Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 6, 1975 · Page 39
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July 6, 1975

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 39

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, July 6, 1975
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* * * * * * * * * Empty, Forgotten Apartment Houses Form Grim Backdrop Lonely Man Walks Through Rubble in New York's South Bronx South Bronx -- A City Aflame By Bernard Cohen NEW YORK (AP - There is a grave next to St. Ann's Episcopal Church in the South Bronx that has become a symbol of irony for the poor Spanish-speaking people of that parish. It is the 158-year-old burial place of Gouverneur Morris, a lawyer, diplomat and statesman who helped write the U.S. Constitution, and lived in a manor house near St. Ann's. "Morris would be flipping in his grave" if he could see what this area has become, says Armando Lopez Jr., a community housing coordinator. Outside the gates of St. Ann's there stretches an area of urban damage, unequaled elsewhere in the city and far removed from the American way of life that Morris helped create. With every passing day, the blight spreads and the landscape becomes less habitable. "The South Bronx is the worst slum in the Continental United States,'" the Rev. John Luce, pastor of St. Ann's said. "The best analogy I can think of is a minimum security prison. There aren't any physical bars here but there are all kinds of social . and economic bars." The South Bronx has developed into a slum only in the last 20 years, but deterioration has stalked the 6.3 square miles of walkup apartments and high-rise housing projects with great speed. · *· ENTIRE BLOCKS are silent in many areas where abandonment, fires and vandalism have destroyed one building after another. Some of them are sealed up; others seem to stare numbly through scorched, empty window holes. The streets are still. "It's a disaster area," said Hi Cohen, who owns a grocery store on the edge of one severely damaged neighborhood. "One look is worth a thousand words.. There are no people here. Take a look ac- - ross the street. All you see are winos and dope pushers. It's enough to make you sick," Mary McLaurin, head of a merchant's association, put it this way: "We can't get police protection because there's nobody around here left to guard." In less devastated areas of the South Bronx -- and there still are many -- the streets come alive with activity on early summer afternoons. Music fills the air as men and women congregate on stoops or at street corners, drinking beer and talking or shouting to friends. Cars are polished and engines tuned. Clothes hang out upper story windows, drying in the sun, and tots play in the spray of fire hydrants or fly kites from fire escapes. Neighborhood kids like Daniel Rosa and Frankie Cardone, both 13, play softball in a narrow dirt lot squeezed between two rows of shabby apartment buildings. Shagging a fly ball in center field requires climbing a trash mound and hopping over rusty cans, discarded tires, broken glass and bricks. Older kids pass a basketball back and forth on the street, shooting it into a garbage can placed against a building. But the backdrop (or this activity is steady deterioration and abandonment. One or two apartments are destroyed by fire and. vandalism, then a floor, then a whole building, then the next. Buildings renovated less than five years ago (plaster board stapled to aluminum supports) stand in ruins today. What happens to people under these conditions? "They feel boxed in," said Genevieve Brooks of the M.B.D. Community Housing Corp., an umbrella organization composed Sunday Gazette-Mail The Page Opposite Charleston, W.Va. July 6, 1975 Page 3D of local clergy, social service groups, merchant's associations and tenant groups. "They think there's no hope and that everything is a game. They don't mind working if there is hope. What they are saying is, 'Just don't let us work in vain.' " TWENTY YEARS ago, the South Bronx was primarily Irish, Italian and Jewish. Neighborhoods were stable and many of the well-constructed 1920s buildings still were elegant. A few of the older residents remember riding horseback along West Farms Road, now a strip of decayed buildings. Blacks and Puerto Ricans began moving to the South Bronx in sizeable numbers in · the 1950s. Then, between 1960 and 1965, urban renewal elsewhere in the city drove thousands of poor to the Bronx. The new arrivals brought with them all the problems of poor people: crime, family instability, drug abuse, alcoholism, unemployment, poor health. Old-time residents who could, moved away. Businesses began heading northward. A ghetto sub- economy began to grow. The population of the South Bronx was 388,000 in the 1970 census, and it's about 350,000 today. The ethnic breakdown is 58 per cent white (almost entirely Spanish), 39 per cent black, and three per cent others. The steady process of housing deterioration has been fanned by many factors: absentee landlords unaware of or indifferent to the conditions of their buildings; ceilings on rents while maintenance costs and taxes rise; mismanagement; lack of mortgage money; poor tenant education, and frequently a language and cultural barrier between tenants and owners. Much of the sidewalk talk