"The Neighborhood That Disappeared"

corning tower constructionInteresting-looking local project currently funding on Kickstarter: "The Neighborhood That Disappeared," a documentary about the Albany neighborhood replaced by the Empire State Plaza.

The trailer is embedded above. Some of the old photos are great.

Based on the description on the Kickstarter page, it sounds like the doc is coming at the topic very much from an ESP-skeptic perspective. Blurbage:

From beneath the cornerstone of the Empire State Plaza, our film team will unearth a vibrant ethnic neighborhood that housed courageous immigrants and the Greatest Generation.Young boys invented street games; goods were exchanged in place of cash; no child grew up anonymously; no one went hungry. In these Italian American stories, viewers will find an inspiring resourcefulness that's gone missing in America.

Also: "When Albany's political bosses were outmatched by a billionaire governor, they sold the South End for some pieces of silver."

The team behind the doc: Mary Paley, John Romeo, and Bernie Mulleda. The total cost of the project is $35k, according to the project page. The Kickstarter campaign is looking to raise $5k. Funding ends May 24.

[via @Sorti_ca]

photo via "The Neighborhood That Disappeared" FB page


Being born after the Plaza was up and running, the area it replaced is something I've honestly always wondered about. I've heard some anecdotal things on the neighborhood, some describing it as good and others bad, but I've never found anything that's exclusively studied the subject. It's really nice to hear that somebody is.

I've always struggled with the Plaza (like many others), and while I generally hold that it's there now and we have to make the best of it, this sort of history shouldn't be forgotten. Just because you can't "see" it anymore doesn't make it any less relevant.

Thanks for the head up AoA!

I am a 30 year old man born and raised in the Albany area. It angers me that politicians choose to gut the heart of Albany. I travel to other cities that have a vibrant, renewed downtowns and wonder what Albany could have been or should have been. Every time I see the Empire State Plaza I see a moment to government. If someone could write the true history of the backroom deals that got done to finance and create those buildings they could win a Pulitzer price. I wonder who is sitting on some beach somewhere right now living off the dividends of the those corrupt politicians who gutted an American city. If anyone had any guts they'd tear the monstrosity called 787 out of downtown Albany and redevelop the waterfront to bring the city back to life. Anything short of that is half heart measures. I predict someday it will happen and when it does Albany will regain it former character.

My parents are from Italy and own a shop downtown. As a child, I remember some native born Italians left that talked about the old neighborhood. Even today, if you look hard enough, you can find remnants of Albany's Little Italy. I agree with @Matt in that I struggle with the Plaza. But its permanency is obvious and we must deal with it. I wish I could just go back in time for one day to experience the neighborhood that was once there. I guess this documentary is as close as I'll get, and for that I am grateful to its creators.

I recently hosted a Flat Stanley from my nephew's 2nd grade class in Illinois. I took him down to the ESP for photos and included a little of the history in the letter I returned. I was a little sad to omit the uglier historical facts about the plaza, I'm not sure how old kids should be before they learn about Eminent Domain.

I'm excited about this documentary. It's an important topic and piece of history Albany has an obligation to remember.

The Plaza isn't my favorite structure in Albany, but at least it was built and serves a function. We could have ended up like Newburgh where around the same time they tore down a large portion of downtown in the name of "Renewal" - a lot of that land is still empty.

I tend to agree with Eric Scheirer Stott. While I can wish those neighborhoods were still there, at least the Plaza IS there. The neighborhoods that were destroyed for the skyways of 787 were replaced by a no man's land of parking and concrete. Other neighborhoods in Albany and other cities were torn down only to be replaced with hideous public housing, taking diverse neighborhoods with diverse ownership and putting them in the hands of corporate landlords, while reminding people that if you're poor your housing should be bleak yet expensive.

So much of it was for nothing. For years, the city of Schenectady claimed it needed my aunt's house on Smith Street for some version of an urban renewal project. There was nothing historic about the old boarding house she owned, but for the most part the tenants had nowhere else they could live. Eventually she sold it to the city, perhaps in the late '70s. It stood vacant for some time. Eventually they tore it down. The lot it was on remains used for nothing. One house still stands on the street that was once a residential neighborhood with a corner store. Now there's nothing but parking as far as the eye can see. Stunning blindness to what a city should be.

