picture of the day
How I miss Tony's. Not just because you could find just about everything hardware or home maintenance there -- or rather, be helped by friendly and well-informed staff, including Tony himself, to find what you were looking for in that huge jumble of merchandise -- but also because it was one of the neighborhood's last Hispanic-owned businesses, a place where our remaining Hispanic neighbors felt at home, and where Spanish was heard at least as much as English. This is a big part of Boerum Hill's heritage (just as Italian neighbors are in Carroll Gardens). These residents (unlike the Italian neighbors there -- at least for now) are being driven into ever smaller enclaves and, in terms of commercial enterprises on present-day Smith Street, are left dispossessed. True, there are still, happily, El Nuevo Portal and Cibao, and the Bergen Street-corner Baskin Robbins outlet, which remain refuges. But it really bothers me that the people who have lived here for so long (and in so many cases invested in old tenements, with the abuela living out her days on the ground floor and hipsters renting above) must have come to feel that they there is no longer a place for them in the area. At Tony's, they could walk in, exchange greetings, and conduct all their business in Spanish, comfortably and unremarkably. Every time I go out on Smith Street, more and more with each passing year, I get the feeling that our Hispanic neighbors, the main population here since WWII, must have the feeling of being driven out. What more convincing evidence would be needed than replacing Tony's (or even El Milagro)_with an ersatz-German "beer garden"?I recognize that Smith Hanton is a local business and deserving of support for not being one of the faceless real-estate behemoths. But they seem to be disprorportionately involved in the marketing of kind of over-priced commercial properties that entail the dispossession of the kinds of commercial enterprises that make a neighborhood like this liveable. I guess it's too much to ask that they might counsel their clients to revise their rent expectations downward, to the point where the clients could have steady tenants whose businesses actually enhance our overall quality of life. Instead, how many of these properties just sit empty, and for how long? Boerum Hill and its neighbors do not need more nail salons, or banks, or even beer gardens or wings-and-beer sports bars. We need grocery stores and hardware stores, and places where all our neighbors can meet their retail needs and feel like they belong. Also, Warren Street is home not only to the High School of American Studies, but, just a few doors down, to a vitally important homeless family shelter, plus a few brownstones housing equally-vital group homes for adults with learning disabilities. These should all be protected from that kind of late-night raucousness. Ditto for passengers entering or exiting the Warren Street corner's subway entrances late at night.
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