Monday, January 29, 2007

Mid-Century Telephone Numbers

Early readers of Brooklyn Ramblings may remember my post about old telephone numbers from the 1910s to the 1970s that used two letters and five numbers instead of the seven numbers we're familiar with today. Legacies of the old 2L-5N system are still here, mostly in neighborhoods of the outer boroughs that haven't undergone many changes in the last few generations.

First we go to Bath Beach. At 1707 Bath Ave is Sta-Brite Decorators. If you're looking to get your furniture re-upholstered, this is the place. If it was 1950, you'd have dialed the operator and asked for CLarkson 9-0868.

In nearby Dyker Heights, we find Terrace Meats, at 7317 13th Ave and 74th St. You would have reached your local butcher by dialing BE-2-2003. BE probably stood for Bensonhurst, but possibly Beachview.
Next up, Golden Gate Fancy Fruits and Vegetables, at ES-7-2581. This one-story produce mart is out on Flatbush, in an outer Brooklyn neighborhood called Flatlands. Rounding out our survey of outer Brooklyn retro-gasm is the Avenue U Seafood Market, at DEcatur 2-6363. Built around 1930, maybe those were the days that you could actually eat the fish you caught off the Brooklyn piers?

Migrant Farmworkers, 1956

from Across the Tracks: Mexican-Americans in a Texas City, by Arthur J. Rubel (1968). Rubel was a medical anthropologist who was captivated throughout his life by the interconnections between culture, behavior, health and illness.

According to this study, farmworkers earned about $4.59 per day. Adjusting for inflation, that would be about $35 per day now. Figuring conservatively that they worked 10 hours per day (when you've got to get everything planted or picked during a short amount of time, you work long hours), that would be about $3.50 an hour in today's wages. That's a hell of a lot less than minimum wage!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What Not to Rent

Renting from the worst, nabe groups tap scammers & rogues as New York's 11 lousiest landlords
By Peter Kadushin, Rich Schapiro, and William Sherman of The Daily News

"The city's worst landlords got their own awards ceremony yesterday - and a Brooklyn condo developer took the dubious top prize.

Adam Mermelstein, principal partner of 188 S. Third St. Investors and TreeTop Development, Brooklyn, was unofficially named the city's worst landlord by a consortium of neighborhood groups. Residents of 188 S. Third St. said he has been trying to empty the 41-unit building and that only 18 apartments are now occupied.

Jacquelyn Hernandez, a tenant for 15 years, said, "I was verbally and physically harassed by a phony inspector with a fake ID who said I hadn't paid the rent and gave me fake eviction papers." Hernandez said her small, two-bedroom apartment is "without hot water and is badly in need of repairs."

Neither Mermelstein nor any of the other landlords was present. When reached by phone later, Mermelstein denied trying to force tenants out.

"That's all false. Our practice is specifically not to do that. We have no interest in buyouts or harassment ... Tenants can stay for as long as they like for whatever rent they're paying. That's not our game. "The building is in very good shape. But any repairs or problems that do come up we do try to take care of them as long as tenants give us access," he said.

In all, 11 landlords were considered in a rowdy 11 a.m. ceremony sponsored by a neighborhood associations and community activists at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square.

The main criteria were art and variety in harassing and intimidating rent-regulated tenants to get them to move out so the landlords could jack up rents, according to the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Fake eviction papers, turning off gas, heat and hot water, changing locks, threatening naive immigrants, filing frivolous lawsuits, illegally raising rents and failing to make repairs were among the tactics used by the landlords, according to the event organizers.

More than 250 people attended the ceremony - none of them laughing - and they voted by shouting and using noisemakers as the landlords' names and properties were announced. The "winners" were selected based on crowd noise.

Other landlords cited were: Jacob Finkelstein, owner of 1356 Walton Ave., the Bronx; John Tsevelos, president of G-way Management and owner of 851 Franklin Ave., Brooklyn; Jay Podolsky, owner of 330 W. 95th St., 315 W. 94th St., and 316 W. 95th St., Manhattan; Nathan Schuchat, who owns properties on the lower East Side, including 141 Ridge St.; George Subraj, who owns homes divided into apartments in Jamaica, Queens; David Melendez, who owns buildings in Bushwick, Brooklyn, including 198 Knickerbocker Ave.; Doug Peterson, who owns 974 Sheridan Ave., the Bronx; Benjamin Shaoul, who owns 332 Mott St. and 166 Elizabeth St. in Chinatown, and Julia and Carlos Guzman, who own 268 Dean St. in Brooklyn.

Another recipient was Joel Weiner, head of the Pinnacle Group, which issued thousands of eviction notices to tenants in their many buildings as disclosed by a Daily News investigation."

Renting From the Worst [Daily News]
The Biggest Award Ceremony of the Year [Metadish]
Adam Mermelstein is Having a Bad Day [Curbed]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Taxonomy of Tramps

from You Owe Yourself a Drunk: An Ethnography of Urban Nomads, by James P. Spradley

Spradley spent time with skid row men in Seattle in the 1960s and produced this definitive anthropological work documenting how they saw themselves and their world. Here's his taxonomy of the different kinds of tramps. So, for example, while working stiffs ride the rails from job to job, box car tramps just ride the rails because that's what they do.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Brooklyn Hospitals Under Fire

citywide hospital status
Health Care That Works has merged race and income demographic data from the census with data on New York hospital closures and downsizing. Their research shows that recent hospital closures have had a disproportionate impact on communities of color - six of the eight hospitals that closed between 1995 and 2005 were located in or near communities of color. Their website links to a plethora of reports and other resources.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr.

, originally uploaded by whileseated.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Welcome to 2007

Happy New Year

Bush at the top of the polls, for once

Poor Bushie - he just can't catch a break. According to an MSNBC poll, he's more of a villain than the leaders of the Axis of Evil or even Satan. From