Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Mon 30 Nov 09 08:19
Hi, David-- Am so glad you liked the section on the Bronx of literature. When I was planning the book, I debated how to use that material -- whether to thread it through the narrative or put it all in one place. I decided largely on the latter because it seemed important to underscore how novelists, etc., viewed the area and its rhythms. I love Kate Simon's work...in fact I interviewed her once for the Times...and her description of being taken to Loew's Paradise by an older family friend was in my mind when I was writing about the theater. Did not know about Henry Roth, but am glad you mentioned him; i could check that out. I remember his first book but have to admit I didn't read "Rude Stream." Re Marshall Berman, indeed I both interviewed him at length, read virtually everything he's written on the Bronx and related topics, and in fact saw him just the other day when I was speaking to an urban affairs class at Fordham. He is indeed amazing and when we had lunch that day he did say complimentary things about the book. As I told him, he was one of the people who contributed in many ways, not the least of which was suggesting how to organize the chapter in which I discuss the various institutions along the boulevard. He was also the person who first told me about Jack Molinas, who turned out to be one of the more interesting Bronx-related figures in the book. and to jeffrey-- Car 54, absolutely. In doing research at the Museum of Broadcasting, i looked at old episodes of the show, which I don't remember having seen when they were first broadcast, and although I didn't end up specifically referring to the show in my book, it was great to be introduced to it, and its catchy theme song stayed locked in my mind for quite a while. The description of the '64 school boycott is interesting. There's probably no end of smart books about racial tensions in the Bronx that could be written. I learned a lot about the subject through the African American Oral History project at Fordham, and this topic sounds like one that would be hugely interesting to them.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 30 Nov 09 11:31
Connie, the main person who organized the '64 New York school boycott was the Rev Milton Galamison from Brooklyn, interesting character. Glad to hear Marshall Berman had a prominent role in your project. And yes, catchy title tune to Car 54:-)
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Mon 30 Nov 09 12:32
yep, Milton Galamison -- a blast from the past.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 30 Nov 09 21:03
This is strange, but a week or so before this topic got started, i "discovered" the "street view" feature of Google Maps, and started using it to check out both my old 'hood as well as The Bronx, and here comes this topic. One of the places i randomly "touched down" in was at Boston Rd and Southern Boulevard, and it hit me that this was a site i've been trying for years to figure out the location of. Soon after we arrived in New York, we went apartment hunting, and one of the first places was some location near el tracks, i remember going to a nearby low-rise structure with a bunch of stores where we had hot dogs, i didn't like it, maybe was sick, i don't know if that set the mood, but we didn't locate there,maybe my parents just picked up a bad vibe. Went through the Southern Boulevard/Boston Rd junction on the train in '64 (about 5 years later), and got the sense that area was deteriorating fast, though i couldn't see the immediate vicinity due to the station structure, so i didn't recognize ever having been there. So a week or so ago, i "touched down" at that intersection, and there was the low rise structure with the stores, amazing how i recognized it so easily after over 50 years (and lots of changes). Would have been a bad decision to have moved there.
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Tue 1 Dec 09 04:10
Great book! Connie, I've been enjoying reading it. I live in southwest Yonkers, just over the border from Riverdale, and your descriptions of the past lives of the buildings and tenants could be pulled from Yonkers also. Especially the faded glory. (Just had a great chat with the daughter of the people who live across the street, back when my neighborhood was Italian/Jewish, instead of Latino, black, and Arab) She described the Halloweens that they used to go to, and how they played kickball off of my garage, but the lady who used to live in one of the houses was really old and would complain, and then ask them to go up the corner store to buy her some milk. And the large mansion that used to be a senior center that got pulled down so they could put up a school 6 years ago.) I'm particularly intrigued by the Paradise Theatre, which I'm glad they restored, but can't imagine how its not going to fall in disrepair again. As these historic areas re-gain their luster, at least for a short while, how do you protect them from the same fate again? ?
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Tue 1 Dec 09 09:14
Hi, Kafclown-- Yes, Yonkers is an interesting place all on its own, partly because it's old and has a lot of history. Re. Loew's Paradise, who knows what its future will hold. But at least there seems to be a viable business model for keeping the place open, what with the concerts and sports events, and the fact that the Bronx generally is less under assault than it has been in previous decades should help. As to how you protect such places, good question. Great question. If we knew the answer, we could probably save a lot more of them. One answer, at least in my opinion, has to do with the constituency for these places. In neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, one reason historic buildings got protected is because there was a strong local constituency eager to help save them. In many parts of the Bronx, the people with the fondest memories of certain buildings are long gone from the neighborhood; they're not on the scene, fighting for landmarking or other such changes. At least when it comes to the beautiful Art Deco building, I hope my book will at least remind people that there are some architectural treasures along the Grand Concourse. That couldn't hurt.
