In a conversation with my good friend Derrick Jones as we rode past the gutted view from the 1 train going North past the 125th street station, I took the opportunity to include him in this blog post to bring things current. His personal recollections add yet another important perspective which offers community feelings. Although the "landscape" depicted is one of cultural adaption and thriving communities which can be displaced, the architectural landscape being developed will encourage a "new" transient New Yorker. Certainly we can each be affected by retrieval cues which trigger memories. Derrick shares a few that jog his memory in his interview.
Interview with Derrick Jones on Manhattanville - the Global Village
From what years did you live in this area?
From 1998 to 2002
What was the area referred to as (neighborhood boarders/nicknames)?
What’s your earliest memory of this area that you cherish, what triggers that memory?
Derrick recalls…Waking up to the smell of fresh baked bread and people waiting in line to get a table for breakfast at “FLORIDITA” Cuban/Dominican restaurant. Every morning they would have breakfast but on the weekends there would always be a line of people from, Cuban, Jamaican, French, British, Dominican and African American. Just regular people that wanted a regular home cooked meal that was amazing; mom & pop. Another awesome thing about this restaurant was that it was joined to a bakery. You could get everything from freshly baked bread to a beautiful freshly baked cake; you couldn’t get any better than that. When I walk past bakeries in the Bronx where I live now, it has the aroma of fresh baked bread dance past my nose it takes me back to that time in that little area of manhattanville that was a part of the Global Village called Harlem.
Where did you go for fun; nearby parks or other, describe the environment?
Grant’s Tomb Park... In the summer every Wednesday night at 7:30pm they would have live jazz. Jazz Mobile was the most popular place to go, you would see performances from Wynton Marsalis, Spyro Gira, and the list goes on. It was awesome because you would see other famous jazz musicians and actors even sport athletes come out to listen to their friends perform…Derrick recalls Samuel L. Jackson, Malik Yoba, Cassandra Wilson, enjoying the sounds as well as other locals who are now famous or walking the neighborhood.
Why did you/your family leave the area?
Well what is called progress or re-gentrification? Rent went up and Columbia University wanted the area.
What was living like in this area for you/your family?
Everything from college students, immigrant families to people who family have lived in that area for 3 to 4 generations.
Do you feel the changes have been beneficial to residents?
No and yes. For the people who live in these communities that are not making 60 to 80 thousands dollars, the change has not been good because rent is beyond what they can pay. Food prices are soaring and treatment in this area by law enforcement has gotten worse. For the new people that are moving into this area making 60 to 80 thousand, yes the change is good for them because to them the rent are affordable and the food price are cheap.
How do you personally feel about the changes taking place in the neighborhood?
Well I know everything must change and there were people that would fight to make a positive change in the Global Village, I as well as others wanted the people that lived in this community to make the change not a corporation.
Are there any buildings or shops that have been vacated, displaced or moved that you remember?
Storage build, which was a huge complex, is gone. The building that was home to Floradita restaurant, that I spoke about earlier is gone also, this restaurant had a bakery attached to it so it was a half a block long. A block of buildings that had so many mom and pop businesses in them are totally gone…
What would be your “typical” New Yorker response to such changes?
“It’s not the same; the city is not the same”. Funny thing is that it will be said again with every generation, this statement; “IT NOT THE SAME”...
"People all over New York City want positive change in their community. Sometimes I hear, and know people who think the people in the community did fight for change or did nothing, but this is totally false. There are people who lost their lives fighting for change in this and other communities." Derrick Jones
*The Manhattan Institute’s Center for Rethinking Development posted this digital newsletter regarding the "Rezoning of West Harlem". MI Newsletter 2004