Bayswater Redux 2006

By Irene Steinberg Shapiro

I took a sentimental journey to Bayswater, camera in hand. To say things have changed is a huge understatement!  Central Ave. was my starting point.  The beautiful library is gone, replaced by a terrible  example of shoddy 60s design.  Everything on Central Ave., as I remembered it, is gone. There are no Strand, Columbia or Gem movie houses, no Elfenbein's bakery, no Meyers Mens Shop, no deli , no Neveloffs.  I did not know one store. The street looks like a shopping strip in an inner city slum....every cheap chain is represented.  It is dirty, tacky and ugly!  I turned and continued up Mott Ave. I reached Beach Channel Drive.  No diner on the corner, no Arco's Drug Store, no fruit store...it is now the location of a White Castle.

I had always called Beach Channel Drive the big street, because its size took me courage to cross, now it looks quite narrow.  I found this to be true of all the streets; all diminished in size. Then finally, a block further down- Grassmere Terrace- Hurrah!  I found Paul Roth's house on the corner and across the street was Artie Levokove's house. I continued up Mott- this long block between Gipson and Dickens was completely transformed.  The Seiden's house on the corner of Gipson was gone and all the big. old, grand and beautiful  homes and the big lawns where we had played hours of hide and seek and ring-allevio  were also gone. The only house left was at the corner of Dickens and Mott, where Joan Robbins lived and it is looking rather shabby.  The low rise apartment building across the street where Robbie Hollander lived still stands, looking quite bleak.

Throughout the area most of the old, big homes have been torn down. A site formerly occupied by one house is now filled with three or four houses squeezed up against each other. Even when an older, big home survives, the large lawns are gone and two or three houses have been built on the property. For example, Mike Lichtenstein's house on the corner of Healy Ave. and Beach 24th St. has recently been demolished and four houses are in construction on the site. The beautiful large house across the street on the corner is there- the only one of its kind that still maintains its grandeur and beauty.

All of the new homes are architectural failures.  They are, for the most part, ugly, cheap and lacking in grace or charm.  Back to Mott Ave. I turned left on Dickens. My old house at 1128 was there. Although it now has a fake stone front, it does look well taken after.  Michael Kushner's house on the corner of Healy Ave. was there, but painted red.  I turned onto Healy Ave. and located Steve Kandall's house; the shrubs were overgrown and almost hid the house, which looked a bit run down.  Lucille Crovella's house was across the street, had been painted grey and had a bit of unattractive trim added to it. I only recognized it because of the double doors. I turned back and crossed Dickens to the other part of Healy Ave. Paul Osher's house white house was still  there on the corner. The first house off the corner was Gail Bookvar's house. It had been painted white and looked great. There was a new house in the formerly empty lot next to that house. Then I went left At Beach 24th St. (which is now named Bay 24th St.; Beach 25th St. is also called Bay 25th St.). I found Paul Herzog's house as well as Susan Wallach's. They were in okay shape, but Susan's house could use a paint job. This block and the next few blocks all looked okay but a bit rundown and all would have benefited fron painting and good landscaping.  And, of course, the jumble of different mediocre house styles built on every inch of ground rob the area of any charm and it all looks unattractive.

At the end of Beach 24th as I turned right on Cornaga Ave, looking left I saw Midge Freidman's house.  Then Beach 25th St. and there was Far Rockaway High School.  It looked enormous. I don't think when I went there I realized how big the school was.  It looked the same. Continuing down Beach 25th I found Marcy Sorkin's house, looking rather seedy.  Across the street was Rozzie Seidenstein's house, which is well taken care and much of it has been done over. I had tried to find Linda Stone's house on Bessemund Pl., but the marker I had planned to use (the big house set back on a wide lawn in which Alan Chasnoff lived) was not there and there were so many houses side by side that looked like Linda's I couldn't figure out which one was hers.  Back to Beach 25th. I turned left on Healy Ave. and found Bobbie Goldenberg's house---which looked so much smaller than I remembered.  I turned back up Healy Ave to Beach 24th St. and turned left.  I found Susan Schlossberg's house and it looked weary. But next door at Sharon Weiser's house I found a pleasant surprise. The house had been worked on extensively and looked better than I remembered.

I then turned on to Bayswater Ave., cut over to Westbourne Ave. and there was P.S. 104!!!!!!! It looked absolutely the same and it was beautiful. For a minute I really believed that if I went into the building I would find the principal, Mr. Grosfeld, in his office and that Mrs. Shannon. Ms. McKenna, Mrs. Huber. Mrs. Posniak, Mrs. Corper, Mrs. Lewison, Mrs. Shulman, Mrs. Kaye, Mrs Hammer and Mr. Charlton would all be in their classrooms.  Robert Russo's white house was on the corner and looked forlorn. I even saw the first house that Gail Bookvar lived in, across from the school.  The empty lot next to it that we had walked through on the way to school had three houses on it.

My Bayswater had been really quite small. Although there were occasional long bike rides and visits to Linda Copen and Rita Feldman's homes and walks into the villlage, the real boundaries made a small box with Cornaga Ave. and Mott Ave. on two sides, then Gipson St. and P.S. 104 on the other two sides. I did not go deeper into Bayswater and I drove back down Mott Ave.  I passed the grey house where Charlie Kleckner had lived and it looked worn out. On the opposite side of Mott Ave. from the Kleckner house I saw the attached houses where Phoebe Dorin had lived. They looked like a before and after shot in a commercial. One had been worked on recently and the other was still in a state of delapidation. Carol Solomon's house remained large and painted sparkling white as if making a proud last stand.

I drove home shocked and saddened.  I will not go back.  I will rely on my memories of a wonderful and sweet childhood in my very own Garden of Eden.

The photos follow. 


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