Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Avenue C Hell

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.

Ron Lopez


BrooklynBorn said...

thanks for sharing that, I gotta share my stories of living at 564 East 3rd, an hey do you remember the egg fights during Halloween? ah.... stories. when I post them
to my blog I'll send you a link.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story, Ron.
I bought my apt in 2002 in the Avenue C house and it was burglarized a month after the move in. Besides that 1 incident by a former renter, I surmised, I have never felt unsafe in the building and there's a nice mix of professionals/artists here now.

JillKG said...

I lived in that building from 2000-2004. Thanks so much for sharing this history! I never knew the building was so infamous. I enjoyed living there very much.

Nick said...

My family lived in this building from 1964 to 1973. I was probably a schoolmate of yours at P.S. 179 at some point. Were one of the few Catholic families in the building. It was a great place to live in the 60's, but it was already going downhill in the early 70's when we moved to Queens. I never realized how bad it got, though. Nice to see that my old home has come back to respectability. Thanks for the story, and I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Unfortuneatly, I live there now and it is getting to be a building of free-for-all tenants. Very noisy, dirty tenants, too many dogs and screaming, uncontrolled kids. The people are messy, slamming thier doors, the music is loud and they do not know how to throw out the garbage. It doesn't mean anything to be an owner thier now. I am thinking about selling my unit for a $1 and moving out!

Glenn Nocera said...

Thanks Ron love your Blog. I live on East 4th Between Cortelyou and Ditmas Ave. My Family Has been living There since 1956. Did you ever go to school with any of my brothers and sisters, Gregg, David, Donna, Karen Nocera My brother eric and me would be from after your time at P S 179. Keep Writing.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am checking this blog using the phone and this appears to be kind of odd. Thought you'd wish to know. This is a great write-up nevertheless, did not mess that up.

- David

Ming Ooi said...

Thanks for the note. I live in this building now and I'm part of the new wave of homeowners who began to move in starting in the early 2000's. It's a great mix of young families, with kid's and pets - neighbors have gatherings and help babysit each other's children. Very warm and friendly.

The Descriptionsist said...

I have $1 right now for the would-be seller of that apartment.

Does Ron Lopez get a commission on the sale? If so, your cut of $1 will net you a cool, 4 cents.

Thanks for the history Ron. Keep the stories coming.

Ravish said...

New York is always a city in flux, and this part of Brooklyn is no exception. Right now, Kensington is re-defining itself. As far as the "Avenue C Hell", this autor of that comment has no idea (or is ignoring) the fact that our co-op has an amazing concentration of talented folks (from TV folks working on CBS' Blue Bloods & winning-awards for Directing… to musicians who have collaborated with Bruce Springsteen, Shakira, Elvis Costello, King Missile, and beyond) to a successful indie-record-label owner, to journalists to a poet-laureate! Beat that! I'm a proud member of the Avenue C Community.

Greg415 said...

Have been taking care of the trees in picture since Con Ed planted them as a "Cinderella Project" in 1987, & when it comes my time to pass on the pole pruner, a young mother who's been renting for five years or so is ready to take over. This is typical of the renters here (yes we're an overwhelmingly owner occupied coop, but a few apartments are rented). Pets? We've been pet & people friendly for years. Crime? Giuliani & Bloomberg really didn't abolish it, despite what they tell you, but this is a safe building in a safe neighborhood. Garbage? What building is 100% perfect & can't possibly be improved? At least we've got an overwhelming majority of (non-anonymous) people who are willing to work to make this a better place. I wish "anonymous" luck with his hoped-for sale: I hope it goes through quickly. He won't be missed. This place has become even more diverse than when I moved here. I'm glad I probably still have a couple more decades to spend here. This place is Home, w/ a capital "H." (And, Hey, Jill!)

Kerin said...

K says:

I am a proud parent of two, who has had nothing but wonderful experiences living in the Ave C building for 5+ years. Both my neighbors and the neighborhood have been both friendly and safe. I am comfortable having my children walk and play in the neighborhood, and we all have friends who live steps from the building. It is wonderful feeling to be part of a community!
I will willingly purchase your apartment for a $1, and help another community minded family move in!.