18 January 2011

And Nobody Cares

One of the landmarks that had always made the Bronx's Little Italy of Arthur Avenue so special to me was an outdoor green grocer called Amalfi. It stood on 187th Street just west of Arthur Avenue. It was run by a very old man. His crates and boxes of vegetables and fruits spilled out into the street in a pell-mell fashion. The arrangement of goods was haphazard but the overall effect was artful. One couldn't help but smile when looking at the colorful business. It was a slice of pushcart-era New York that had refused to leaven.

Upon my most recent visit to Arthur Avenue, it had disappeared. I was heartbroken. But I was more disconcerted by the way it had disappeared without a trace. I walked into the store that had replaced it (another indy shop) and asked what had happened to Amalfi. The worker had never heard of it, didn't know anything. I went into the neighboring stores—nobody remembered it. How could such a special place disappear without a bit of mourning?


Ken Mac said...

sounds like an episode of Twilight Zone. Like much of the city now

Velvet said...

That's weird...almost like it never existed at all and you're in some creepy episode of the Twilight Zone.

I found you from clicking through a bunch of NYC photography blogs, by the way!

mingusal said...

Neighborhood changed. New people, new language, new stores, different food. They look back with fondness on a whole different place and time, and their nostalgia is not going to be yours.

I'm sure someone felt the same way about whatever existed there and whatever disappeared from there when the Italians came. But the Italians themselves probably didn't share that feeling. It may be sad for some, but it is all part of being in an actual living, evolving, human city.

Thank goodness that what we usually get out here in "the boroughs" (save for parts of Brooklyn) is an independent Mexican (or whatever) market like this one, serving the next ethnic community to occupy this urban space, and not a giant Shake Shack or a bar full of preening self-entitled poseurs.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Mingusal, the point, which I've made many times before, is that the things that are replacing these cultural landmarks are not a patch on what came before. I seriously doubt people are going to mourn and get nostalgic over the faceless deli that is there now when it goes. And I also doubt what came before the Amalfi grocer was as distinctive as that business. I feel more and more strongly that there was a window of time when New York created great things--buildings, monuments, shops, restaurants--and then it pretty much stopped, with builders just getting things up as cheaply and superficially as possible, with nary a thought to style, contribution or permanency,

But, you are right, I'm sure the Italians who live there don't feel the same as I do.