Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Our Neighborhood

We have lived in this Harlem neighborhood for over 20 years and have witnessed the ebb and flow regarding changing neighbors and establishments that have survived turbulent economies, as well as those that have folded.

In 1990, we considered ourselves fortunate indeed to have landed a two-bedroom apartment with a patio in Manhattan. Recommended by a friend, it gave credence to the saying that it’s not necessary what you know, but who you know! At the time, our next-door neighbors were two individuals sharing the space and they completely disturbed us with their loud music. It turned out one young man was offering hair salon services and thought that having music played at full blast added to his cool atmosphere. Inviting him in to hear the thumping base, he sheepishly agreed that it was a bit much. Our current neighbor, who has lived there for at least ten years, plays music at a blissfully reasonable level.

We have a corner store nearby known as a “bodega”–we haven’t yet googled the origin of that word. For years, we rarely set foot inside. Now we find it extremely convenient and have found some truly tasty treats. Though, their prices are relatively high, equal to those in wealthier areas. I assume we’ve helped pay for excellent college educations for the children of the proprietors.

Sadly, I cannot write about my neighborhood in New York City without mentioning the pervasive element of crime. When we first moved here, we were horrified to hear gunfire. It was something we hadn’t experienced in our quiet Central Park West neighborhood, but we’ve learned to endure it. For some years we enjoyed a blanket of calm, but, regrettably, shots have rang out on an all too regular basis. It is highly disturbing and the brazen criminals are unconcerned whether they commit their heinous acts under cover of darkness or in broad daylight. Only once, though, has a policeman shown up at our door during the night asking us if we had heard anything suspicious on our floor.

But that aside, let’s move on to one of my favorite topics–food! We used to purchase large quantities of fried chicken for our guests at a grocery chain known as Pathmark. It was well-cooked and very tasty. Our guests loved it. On a whim, we decided to try the chicken at our local take-out establishment. It was equally delicious and reasonably priced. We offered it to our guests and it was a hit! Would you believe our friend requested we bring some to a meeting in order for her family to have it for dinner that evening? I sincerely hope the owners are able to maintain the business for at least another ten years.

Violence aside, convenient food shops, services, and transportation keep us rooted to this diverse neighborhood.

What makes your neighborhood unique? What do you like about it and what do you wish was different?

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