Those who resided at 1644 Park Avenue in East Harlem were blessed with the unique kind of social support system only urban dwellers can experience. Everything is there. So is everyone. Here The New York Times highlights some of that closeness.
Those who had lived there not only lost their homes. They lost each other.
In downtown Jersey City, New Jersey in the 1950s, 227 Bay Street had been a three-floor walkup rental. With gentrification it's now a condo, with a roof garden. The ecosystem provided babysitting, small loans, counseling services, hand-me down communion dresses, car rides, home medical remedies and prayer groups.
My older sister Camille Genova Klinga had maintained social ties in the old neighborhood. Those who attended her wake in Edison, NJ in 2001 kept recounting that living on Bay Street had been the happiest, most secure time of their lives. So, it wasn't just nostalgia on my part to frame growing up in brick urban as days of heaven.
As so many Baby Boomers I moved on up. At one point I had a This Old House on the Gold Coast of Connecticut and a cottage at the Jersey shore. But I had chased after a community of people who knew how to care about me.
What I had at Bay Street I finally found on Facebook. There I re-discovered classmates from a then all-women's Catholic college where we had to wear hats, gloves and trench coats over slacks. Blue jeans hadn't been invented. The ecosystem is 100 percent. Members include Lee Harrison, Irene Nunn, Kathleen Huebner and Charlotte Toal. Anne Desmond has been grandfathered in.
Again, money doesn't matter. Neither does work status. Intuitively we know exactly how to help. The residents of 1644 Park Avenue have lost everything. There is hope, though, that they can put that together elsewhere, in time.