Photos taken 09 April, 2001
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The place where I grew up is still there - and shown at left. Of course, today the courtyard between 683 and 685 E. 140th St. is only half as wide as it once was. The buildings have expanded over it, and the former "open" area is now gated, and perhaps guarded at night.
The same is true for 673/675, which occupied the corner of Cypress Ave. and 140th - but this "double" apartment building has lost more: the large terraced courtyard is now much smaller, and street level. The entrance looks the same as 683/685 - but the bricks are the original tan-gray instead of red. Gone is the lower, street-level entrance to the ground-floor apartments formerly occupied by the Quinlans, Gallaghers, Horans, and others.
The 691 building is completely gone - a fact that might be missed in a quick drive down the block, because 691 always had a "vacant lot" next to it (actually, the small dirt parking lot for a garage which was part of the FACTORY property on the corner of Jackson Ave.). Today, 691 IS a vacant lot, and the garage is actually in operation commercially, repairing autos.
The only original building still standing on the south side of 140th St. is 680 - where Cat lived. Much the same as it was in the middle of the previous century, there have been a few concessions to security: the doorway is now lit, and the two sets of double glass doors at the entrance to the hallway have been replaced by concrete, brick and a thick, locked steel door.
[ Compare the 680 entrance of 40 years ago - at left - as viewed from the third floor of 683...]
The O'Connells, Bannecks, and Van Hagens who used to live there would still recognize the place - but certainly NOT the rest of the block. The Cypress Avenue-address building on the corner is gone, along with its dry cleaners, toy store, bakery, barber shop, beauty salon, (remember when there was a BIG difference between the two? ) and vegetable store.
The block-long (139th to 140th) truck garage on the corner of Jackson Ave. is gone - replaced by a fenced, dirt parking lot - and the "vacant lot" (which became a paved truck parking lot in the late 1950s) between 680 and the garage is now occupied by low, modern row houses. The same type of row houses have replaced all of the railroad-flat apartments of 140th street between Cypress and St. Ann's avenues.
No tour of 140th Street would be complete without a photo of THE PLATFORM. Today, just a shadow of its former, concrete-and-steel, sidewalk-hogging self (and hang-out for generations of neighborhood kids), the platform appears to have had its "street side" cut back by six feet or more. (ADA law? There's no way someone in a wheelchair could have stayed on the ten inches or so of sidewalk which it did not occupy...)
It is clear that the warehouse/Loral factory on the corner of Jackson Ave has been abandoned for decades - but the "holes" we played in as kids (actually, wide ventilation/sunlight shafts for below-ground basement windows) have had most of their ornate wrought-iron railings vandalized. They were replaced by tall chain-link fences, now in disrepair.
The 38-year-long pose...
The kids joke when they say that "Mom is as old as the hills" - but now they have proof that she literally IS older than trees!
Amazingly, a tree has grown tall during the four decades between these pictures - taking root in a concrete crack where only a few weed stalks might have survived the summer many years ago.
The huge truck garage (visible in the background of the photo on left) is no more; perhaps the value of the used brick exceeded the value of the property.
Here, on the intersection of Jackson and 140th, Cat points out the old factory (now a parking garage) which used to make huge, fiberglas-stuffed sheet metal sound-abatement mufflers. As kids, we used to shout into the six-foot-diameter cylinders, and not be heard by a friend at the other end - ten feet away. Behind her, 140th street inclines down to Bruckner Boulevard, and the individual auto garages which used to line the block (much like self-storage rental places today) are gone. To her right in the photo (which is the SE corner of the intersection) the building which once housed the Ward La France Fire Engine assembly plant still stands - though it has lost its roof-edge decorative brickwork... replaced by concrete stucco.
A whole lotta' posin' going on!
Though 38 years separate these photos taken in the same place, one thing is constant between them: they were posed, using props found on that loading dock!
Just a few feet down the block toward 141st Street, is the only business which remains substantially the same as it was in 1960: the Puerto Rican Live Poultry Market! (I seem to recall it was a small tire shop in the 1950s...)
Directly across Jackson from the Poulty Shop was the small alley between the factory and the taxi garage. It's still there (now occupied by a big Spanish-speaking albino dog guarding that junker auto) - but the taxi garage has been stuccoed-over, and is now a plumbing-supplies warehouse. All I ever saw across that alley were wooden doors nailed shut; today, a chain-link fence keeps people out.
Down the River
The couple of blocks east of Bruckner have changed very much; most of the factories and offices have been knocked down - but rebuilding is under way. The docks are now completely fenced off from the street - no more B.A. swimming in the East River - and the ferry slips which used to serve Riker's Island are rusting into the ground. The huge H.R. Hoe machinery plant (big enough that trolley-like railroad tracks ran through the middle) is a number of empty lots. Today, big fuel-storage tanks behind a continuous fence line the waterside from 135th Street all the way to 149th. Con Ed's power plant looks unchanged - except for the many tall coal-fired smokestacks, which are gone - replaced, no doubt, by some sort of environmental scrubbers.
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Photographs and content © 1998,1999, 2001 John P. Tomany