Click on the link below to visit Miriam Medina’s website, “The History Box”/ Italian Harlem Page. A must see site!!!Posted: March 31, 2011
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
While interviewing my cousin Herby for family recollections, he mentioned that our grandfather, Antimo (Tony) operated a produce store, around the corner from Arthur Avenue (across from St.Barnabus Hospital.) *Note: The timeline for this story is around the mid to late 1950’s.* Herby clearly recalled the fact that, written on the storefront awning, were the words, “Tony’s Live and Let Live…” Hence, Tony’s favorite quote was, “Live and Let Live!
Antimo Puca was the second child born to Stefano Puca and Teresina Milo. He was born in the small town of Sant’Antimo, Naples, on the 25th day of August, 1896. The first child born to his parents was a boy named Antimo. He was named in the traditional fashion, to honor Stefano’s father, Antimo Puca. Tragically, this baby died. Perhaps he died from the Cholera epidemic which was running rampant across Italy, at that time. Anyway, when the second child was also born a boy, he was named Antimo.
Antimo’s parents, Stefano and Teresa, were married in Sant’Antimo on the 25th day of November, 1892. Teresa was 23 and Stefano was 21. In September of 1901, Stefano made the decision to travel to America in search of a better way to support his family. He traveled, in steerage, on the S.S. Burgundia, from the Fabre Line’s fleet of steamships. Upon arrival at Ellis Island’s immigration processing station, he passed through and went to East Harlem to live with his cousin, on Lexington Avenue. Stefano went back to Italy, and in 1905, he was back in New York, having traveled in “steerage” on Fabre Line’s S.S.Germania.
At that time, Stefano was living at 2123 1st Avenue in E.Harlem. The 3-story “old law tenement” was located between E.109th and 110th Streets. Today, the building is no longer there, however, the adjacent tenements still stand. They are relics of the past. Mementos of a time, long gone. These surviving tenements are the final vestiges of the mass exodus from Europe. They were built for the purpose of housing multitudes of immigrant laborers.
When I visit East Harlem, I feel what my family before me felt. Standing on the very sidewalks that they stepped upon, looking at the tenements that they once dwelled in, helps me to understand what sacrifice they endured. I am able to envision their arrival from Naples. The emptiness that they felt when they stepped into the dark and musty tenement hallways. The despair that they possessed within, wondering if they made the right choice to leave the only home that they ever knew. New York City was a far cry from the town of Sant’Antimo, and Benevento. The fresh air, the open fields, familiar faces, are all a shadow of the past.
The new reality for people like Stefano Puca would be hard labor, sacrifice and the burning hope for a new and better life. They would work around the clock, only to earn about 10 dollars a week. But this would be enough to pay their rent, buy their food, and send money back to their families abroad. Within 4 years time, the Puca’s will reunite in East Harlem. Stefano will come back to New York in April, and Teresina and her 6 year old daughter, Rosina, will arrive on the 3rd of July. Antimo’s name was crossed out from the ship manifest. He did not travel with his mother and sister. Perhaps he was sick and the shipping line, “White Star Line,” refused his entrance onto the “S.S. Romanic.” Perhaps he was reluctant to go to America. He was only 8 1/2 yrs. old at this time, and he may have been rebellious to the idea of leaving his home. At any rate, what I do know is that, on the 28th day of March, 1906, 9 days before Mt.Vesuvious in Naples would erupt, Antimo Puca arrived at Ellis Island, having traveled in steerage on the S.S. Cretic. He was accompanied by his uncle, and they were detained on Ellis Island for 2 days, until Stefano signed as surety for them. Written on their Detention list were the letters.”LPC.” This stands for the words, “Likely Public Charge.” Until they could prove that they would not be a financial burden on the United States, they would be held in detention, on Ellis Island. Luckily, their detention was short. Most likely, they sent a Western Union wire to Stefano, explaining that he must come to Ellis Island to sign for their release.
Do you know these guy’s? This photo was taken in East Harlem,circa 1940’s. I stumbled upon it on flickr.com. If you know any of these men, please leave a comment.
Search the 1946 Manhattan Telephone Directory. Click on the link below. To view the directory, look to the upper left side of the page, and scroll down to the first letter of the surname that you wish to search.Posted: March 12, 2011
I couldn’t resist posting this archived video of the short-lived “Freedomland Amusement Park,” once located in Co-op City, Bronx, New York. (1960-1964.) Click on the link below to view the video stream.
This is an excerpt from a website about the old gangs of NYC. Click on the red link below to go to this site.Posted: March 8, 2011
Italian Harlem’s Downfall
Italian Harlem consisted of Italians mostly of the poorer southern provinces of Calabria and Sicily, who settled in the area east of 3rd Avenue, between 110th-125th Streets, known as “Dago Harlem.” During the 40s, 50s and early 60s, a street gang known as the Harlem Redwings controlled this turf. Their main rivals in East Harlem were the black Dragons and the Enchanters, a few Irish gangs from Irish Harlem, along with the Puerto Rican Viceroys – who controlled 86th Street – (Remember the beginning of the “Young Savages” movie, the first scene was a wall that was tagged “Thunderbirds”, “Horsemen”, and the “Viceroys”). They also fought vicious turf wars with two powerful Bronx Italian gangs, the Golden Guineas and the multi-generational Fordham Baldies.
An Ex-Italian Harlem resident had this to say about East Harlem:
“Italian Harlem as an Italian American enclave was devastated by the building of Franklin Plaza. The residents were sold out by the local politicians and property owners. It was truly a stake through the heart of the neighborhood. Many people promised apartments there never got them. A good portion of East Harlem’s displaced residents settled in Throggs Neck between the years 1955-1965. Most of the neighborhood where I lived was leveled, though oddly enough the building I lived in on First Avenue between 108th and 109th Streets is still standing. I travel up First Avenue every month and ride through looking to see what’s missing now.”
Italian Harlem today
Italian Harlem today, which was located on Manhattan’s east side between 96th Street and 125th Street from Lexington Avenue to the East River, and was known as one of New York City’s “Little Italys”: Still home to fifty thousand Italian Americans, Italian Harlem was largely intact in 1950. By 1960, fewer than sixteen thousand Italian Americans resided in East Harlem. The 1990 Census shows only 918 Italian-Americans living in Italian Harlem. Most of these predominantly older residents are clustered around Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, where in a ten-block area (stretching from East 114th Street to East 118th Street and from Second Avenue to Pleasant Avenue) the remaining typical social clubs and business still operate.