I have wanted to write a book about the development of Empire State Plaza, focused on the destruction of the neighborhoods and the political wheeling and dealing that occurred to make it happen, since my college years. I can't believe no one has ever taken on such a project. Maybe when I retire...

I was a young women, working for DOT. I worked in the Bureau of DOT where the guys went out to talk to people about taking their homes. Some of them were met with shot guns. It was a sad time or many. My mother grew up in a brownstone across the street from the Cathedral Church. My father grew up on Jefferson and Grand.

South end forever
I have a brick on the bridge to the corning perserver
I pray this piece of history will stay
For one & all to utter aloud;

I remember my neighborhood well before and after the mall. I lived on Elm Street below Eagle for 26 years. I truly miss the way things were back then. St. Anthony's festival, Joe's Meat Market, Pelligrino's, Prinzo's and on and on! I loved it then and now.

I fondly remember "the gut" in Albany, having gone to school in Albany from 1957-1962. It was kind of a sleazy no-man's-land but we liked it (college kids - go figure). We'd go to bars like the Cage, Honky-Tonk, Market Square, and others I can't call to mind right now. Oh to be a kid again.

I loved my neighborhood and was heartbroken when my mother moved us away. I was born at 29 Elm Street (1956) and then moved to 64 Elm Street (1957-1971) There were kids and good food and families that I thought would be in my life forever. I look back at the few pictures I have and think about how things were. I miss those days, but very thankful for the memories.

I have not seen or heard of anything about from So.Pearl St.from Madison Ave.heading East to the Hudson river, Green St.Hamilton St. Dogon Ave.Dallaus St.,Bleaker St. Liberty St.,what happened to the people and the businesses they had to close and move out nothing was ever said about this part,of Albany that disappeared,my family lived there and owened businesses there.This is a part you all forget about,this is where I was rased plus others,maybe the next time if there is you CAN take in this part of Albanys lot families and business where also lost......

My mom and dad were born and raised in the south-end. My brother and I were born on Madison Avenue, me 1953, my brother 1955. I grew up listening to my family stories of my parents neighborhood. We moved in 1958, but my Nanny lived on green street until she was forced to move. I remember as a young girl being sent to the store for milk walking down the street to Vaguilio's store. The house I was born in is still there. Every time I pass that way, I see it and it and I am filled with pride.

I caught a portion of this on WMHT this weekend. It was fascinating and heartwrenching. I love Albany history and this was just compelling. How heartbreaking for the families as their homes were knocked down and the intimacy of a close knit neighborhood torn apart. I'll make a point of seeing it from start to finish.

Gene, that seems to be the idea: "It trains its lens on the city's Little Italy and leaves to other documentarians the history of the Jews, Germans, Irish, Armenians, French Canadians and others also pushed from the 40-block downtown ethnic melting pot." from http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/The-Neighborhood-That-Disappeared-to-air-Friday-5949069.php

Also, the Madison Theater will be presenting this film every night at 7:30 until Thursday.

I was so impressed by this documentary. It deserves national attention because while it's a local case study, the theme of urban renewal as a mixed "blessing" (and who pays the price) surely has resonance in other cities. As I watched I felt the poignant loss of this vital neighborhood by life long residents, but I also felt that we today got robbed of what would have been a real downtown, both walkable and diverse. (Though I suspect the neighborhood might have gotten "gentrified" anyway.)

Sure, the Empire State Plaza is a fact of life. I even have a love-hate relationship with the architecture. But I think most of us realize the Plaza as it is currently (under) utilized is a dead zone. Skating, farmers markets, the occasional summer concert, and fireworks are a start, but something needs to be done to turn the Plaza into a genuine boulevard for residents as well as state workers. (Many state workers, like moles, never venture above ground and use the Concourse to get from one place to another.) Food trucks, pop up shops, free community tai chi -- the Plaza needs attractions to bring people there or keep them there after work. I don't know if OGS cares enough to work with the city to bring the Plaza to life.

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