these days is about the fires that have been devouring the South Bronx for 10 years, and are more frequentthan ever today. More than 12,300 fires raged through the area last year, a 20 per cent increase over 1973. Through June of this year, there were over 14,000 fires, more than double last year's rate. There are several incentives for arson, police say. Often landlords torch their own buildings or hire youths to set the fires, to collect insurance money. Last year, the New York Property Insurance Underwriters Assn. paid $9.2 million for fire loss in the South Bronx. It received only ?3.5 million in premiums. Richard L. Strout Let's Not Be Overproud WASHINGTON - The Bicentennial, like the Fourth of July, is an occasion for v justifiable flag-waving. Yet it is hard to strike just the right note. Certainly there should be a grave acknowledgment, if not over-romanticized, of our debt to the Founding Fathers. And they still have things to teach us. Patrick Henry, for example, has something to say to President Ford. An advertisement by the Richmond Corp. in the Wall Street Journal, in May (listed as the first in a series of "Bicentennial messages") is headed, "If Patrick Henry Were Alive Today" and is written by Barry Goldwater. The senator uses the space to belabor pacifism, permissiveness and bureaucracy. Maybe that's what Patrick Henry would be saying today. BUT WE DO know what he did say after the Revolution and it is just as pertinent now as then. He said he favored postwar amnesty. He wasn't talking about the young men who for reasons of conscience, wouldn't fight in a war that practically everybody now agrees was a mistake. He was talking about the Tories who wouldn't go along with the Revolution. John Adams guessed that the Colonists were divided in three equal parts -- the advocates of independence, the Tories, and the fence-sitters. Postwar bitterness could hardly have been more poisonous. With the war hardly over Patrick Henry surprised his radical followers when he urged the Virginia legislature to pass an act of "oblivion and restoration" for the vanquished loyalists. Yes, he wanted clemency and amnesty. He said that America needed the people who had left the country, and that they would make good citizens. "Oblivion and restoration". Make a note of it, Bicentennial orators and President Ford. ' Mobil Oil has been helpful too: it has been telling us what Sam Adams would say. Sam Adams deserves all -our gratitude. He was a born revolutionary firebrand and the greatest propagandist of his time, who invented the Boston "Massacre" and whose secret "committees of correspondence" round the colonies Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison likens to, without denigration, the revolation- * ary cells create«%by modern Communist agitators. We had rather a stodgy image of Mobil and it's an agreeable surprise to find out its affinity for Sam Adams. Something about the Bicentennial seems to tempt big corporations to frisk in print like cats in catnip. Here is a four-page color spread by Conoco in Time telling how Jef^rson, Madison, Patrick Henry, Hamilton, Abigail Adams and others would have rejected government controls, economic constraints and all that. But why do they stop there? A lot of our Founding Fathers (and all reverence to them) didn't believe in our idea of democracy at all, let alone government controls. Cono could quote John Jay: "the people who own the country ought to govern the country"; Fisher Ames who wanted government of the "wise, the rich and the good"; John Adams who regarded Jefferson's belief in the common man as sentimental nonsense, and Hamilton who wanted a lifetime president, possibly hereditary, and government by the "Rich and well-born." It would make a nice Conco ad. Finally, here is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, caught up in the spirit of the thing monster type in an advertisement in The New York Times telling us that "we have the greatest amount of freedom for the individual of any country in the world.. .of choice.. .of religion.. .of thought.. .of speech". Fine, fine; just the thing for the Fourth, .to take our minds off FBI. CIA, wiretapping and Watergate. It recalls an essay by Arthur Schlesinger Sr. back in 1949, that America's attractive "quality of optimism" was noted by many visitors but "attained its most blatant expression, however, in the national addiction to bragging." It is gratifying to feel that the U.S. Chamber preserves this inheritance. history, a noble declaration proclaiming that "all men are created equal" written by slaveholders. It would be "perverse", he says, to derive satisfaction from calling attention to the flaws in the character and conduct of the fathers and "irresponsible" to do so merely to indulge in whimsical iconoclasm. But even today as Prof. Franklin underlines, it is a moral challenge to face the matter honestly. Over in England, in 1772, Lord Mansfield outlawed slavery in the Somerset case on the compelling ground that human bondage was "too odious" to continue. The Founding Fathers kept clear of it. At several times before and during the Revolution, groups of slaves heard the word "liberty" and appealed for freedom. They were ignored. The word "slavery," of course, does not appear in the Constitution, though it is there by indirection: the