Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two Bridges

An excerpt from a 2006 Newsday story by Jonathan Scheff. I had forgotten that KV was in the heart of the Two Bridges neighborhood.
Paul Ratnofsky remembers playing Skully in the streets of Two Bridges, using a detergent cap weighted with melted crayons.
"Back then, you were thrown together with all sorts of neighborhood kids. It didn't matter if you really liked each other; you were friends," said Ratnofsky, who was born on Madison Street, grew up on Grand, and now lives on Grand with his two sons.
The historically Italian and Irish population of Two Bridges in Manhattan gave way to black and Hispanic newcomers after World War II, said Victor Papa, president and director of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council.
Now the population is becoming more Asian.
"It's maybe the last wave of immigrants we'll see on the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side is quickly becoming a museum of immigrant memories. When you become a historic designation, that's a clear indication that immigration is over," Papa said.
In 1957, when Seward Park Cooperatives were built, there were many kids in the neighborhood, said Anne Lewison, an architect who lives in the co-ops with her two children. As residents grew older and their children moved away, the neighborhood became a NORC (a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.)
Now, partly due to the expensive Manhattan market, more families are moving in. Seward Park has been revitalized by renovation and by the presence of children.
Blue Condominium, architect Bernard Tschumi's blue whale of a building that towers over Delancey Street, serves as an example of change in the neighborhood.
Ratner's, a popular Kosher restaurant in the mid-20th century, eventually went non-Kosher when business slowed in the 1980s and finally closed in 2002. Now a Sleepy's occupies the space and Blue Condominium's sales office occupies Ratner's old kitchen.
Two Bridges has one of the highest densities of public housing in the city, mostly located in the southern part of the neighborhood, along the FDR Drive.
"When Pathmark opened up, it was a big deal. But that was pretty much it," he said. "You can walk for blocks there and find nothing. It's a little isolated and sad there … [that's why] the Two Bridges area will never gentrify the way other areas can."

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