Home By Marquel They Kept a Lower East Side Lot Vacant for 47 Years. No...

They Kept a Lower East Side Lot Vacant for 47 Years. No low income housing in Jewish neighborhoods.

The N Y Times finally found out: They Kept a Lower East Side Lot Vacant for 47 Years. Marquel, TPVs Times real estate correspondent, got the reason: just to make sure a Jewish”enclave” wasn’t invaded by Black’s, Puerto Ricans, or Chinese. Sheldon Silver did his job but his partner was just indicted for stealing 7 million from the Jewish community group. But everybody won, as long as they were Jewish and wore payeses.

edIt all started in 1967, when the land was razed to make room for development, displacing thousands of Puerto Rican families who were promised apartments upon their return. There were neither apartments not returns during the last half century. The Orthodox community along with Sheldon Silver blocked any plans that would allow non Jews in. At one point some apartments meant to ease the crowding in Chinatown were built but only Jews moved in. That was in litigation for awhile bit it went nowhere.

Marquel thought this neither American nor Jewish and was determined to look into it. Sheldon Silver, since his partner in crime was indicted (and most likely didn’t share the 7 million), no longer wanted to talk about it and said his partner was no longer his friend. But I cornered an aide.

“Isn’t this bizarre protecting this one Jewish neighborhood,” I started, and continued, “assuming a neighborhood is somehow protected by not having other ethnic groups there?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Most groups like to stay with their own.”

“You sure of that?” I asked. “It sounds so 50s to me.”

He was silent. “And what about the Puerto Ricans who were evicted with promises of return. How do they get to live with their own kind?” I asked.

“This is life,” he said, palms outstretched.

“Thank you Socrates,” I said and left.

I went to the local shul and joined a group of men drinking schnapps after morning prayers. “Don’t you think it was short sighted to sit on that empty lot for fifty years just to keep out low income housing?” I asked.

“The Schwarzes?” Asked one using a semi derogatory term for blacks.

“Actually the first group was Hispanic” I said. They gave me baleful looks that essentially translated as what difference. “Then there were Chinese. Many of them.”

The youngest said,”There’s no such thing as just a few of them.” Everyone laughed.

“But what,” I asked, “about ‘thou shalt welcome the stranger in your midst?’ ”

“That’s Passover,” said the obviously least informed. An argument broke out about when the stricture applies. Some favored Passover others a more general interpretation.

“Are schwartzes strangers?” Asked one. Another asked whether Chinese qualified. “For dinner. All of them. They’re all welcome for dinner. It doesn’t say you should welcome low income housing in your midst”

I said, “I think your all missing the point.”

“Not at all” one answered. “I heard when they move in they open stores with offensive names. The Auschwitz barber shop. Birkenau Bakery. Shoa shoes. No kidding that’s what they have in Harlem. I’ve seen it.” The others nodded agreement.

I left.

I went down to Chinatown where a crowd gathered at my questions. I had some muffins. Hmmmm. “How come that lot’s been open for fifty years?” I asked.

“The Jews. They don’t want us” said one woman.

“But that can’t be,”I said. “They are the people of the book. They love learning and your kids love school. It’s a perfect match.”

“That Book is closed,” said another. “They don’t even send their kids to school. They have their own shivas.”

“Yeshivas,” I corrected, “Shivas are for dead people.”

The same look as with the Jews. What difference.

Another argument broke out but this time I couldn’t understand a word. An older man came to me and explained, “they say the Jews don’t want us. Don’t like us. They call us ‘two dollar’ because we cheap. They open stores and all wear glasses with Chinese eyes on them to make us feel uncomfortable. They open clothing stores called ‘no tickee no shirtee” to make fun of our English. They bad people.”

I went on to Harlem. I had some ribs. They all knew about the empty lot.

“We’re just schwartzes to them,” one man told me, “and they hire us to do things on Sabbath. We were here 200 years before them but they still treat us like slaves.”

“I guess you’ve been here long enough to know,” I said.

“You know they open stores named the Robert E Lee, and, a shoe store named ball and chain. It would have been horrible to live with them.”

“You think so?” I asked.

“Well it’s a nice view there, but it was never meant to be ours,” he said with resignation.

“You’re right,” I said, “it was supposed to go back to the Puerto Ricans who were evicted in 67.”

“You know,” he said, “that’s when they won the war in Israel and a lot of Arabs were ejected from their homes. I don’t think they’ve come back either.”

“Well,” I said, “with a little historical inaccuracy here and there you’re basically right. So you think this is as intractable as the Middle East?”

“I hope not. If we can’t solve one lot here in the city, they’ll never solve that problem over there.” He said.

I shook his hand, said “good luck,” and left, no wiser but older. Much older.

***

To learn more about NYC Blacks, Hispanics, Jews and other denominations, follow Marquel on Twitter @MarquelatTPV or @ThePotholeView.

12 COMMENTS

  1. read my mind:
    “Then there were Chinese. Many of them.”
    The youngest said, ”There’s no such thing as just a few of them.” Everyone laughed.

  2. Man, you’re so smooth.
    “I went on to Harlem. I had some ribs. They all knew about the empty lot.”

  3. … and the end is splendid. Pure Marquel. Man, if you run for Mayor you have my vote.
    “I shook his hand, said “good luck,” and left, no wiser but older. Much older.”

  4. I have been reading your articles for a while now. Each one of them was splendid. I haven’t commented until now though. The only reason why I chose to comment is because you have inspired me to make my own blog. I have always wanted to write because it seemed to be the only thing I was good at. Your articles are so well written, and made every one of my days brighter. It reminded me how much good writing can do for the world. So, thank you Marquel, you have inspired me to do my one blog. Maybe one day I can have as good of a blog as you. So, once again, thank you.

  5. You should submit your best pieces occasionally to the pothole. You can never tell. There’s more than one way to get lucky!

  6. Nice:
    They have their own shivas.”
    “Yeshivas,” I corrected, “Shivas are for dead people.”

  7. oh, and this one…brilliant:

    “The Auschwitz barber shop. Birkenau Bakery. Shoa shoes. No kidding that’s what they have in Harlem. I’ve seen it.”

Comments are closed.