Sunday, December 17, 2006

Action Jackson

Today I used a free afternoon and unseasonably gorgeous weather to check out Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in northwest Queens that's begun to attract a lot of people who are being priced out of decent housing in Manhattan.

I got off the #7 elevated train at 82nd Street to find a thriving Latin immigrant community, with the smell of fried food wafting up the stairs to greet me. I strolled around 82nd Street, 37th Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue. The stores and the crowds looked like 14th Street in downtown Manhattan did a few years ago, before 14th Street turned into one long swath of Big Box stores and multi-million dollar condo lofts. The tops of several of the lower buildings had that Tudor detailing you find in a lot of major thoroughfares in Queens.

I didn't see any evidence of Exiled Manhattanites on my walk, but I did see tree-lined side street with big pre-World War Two red brick apartment buildings. The kind where you know that the apartments inside will have good strong bones and large rooms. They would also probably be three- or four-bedroom apartments with extended families: Parents, three or four kids, a cousin or two, an aunt or uncle, maybe a grandparent brought over from the old country once Dad got settled and found work in a restaurant.

These are the kind of buildings where my great-grandparents raised their families, and my grandparents, and where my parents raised their kids until I turned 13.

When I got back onto the #7 train, it was full of Asian immigrants who had gotten on at Flushing. I changed trains at 74th Street, and a bunch of immigrants from India and Pakistan got on. They would be raising the next generation of Americans in those big red brick buildings. The kids would go on to college or tech school, then get out and get jobs and look for a place of their own. And then, in a few more years, they too would be Exiled Manhattanites.

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