compromise of counting blacks as "three fifths" of a person in apportioning representatives, and also in Article 1, Section 9 where it is stated by masterly circumlocution: "the Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight". We doubt if these passages from the Constitution are read at many celebrations of the Fourth. ONE SHOULD strike a note about the Fathers that is thankfully appreciative without being jingoistically maudlin because, while they were so far ahead of their own time, they were still far from us in many concepts. The darkest side, of course, was slavery. In a moving and dignified article in The University of Chicago Magazine (Summer, 1975) Prof. John Hope Franklin, a black, writing on "The Moral Legacy of the Founding Fathers" noteS quietly one of the ugliest ironies in Let us be proud, but let us not be over- proud. John Gardner of Common Cause notes that, "When this nation was founded, there was a Holy Roman emperor, Venice was a republic, France was ruled by a king. China by an emperor, Japan by a shogun, Russia by a czar, Great Britain was a monarchy; and among the world powers the only government that stands essentially unchanged is the Federal Union put together in the 1780's by 13 states on the East Coast of North America." There is also the splendidly acerb comment by E.B. White: "Democracy is the · recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time." And there is Prof. Franklin's thought that "if we would deal with our past in terms of realities.. .it becomes necessary for us to deal with our early leaders in their own terms, namely, as frail, fallible foman beings..." POLICE SAY that sometimes tenants fed up with lack 'of services burn their buildings because they get relocation money and priority for city housing. Probably' less often, the fires are started by junkies or bored kids out for kicks. Residents say it is not unheard of to see furniture out on the sidewalk before the firemen arrive, indicating that tenants were warned of the fire in advance. Sometimes tenants don't even bother to pull the fire alarm. Fear of looting causes many people to stay in their apartments until the flames or smoke force them to evacuate. The results are appalling. Last year, 10.935 dwelling units -- roughly 730 buildings -- were declared unsafe in the South Bronx. But. demolition goes more slowly, which is the reason for the large number of building hulks. New construction and building rehabilitation are negligible. Last New Year's Eve, fire broke out in a Fox Street apartment adjacent to the one where Kirk Wallace, Bernice Goldsboro and their five children live. "The fires are the biggest threat/' said Wallace, a 24-year-old community service officer, who would like to be a policeman. "I sleep very light anyway. There's not too much to move. As long as I get my family out, the rest can burn up. Wallace believes it is just a matter of time before he and his family are chased by fire from the four-bedroom apartment for which they pay $103.50 a month, about 15 per cent of Wallace's monthly income. Four of the five other apartments on the floor are vacant, an invitation for arson. The apartment buildings on either side of theirs already are abandoned and burned out. "A lot of people say, 'You live on Fox Street! I wouldn't be caught dead there,' "Bernice said. "The trouble is people don't try to stick together to try and get something better." In the living room where two" of his boys were sparring with boxing gloves. Wallace noted that the activity was more than play. "You got to teach them how to carry their own weight in the street," he said. Twenty blocks away stands the Mildred, a six-story apartment building. Twenty- seven of its 34 apartments are locked and unoccupied. The building has no heat or hot water. The basement is flooded. The walls of the occupied apartments are cracked, and the plaster is crumbling. Last week, one of the apartments was broken into. Despite the problems, the South Bronx is being touted as an ideal location for business because of i«s proximity to Manhattan. Connecticut and New Jersey. The cost of land is lower than in Manhattan and there is a large labor pool plus access .ransportation. WERE$EfW£TH£RlGH T TO UIIJT QUANTISES Special sal* through Tuesday, July t. Sea our big ad on Wed. AM I'M Paper. FOODLAND BONUS BUY! REGULAR, DRIP, OR ELECTRA-PERK Folger's Coffee With J10.00 purchases ex. cigs 8. tobacco with FOODLAND BONUS BUY 1 coffee LUCKY LEAF SMOOTH 67 STOKELY FANCY Fruit Cocktail kW Fresh, Crisp Head Lettuce 3««'l V Jc«ns 1 r^ Each FOODLAND FRESH WHITE White Bread Grapefruit e 3 IS 02. LOAVES ONE COUPON PER FAMILY PLEASE With S10.00 purchase excluding cigarettes lob. Good at Food lands listed, empires July 12,. FRESH CRISP Red Radishes a.28' FOODLAND COFFEE Creamer ib.jar88 c STORK ASSORTED 3 FruitPie I8oi.89 c FRESH BROUGHTON Cottage Cheese. 24 oz. 88° SAVE 44 FOODLAND BONUS BUY 1 GEORGIAN WHITE-POLY BAG ·^··^^^··B ^^·^^····l *OMHURSTFOODIMID 15W OcAhurs) Dr., Chas. W. Vo *ROWEK fOOOUHD 4110 MocCorkle Ave.. So. Chos. +SKKEHFOWLAW PorVing Plena, Spencer, W. Vo. ACROSS UHKSFOOIUND Cross lones.W.V 0 . *SOVMEFOQOIMI k.U.S. Rl. 60 CuBoden, W. Vo. . *HALSTUDFOODUW ! W. Vo. Suttcn. W. V a *w6"rw( St. 21. Sc. Ripley. !i 4 4 4 4 4 4 4

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