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The Heart of a Community
by Mary Ann Carrado

"You're from New York?" is the puzzled reply I usually get when asked where I Children outside of an Italian bakerygrew up. It used to be so frustrating, when no one believed me. "You don't wear black."  "You don't talk fast." "You're too nice."

I used to protest:  "I do too wear black…well  sometimes."  It doesn’t puzzle me anymore, because the fact of the matter is that I grew up in Long Island City, and that has made all of the difference in the world.

I love Manhattan with its winking lights and fast past-paced excitement.  But, how blessed I was to spend my growing-up summers on a LIC stoop—blowing homemade lemon-scented bubbles with a plastic wand and watching them reach up into that twinkling skyline at dusk.

To be able to spend my formative years in the heart of a community that surrounded me with great values and lasting friendships was really a gift. Away out in the "country" of Connecticut, I now live a much more stressful life—dynamic job, too much travelling, and not enough time to blow bubbles.   When I do make time to ruminate, I shake out the memories of my childhood, and they fly like dust specks in the air—a little old but still full of the sun’s reflection.

Wedding couple with stars in their eyesI remember things like the corner butcher on Vernon-Jackson with his floor full of piles of sawdust you could push around with your foot, while mom ordered chop meat for dinner.  Or the druggist, the quintessential country doctor, who would bandage up a scraped knee or banged elbow and give you a piece of candy when he was done.

I could spend a good afternoon walking back and forth along the pipes on the small bridge that used to span the old railroad tracks, before they were filled in with a park.  Inevitable some adult would walkItalian bravado men along or hang a pink curlered head out of a window to tell me that I could get hurt that way.

The modern development of the area has been very controversial, as we all know.  But what is it that makes this select group of people from New York City (as we technically are) protest on expansion?  As Kenny Greenberg pointed out to the Times, it is the loss of the skyline that hurts.  It is a fear of losing something so precious—the heart and soul of a community.  The thing that makes me proudly stand up and tell everyone I am from New York.

* Original photos courtesy of "Uncle Lou."

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