I live in a place called Canarsie. This square-mile chunk of nothing is located in Eastern Brooklyn, Exit 13 off the Belt Parkway.
When I say "chunk of nothing," I mean it. Canarsie is closed off by Flatlands Avenue, Paerdegat Avenue North, Seaview Avenue and East 108th Street. I've been here for twenty-two years and have watched some extreme changes take place.
Canarsie, Brooklyn used to be a small-town community. Actually, at the turn of the century it was a vacation spot with a carny and all. Much of it was swampland until houses were built by Italian and Jewish families.
When I was growing up as a child of the late 70's-all 80's, the mail drag was Avenue L. You could go to Canarsie Theater, a hole in the wall with rats and roaches and a few movies now and then. You went to PS 115, 114, or 279. When you graduated, you went to Bildersee JHS or the other one...what's it called, I forget. Then you went to South Shore HS or Canarsie HS. All the while, you hung out at the theater, the Original Pizza, the Pier, or Seaview Park. You hung out with the L Boys, the local mafia gang. Kids actually played stickball here...there was nothing else to do.
The Italians and Jews moved out mid-1990s. They've been replaced by a new generation of immigrants, hailing from Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad-Tobago. There's a new flavor bustling. Roti shops and African-American interest stores have cropped up. People ask me why I still live here.
It's because I love my stupid neighborhood, my neighbors, and the general community. Come visit.