not so much a neighbourhood as a memory

What this crisis of capitalism looks like in one neighbourhood of my hometown.
At times, this stretch of 118th Avenue in South Jamaica, Queens, feels not so much like a neighborhood but a memory of one.

A red-brick house with overgrown weeds in the yard is boarded shut. A house with a dirty awning has a thick chain looping out from a hole in the door where a deadbolt once was. On the front window of a vacant property around the corner, someone has taped a sign warning that the water supply has been shut off and antifreeze added to the sinks and toilets.

Newton and Ronda Whyte have gotten used to living next door to no one. "Every two or three houses it's empty," said Ms. Whyte, 36, a nurse assistant. "It's not a good feeling. You see the weeds growing tall and the junk mail piling up."

This area at 118th Avenue and 153rd Street is at the center of New York's foreclosure crisis. About 28 percent of the homes in this working-class neighborhood just north of Kennedy Airport have been in some phase of foreclosure since 2004, and its census tract leads the city in foreclosure filings.

More than two years ago, most homes here were occupied and the neighborhood was making strides against the drugs, violence and abandonment that had plagued it in the past, residents and merchants said. But today they mostly talk about decreasing property values, increasing crime, struggling small businesses and fraying community bonds. They talk of leaving, and wonder whose house is next.

"It's not even worth getting to know anybody because nobody is going to stay around anyway," said Fernando Espinal, 23, who grew up on 118th Avenue.

The gates are down for good at the Mega Deli Grocery at one end of the avenue. Pansy Johnson, who owns Yaad Food, a nearby Caribbean restaurant, said she often has to ask for a rent extension because her sales have decreased by nearly a third. And there have been two burglaries of empty homes in foreclosure this year in the area of 118th Avenue and 153rd Street, the police said.

The telltale signs that a house is empty come not from a bank or real estate agent, but pizzerias and Chinese takeout restaurants: The length of time a house has been abandoned can be measured by the number of old menus, fliers and junk mail that collects on doors and stoops.

Who will bail out these people?

More here.

No comments: