dec 09 09:56
So Connie, what makes the Concourse a "Bronx" story? From your book it seems to be a jewish story, somewhat of a black story, a little bit of an italian story, and then the puerto rican hordes invaded.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Sun 6 Dec 09 15:51
hi jstahl-- re gentrification, I'm familiar with the little houses on and near Charlotte Street that you're referring to. These were the houses built as a way of rescuing one of the most blighted areas in the city. But I wouldn't call them a symbol of gentrification. That term usually refers to the displacement of an indigenous population by more affluent newcomers, at times bringing with them the trappings of yuppie or hipster existence. this is the sort of thing that happened with a vengeance in the East Village and Lower East Side of Manhattan and in so many Brooklyn brownstone neighborhoods. It usually means that the indigenous population is priced out and forced out. On Charlotte Street, the indigenous population was largely gone before the new housing arrived. I'll pass on the werewolves discussion, thanks. And to David-- As to what makes the Concourse a Bronx story? I guess because it's the most illustrious street in the borough and witnessed so much of the transformative change that swept over the Bronx during the last century. And you're absolutely right, it's also a Jewish story, an Irish story, a black story, etc. etc. To me, that's one of the things that make it so interesting.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sun 6 Dec 09 21:45
Connie: so where is the gentrification which is happening in The Bronx? You referred to some of that happening, that's why i asked, did i misunderstand you? And who moved into those house on Charlotte St? Were there people living in the area who could afford them? Are there more "villages" like that in The Bronx?
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Mon 7 Dec 09 05:15
The gentrification is happening in the very southern tip of the Bronx, where there are some converted lofts, a few cafes and galleries and a small smattering of artists. The area is sometimes called Sobro, a tip of the hat to SoHo. Re Charlotte Street, by the time President Carter visited in the 1970s, it was a pretty desolate place, and though I couldnt prove it, I'd be surprised if many of the original residents were among those who moved back. There is other similar housing in once-devastated parts of the borough -- it has its critics, but many people are delighted to live in these places now.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 7 Dec 09 09:39
Sobro?:-) I have a personal relationship to that area. When we arrived in New York (in fact, yesterday was the 51st anniversary of that), soon after my father got his first job there at a small supermarket on St Anne's and 138th (on the latter, i believe), worked there till early '61, my brother worked there part time during Summer '60. Drove through the area many times,as the freeway connection from the Major Deegan Highway to the Triborough Bridge was not finished yet,so one had to get off at the southern end of the Deegan and drive on 138th St to get on the road to the bridge. My father and brother talked often of how there was still a small remnant of the Irish community which used to live in the area hanging on but shrinking by the week, the area felt really dangerous even in daylight. Makes sense it's being targeted for gentrification, easy access to Manhattan.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Mon 7 Dec 09 10:34
wow, you have a good memory!
David Wilson (dlwilson) Mon 7 Dec 09 11:06
Connie. Did you know Gilbert Milstein at the Times? It was his son who I visited on the Concourse. Gilbert used to get review albums so his kids had a great record collection. We would call Symphony Sid up on the radio and ask him to play records we knew he wouldn't play. This was 1962. One time we asked him to play anything by Ornette Coleman. He said he would only play "Lonely Woman" by the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Mon 7 Dec 09 12:06
Hi, David-- The name Gilbert Milstein rings a bell, but I never knew him; think he was before my time here.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Mon 7 Dec 09 12:23
His book review in the Times of Kerouac's "On the Road" got the ball rolling for Jack. He was an editor for the Sunday magazine. He used to take us on incredible walking tours of the neighborhoods. He wowed us.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Tue 8 Dec 09 05:42
yeah, I read that review when I was trying to refresh my memory as to who he was. really a time capsule.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Tue 8 Dec 09 11:31
Thanks Connie for coming by the Well and hanging out with us. What is your next project? Let me guess. Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn? Or Seagate? Maybe a restaurant guide to Queens? I bet you would be the only person to find the only Eskimo restaurant in the city. You probably know the abandoned refrigerated building in Long Island City where all the Eskimos in New York live.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Tue 8 Dec 09 12:07
Hi, David-- Eskimo restaurants? Hmmm, probably not. But this has been lots of fun. And there's never a lack of New York-themed subjects worth writing about, so I guess you never know what comes next.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Tue 8 Dec 09 22:10
Thanks indeed for hanging out with us, Connie. Any ideas on why the Belmont neighborhood held together fairly well while everything around it decayed? At least it's my impression that it held, the Italian delis are still functioning.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Wed 9 Dec 09 07:25
Ah, Belmont. In discussing changes in the Bronx, people often mention that neighborhood. Partly, I think, the explanation has to do with the fact that Italian neighborhoods are generally more stable than Jewish ones; even today, you can find areas in which two and even three generations of Italian-American families still live under the same roof. But in recent years Belmont has been buffeted by its own shifts. A growing community of Albanians exists in this area, and in many of these delis and restaurants, you'll find Albanian countermen and clerks serving up the pasta and red wine.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Wed 9 Dec 09 12:16
Interesting. Logical, given the proximity of Albania to Italy's "heel" and the large Albanian population in southern Italy. I've read of this happening in lots of New York Italian neighborhoods. Good point about the stability, i'm familiar with it, as my mom was a native of Italy (Italian Jews, but those are Italians first:-). Do you happen to know how the big apartment buildings on the Concourse have survived the changes? Did they drastically reduce rents so the newcomers could afford them? Back in the early '60s it cost a lot of money (for back then) to rent an apartment on the Concourse, we couldn't afford it.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Wed 9 Dec 09 13:04
The big apartment buildings are in some cases among the success stories of the Grand Concourse. A number of those beautiful Art Deco apartment houses have been converted into co-ops, complete with doormen and spruced-up lobbies, and are accommodating a new and very grateful population. Even though prices are climbing these days, as these buildings become newly popular, they're still a lot cheaper than apartments in much of Manhattan and a good part of Brooklyn.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 9 Dec 09 13:38
This is such an interesting conversation. It's hard to believe we've been at it for two weeks. Thank you so much, Connie. We have started the next conversation, but that does not mean you have to stop until you want to stop. Feel free to continue here as you wish, or to drop in later if you have news or announcements. Kudos to David, Jstrahl and everybody who brought stories, questions and insights to this topic, too.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Wed 9 Dec 09 13:44
Hi, Gail-- I've really enjoyed it. I'd be happy to keep it going as long as anyone wished. I'll keep checking in. I've really enjoyed hearing the recollections and observations from the various participants; I learn something new each time, and it's great.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 9 Dec 09 13:54
We'd love to have you stick around. thanks for being here.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Wed 9 Dec 09 21:40
Connie, what i meant is, how did those buildings survive through the hellfire years? Didn't the traditional residents pretty much abandon the area by the 1970s? Why didn't the Concourse get to looking like a grander version of Charlotte St? Did the city put in money to ensure building maintenance?
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