(fom) Tue 1 Dec 09 12:59
Hello! I was in the middle of a long post about my babyhood in the West Bronx, and then the computer clicked off. I had to go down to the basement to flip the breaker. So, I will reconstruct the post; more later. The basics are that I was born in 1942, and we lived at 266 Bedford Park Boulevard, which is one of those great deco buildings.
Gail (gail) Tue 1 Dec 09 13:48
fom, do you still recognize it when you look at the street with Google street view?
Gail (gail) Tue 1 Dec 09 13:54
I guess you would if this is it: http://tinyurl.com/266bldg That structure can't have changed all that much!
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Tue 1 Dec 09 14:00
I am loving this book--it is like a well-written mystery novel combined with excellent sociology. (I'll probably have questions when I finish, but in the meantime I'm just enjoying it.)
(fom) Tue 1 Dec 09 15:43
yes, I totally recognize it, and earlier this year Monica went and took some pics of the building, which she put on Flickr. Of course it seemed bigger when I was a baby.
(fom) Tue 1 Dec 09 16:03
It seemed like a huge building to me. I remember the lobby especially, with deco murals and brass railings, and then you could go right or left, up a few steps, and there was the elevator into your end of the building. Our apartment had the sunken living room with parquet floor, and the wrought iron railing. My particular memory of the wrought iron railing is that when I was about 3 or 4, some relative gave me a green plastic ring (like, Bakelite) and it got stuck on my finger, and some other relative or family friend had to file it off, as I clung to the wrought iron railing for strength. I think we were on the fourth floor. We were at a corner, and there was a firehouse across the way; they did demonstrations of things like jumping off a building into a net, which I loved. Besides the living room and really nice entry hall, our apartment had a galley kitchen and 2.5 bedrooms, if I recall correctly. My parents were both professors at Fordham. This was my mother's dream existence; she had made it from a small town in Wisconsin to being a professor at a university in New York. She didn't like the midwest. Then my father got offered a job at the University of Chicago, to which he could not say no. My mother refused to move to Chicago, a place she detested. So my father went there on his own, hoping she'd eventually join him, and when I was one and a half she finally did. And then, my aunt and my grandfather (Lois and Grandpapa) took over the apartment on Bedford Park Boulevard, and we visited often from Chicago, so my memories of it stretch from 1942-ish to 1947 or so. (Lois comnmuted from there to her job at College of New Rochelle. I guess there was a train?)
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Tue 1 Dec 09 21:34
Wow,interesting. I've never been on that part of Bedford Park Blvd. Bronx Science is a few blocks to the Northwest, both of the subway stops students used to take were Bedford Park Blvd, one at the Concourse (D Train),the other at Jerome Ave (that train is above ground at that point, it surfaces near Yankee Stadium). Could commuting have been done via the subway and then the New Haven RR? I got motivated and researched, and discovered to my chagrin that one of my favorite buildings in The Bronx, old Borough Hall on Tremont Ave., got razed after a fire way back in '69. That was quite a nice structure.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Wed 2 Dec 09 09:32
Thanks for all the Bedford Park Blvd. memories! One of the great pleasures of writing the book was hearing other people's stories, like yours, and happily that's continuing even after publication! These memories, as I say in the book, are invariably very rich and very sharp -- I think that tells you a great deal about how people feel about this part of the city.
(fom) Wed 2 Dec 09 13:28
I always say I grew up in Chicago and I've been in the Bay Area for 39 years, but I am actually from The Bronx.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Wed 2 Dec 09 15:32
to fom-- Some people who live in Riverdale refuse to say they're from the Bronx, even though Riverdale is undisputably part of the Bronx. It's all very complicated.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 2 Dec 09 16:34
Connie, I wanted to ask you about your website for this book. It's at <http://boulevard.fromthesquare.org/> and it is lavishly adorned with reviews. I'm wondering, how important are websites for books? Do people find you there and follow up with purchases, or booking events with you... or is it mostly a producer of "buzz" and general awareness, in your opinion? It's also got a link to an audio tour at the Times. (Warning - sound and slides both start up when you open the page - but it's very nicely done.) <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/08/21/arts/20090821_CONCOURSE_AUDIO.ht ml>
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Wed 2 Dec 09 22:48
More than a few people use Riverdale as their mailing address vs The Bronx. It's the last large section of the borough which is still predominately "non Hispanic white" (aside from small pockets like Belmont (Little Italy), Woodlawn and Throggs Neck. And Riverdale is high income as well. Hmm, wonder if there's a connection:-) Another Bedford Park Blvd story. In January '64 (i'm pretty sure it was the 14th), i had a midyear math exam to take at Bronx Science. Early that morning a snowstorm started. The Board of Education, already feeling pressed by all the expenses due to the segregation mess, decided to keep schools open, depending upon the forecast of "light snow" vs the outside conditions of whiteout, 10°F with winds gusting to 40mph. So off to school i went. Got off at the Bedford Park Blvd/Concourse station (D Train) and started walking the two blocks to Harris Park on it (to be followed by one block along Paul Ave to the school), and almost didn't make it, had a hard time walking, and seeing where i was walking, did it more by memory of Bedford Park Blvd than anything, scared that if i tripped and fell, i'd get buried by a drift within minutes and no one would see me fall. Made it, by the time i got to school, one of my eyeballs had a hard time moving. So we all took the test, during which winds would at times make it feel like the building was shaking, so rattled were the windows, and while normally you could see across the nearby running track and the Jerome Reservoir, nothing was visible. The principal told us via intercom to leave school after the test in groups. Schools were closed... the next day. One of my scariest weather experiences ever. The School Board, already besieged from several sides, caught huge flack from incensed parents all over the city, but insisted that they made the right decision. It was another sign that the City was headed into trouble.
