Thursday, August 19, 2010

Arverne By the Sea

 I've talked about growing up in what became a slum neighborhood of the Bronx, but I am actually from Queens.

I have only a few childhood memories of tales of the place that was my home back when I was a little baby, from where my parents moved from when I was five months old.  I was never to return...at least so I thought.

Stories my Dad told me as a child, so distant in my memory, flooded back recently.

I was born in the Rockaways, an area of Queens (part of NYC).  We lived on Beach 56th Street, in a neighborhood called Arverne.  

Arverne had become a slum, too, by the time I was a teenager.  My two childhood homes, both slums.  No wonder I escaped New York City all together.

My Dad told me he would wheel my baby carriage on the Boardwalk.   I was a baby during the winter.  When it snowed, the snow would melt in the salt air.  I love the ocean, although I don't see it often. The ocean is in my blood.

The other day, I picked up an old New York magazine where I exercise.  People discard magazines and books.  Sometimes I find something interesting.  This magazine caught my eye.  I brought it home.

The magazine talked about various New York City neighborhoods.  One made me totally stop and gasp.

 Arverne by the Sea.  The magazine called it an "urbanist experiment".

It's urban renewal as you've never seen it. A social experiment.  To be blunt, a lot of the area is high crime, and the commute to Manhattan is quite long.  But on the bay side, Arverne by the Sea rises, challenging a hurricane to destroy it.

New York City does get hurricanes, you know.

I found something else online..the word Edgemere Houses.  It's not the housing project where my parents lived-I wish I could remember the name but I know Edgemere wasn't it.  But-  I looked Edgemere up on the Internet and found a treasure trove of photos....including that boardwalk where I was wheeled in a baby carriage. Part of it is called Ocean Promenade and all together it's the largest boardwalk on the East Coast.

But much of what it winds through is....vacant.  Abandoned.  Such sad photos. Arverne by the Sea seeks to change that.

Arverne by the Sea.  I will continue to follow the development with interest, and wish it much success. One day I will remember the name of the housing project where I lived as a baby, and perhaps the Internet will allow me to solve another puzzle of my childhood.  And maybe one day both Arverne and my Bronx neighborhood will rise again from their ashes.

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