When I was growing up in Kensington we only knew this place as “The Apartment House on Avenue C”. No, forget an address or anything like that, it was just “The Apartment House on Avenue C”.
I could tell you that in the 60’s this place was a mix of young parents, children and the elderly. Many of my PS 179 classmates lived here and it was not uncommon to find their grandparents living in the same apartment. With white pillows propped on concrete windowsills they’d wave to their grandchildren as they walked up Avenue C towards school.
And the “Apartment House on Avenue C” was mostly Jewish too. During the holidays when East 4th was ablaze with Christmas lights and plastic Santa faces nailed above doorways. The “Apartment House” was chock full of brightly lit Hanukah Menorahs” with orange bulbs in just about every window.
I had friends there; my Mom had friends there. It was just a wonderful extension of my block, and was a very solid pillar that made Kensington that nice in the 60’s.
But then something happened in the 70’s and like every other “great exodus” it just happened without warning.
The "Apartment House on Avenue C" had changed, all my friends were gone and there were no more elderly leaning on the windowsills. Yes, other people were living there now and they weren't exactly as nice as my friend "Harold Levy" from PS 179.
No, instead of placing an orange bulb in a plastic Hanukah Menorah late at night, a 38-caliber bullet was being placed in the cold chamber of a handgun.
And seeing a Police car racing down my block and parked in front of the “Apartment House on Avenue C” was the norm. And don’t ever mess with “Lucky and his gang” because he always had a handgun that he’d flash us when he walked by my stoop.
Yes, the houses on my block were being robbed, people were getting mugged and my block was changing. It was time to leave Brooklyn folks, this was it, and it’s never going to be the same again.
And they did leave, they left in droves.
Now, I’m not going to say that that apartment house was all to blame for everyone leaving. But it certainly must have played a major role in some of my friend’s parents deciding to move to the suburbs. I mean having the cold barrel of a gun placed on the side of your temple doesn’t speak kindly of Brooklyn at all. And I’m sure it “somehow” prompted that real estate page to be looked at touting the wonders of “Kings Park Long Island”.
Yeah, forget about East 4th and especially that “Apartment House on Avenue C”. a safe place is where we want to live.
So let’s pack up the station wagon, And say goodbye to the neighbors. Goodbye “Motherless Brooklyn”, Kings Park here we come!
Wow, it was amazing how one building and a few shootings could scare away my whole block.
But then there were those that “stayed”.
And just like in that movie “Escape from New York”, we sat around the fires we made from burning car tires and kept ourselves warm at night.
Yeah, some huddled masses never left. Doomed to suffer on East 4th and Kensington. All because of the “Apartment House on Avenue C”. Just waiting for the world to end.
But then something happened. After a while there were no more police cars racing down my block, and no more shootings. Lucky and his boys were finally gone and we heard the “Apartment House” was going co-op.
It was all so baffling, because East 4th was headed towards oblivion you see. And we were all supposed to go to Hell along with that “building”.
But it never really happened. Because it went co-op. Yes, because it went co-op.
And even today some thirty years after “Lucky and his boys” left that “Apartment House on Avenue C”, I’m still amazed at how that placed has changed. Young parents with children along with some the brightest minds around always stroll down my block. All living in a building that would make 60’s Kensington proud again.
And me, well I'm feeling good these days. Because instead of "Lucky and his Boys" walking by my stoop, there are warm smiles and "good mornings". And no one from "The Apartment House on Avenue C" ever flashes a 38-caliber handgun when they walk by my house.