Monday, December 23, 2013


I lived in a  apartment building that had "interesting" qualities; not the least of which were the number and size of rats that came to visit now and again.  There were also various neighbors in the building and on the block who kept things interesting; the elderly Korean War vet who always grabbed my arm to say hi and tell me stories about his days on the front; always emphasizing that on the front and in the heat of battle, our blood was the same. There was another guy who my niece and I called "Big Pun" because of his immense girth; a really nice guy who was also a community advocate and gave a lot of advise on tenant rights, my buddy James who lived with his wife and two kids in a green house two doors down; time and time again he would come to my window and call for me: "Yo Will! Yo Will!" and if I was home and answered the window, he would always say, "You wanna buy a MetroCard?" And there was Lisa, my next door neighbor... le sigh...

I wish I could say it was one of the nicest places I lived in, but it was quite the opposite.  I had no idea what i was in for when I moved in; fresh faced from the suburbs and transferred from community college to complete my film degree at Hunter. If the drug busts, gang fights, crack vials, booming radios, cringing neighbors (especially the ones from other blocks who all wanted to quarantine the block from the rest of the neighborhood) weren't an indication, then certainly the rats were.  These were rats that let you know that the stories you heard about New York City rats were not necessarily apocryphal.

I'm sure this street was one of the nicest places to live at a certain time in history, but these days it reflects a lot on what happened to the Bronx in general when the decay and withdrawal of industry (and jobs and the urban middle class in short order) ravaged the borough, leaving emotional scars across the board that lingered for generations. 

I recently found out that an organization decided to build a facility to house and service folks who were both homeless and mentally ill.  The link is to a PDF newsletter from Postgraduate Center for Mental Health introducing the new Lyvere Street Residence. The facility has (or will have, I haven't verified it's existence or completion yet) forty-eight units with many modern amenities and a courtyard that's said to be it's centerpiece; something the whole community will be drawn to.

It replaces the little shack that housed a big drug nest, as well as the green and white house my neighbor James, his wife and two kids lived in. I can still hear him calling out and asking if I need a MetroCard.

And to be honest, I don't really know how I feel. I can't help but sense some sort of irony in it all. 


Joe De Leon said...

Thanks for this blog man. I grew up in that building and this brought back a lot of memories. After 9/11 my Dad was out of work and we had to move. I'm 20 now and live in Ft. Myers but I still think about being a kid riding my bike around the block there. The roaches, rats, and gangs sucked but I have some good memories. It was interesting hearing your story.

Chyll Will said...

Joe, I'm glad this post found you. I lived on the first floor inside (second windows up from the ground on the right next to steps) and moved out about a year later, so I very well might have seen you when you were a kid riding your bike around the block. I did verify that the center was built; it looks very nice and all, but it's strange being there; knowing what was there before, it stands out like a ceramic plate mixed in with paper plates. All that said, Lyvere Street has a charm all it's own; I suppose only people who've lived there would understand >;)