Two years ago, when I stayed here last, I took the following notes:
‘Plenty of activity in the building across the street with people coming and going. Big bust there recently. When I was working upstairs the other day, a couple pulled up in a new white Explorer. The guy had braids like Snoop Dog and the chick was dressed ‘ghetto fabulous’ in sunglasses and gold chains. They hung around on the front stoop talking to someone from inside a couple of hours, obviously waiting for someone. The guy especially looked easygoing, not at all threatening, but the vehicle and the clothes just looked like drug bling.
An hour later two black Lexuses pulled up. Fat woman with big bags from K-mart or some mega-mall got out with two kids from the second Lexus – was the first an escort? – and went into the building. In the daytime the street is busy with the big trucks coming in to the bottling plant across the way and Hispanic women lining up on the pavement to get into the textile factories. The Hasidic guy next door comes in and out of his factory – I’ve never figured out what he makes – and the cars pull into the ‘Foreign Already Owned’ car place across the way. Never figured out what goes on in that shop. A guy who was staying here before said he saw someone pull out a pistol as he was walking away from the car place a couple of weeks ago and fire into the air.
Traffic dissipates by evening and by nightfall the street is pretty much deserted.”
A couple of days after I wrote this, I was woken up at 6 am by some large dog barking on and on. Finally, after a couple of hours, I opened the big metal door which guards the front of the building and found some huge black woman sitting on a couch chair next to the building steps. Two fire trucks and an EMS truck had been round the night before – it didn’t seem like a major emergency, no one even answered the door for a few minutes and fireman didn’t seem too worried – but still I felt like the woman and the barking dog were connected to whatever had happened the night before. The dog – a pit bull – was chained to a cinder block next to the woman and another couple in ragged clothes chatted with the woman then stumbled up the street. They looked poor, but okay, without that lantern glow in the eyes that makes crackheads look so disturbing. Every so often the woman in the chair would try to calm the dog down – the dog seemed to be barking at the woman and the man beside her – but the dog just kept getting more and more excited and when I finally left the house to get away from the noise it was barking more than ever.
The couch chair remained outside for a week or so but I never saw the woman again nor heard the dog. Once, the guy who had been standing with the woman came out with the dog on the leash. The Japanese art kids who lived in some sort of loft above the woodworking shop came out at the same time with their little mutt and the guy was kind enough to wave and hold his pit bull back until they and their little dog were out of harm’s way.
The building has been renovated now, the former tenants thrown out. Where do these people go?
The whole street is changing. One new building up the street ready for tenants (low-income housing from the looks of it – part of Bloomberg’s push for more low-income units in this rabidly gentrified city), and another building beside it with balconies, presumably so the residents can look out on the trucks pulling into the bottling plant down below. The old Hasidim is still around, but the auto shop has been taken over by some white guys with some big woodworking shop who work all day with the doors open. Down the street, where a jerk chicken shack opened for a month then spent a year shuttered closed, the building has been torn down and a condo with big green windows – great views of the traffic pouring down Bedford Ave. – is almost finished. Even the liquour store across Bedford with the ‘Serving Fine Liquors Since 1926’ sign is being redone. Maybe they’ll even get rid of the pexiglass shield.