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I was born in Manhattan, before there were efforts to introduce New Yorkers to “green spaces” and “street trees.” Concrete and steel held me in their grasp; I could have walked multiple blocks without seeing the color green beyond an occasional glimpse of dead grass and limp shrubbery from a “secret garden.” There was comfort in the noise of traffic, the rumble of the subway, and the clamorous conversations. My family did not choose Brooklyn per se; we ended up there. Brooklyn real estate used to be cheap because of its bad reputation, and my family did not have the money to be picky with the neighborhood we could make our home in. We could not realize our dream of a two story house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and…show more content…
Bensonhurst is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York City. For decades, the Jewish and Italian population were equal. Around the 1950s, more Italians immigrated to Bensonhurst, which pushed a majority of the Jewish population out. In the early 1990s, immigrants from China and the former USSR arrived. From then on, the neighborhood got increasingly more diverse. In Bensonhurst alone, there are Eastern European, South Asian, East Asian, Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Latino and Hispanic immigrants from dozens of countries, in addition to the thriving Italian and Jewish communities that were already living there. Yet with all this diversity, Bensonhurst was known nationally for its racism. In 1989, a mob of ten to thirty bat-wielding white teenagers taunted and shot a black teenager named Yusuf K. Hawkins. A teenage girl bragged about dating Latino and Black men to the local teenage boys. The boys waited outside her house, looking for a “dark-skinned Hispanic man” to beat and intimidate. Hawkins was interested in buying a used 1982 Pontiac near the girl’s house. There were protests almost immediately after word got out and there were more protests after the results of the murder trial came out. Three hundred demonstrators marched through the streets of Bensonhurst, met with slurs, chants, and watermelons. Protest leader Reverend Al
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