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Thu 3 Dec 09 06:32
Hi, Gail-- I always knew I wanted a website for my book (it's official address, by the way, is: http://www.boulevard-of-dreams.com), largely so I could direct people there when I wanted them to know about events, reviews, my bio, etc. When it first went up, I sent an email blast to lots of people I knew, just saying it had arrived. As to how much other people find it, and use it, I really don't know. But since I'm not on Facebook, the website seemed the best way to give the book automatic presence on the web.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 3 Dec 09 08:14
As someone who didn't live in New York City, I have only a vague understanding of the boroughs. Most of what I know about Brooklyn comes from reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and similar, whereas I don't really know of a similar body of literature around the Bronx. How are Brooklyn and the Bronx different and similar?
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Thu 3 Dec 09 11:08
The Bronx is the only borough which is on the US mainland, though a tiny part of what's geographically in The Bronx, Marble Hill, is in Manhattan politically. Boroughs are contiguous with counties, though the names of the county sometimes differs from the corresponding borough (Manhattan = New York, The Bronx = Bronx, Brooklyn= Kings, Queens=Queens, Staten Island = Richmond). Brooklyn was a separate city till 1898, tends to be flatter (being a part of Long Island), has a very distinct "downtown", since it was a separate city, is overall older. The Bronx didn't really get built up in a dense way till the 20th Century, when the subway lines got extended up there, permitting a more easy commute. There are houses and other artifacts from earlier times in The Bronx, but Brooklyn tends to have more of a history in that sense. Both historically have had distinct ethnic neighborhoods, though there were more in Brooklyn, which had lots more people (2.7 million peak, vs 1.6 million for The Bronx). Due to the events discussed here, The Bronx has seen much more urban devastation, which did take place in eastern parts of Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York) but was not as extensive, much if not most of The Bronx experienced it. The population of the Bronx is now majority Latino, only some 13% are non-Hispanic whites, whereas they form a larger portion of the population of Brooklyn. And parts of Brooklyn near downtown Manhattan (Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Williamsburg, Greenpoint) have seen the process some call yuppification, so far there hasn't been much of that in The Bronx, not to my knowledge. More of Brooklyn also consists of suburban like areas of detached homes, especially the further south one goes.
(fom) Thu 3 Dec 09 21:07
did not know the Bronx was the only borough on the mainland!
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Thu 3 Dec 09 23:23
Brooklyn and Queens are on Long Island (though when people say Long Island, they usually mean the two counties further east, outside the city, ie Nassau and Suffolk), Manhattan and Staten Island are.. islands:-) (Staten Island is really more a part of New Jersey, from which it's separated mostly by a narrow strip of water called Arthur Kill, it's far closer to the Jersey short than to either Manhattan or Brooklyn).
Connie Rosenblum (crosenblum) Fri 4 Dec 09 10:05
Gentrification in the Bronx is an interesting issue and one that gets discussed a lot these days. On the one hand, it seems to bode well for the borough, but on the other, many people are apprehensive that it will bring hipster culture, not to mention higher housing prices, to areas of the borough that desire neither. As many other parts of the city have discovered, gentrification can be a double-edged sword.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 4 Dec 09 10:13
Connie, you have an interesting section in the book about the Armenian photographer who did a lot of the weddings in the area. Could you tell us more about your interviews with his daughter? I've always been a big fan of wedding photos. I look at them as a social scientist trying to extract cultural meanings from the way people pose in formal settings. They are telling everyone: This is the way we want you to see us. This is the way things *should* be, not necessarily the way things are. The portrait that you draw of the Bronx and the Grand Concourse is a series of seperate worlds. Is it a Jewish story? An Italian story? Irish story? Puerto Rican story? Black story? What do these worlds share so that it is a Bronx story?
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