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Artist Date: The Andrew Freedman Home

AF_Home

Gosh, it’s been ages. I’m still doing Artist Dates though and I’ve decided to share my weekly creative adventures here. I’ll be sharing other stuff too. So, for last week’s Artist Date, I was really getting two things done at once. A friend decided to read at another friend’s event and it was the first friend’s very first time reading in public. She did a phenomenal job and I’m so looking forward to her debut novel hitting the shelves. So, one part of that was supporting two friends. The other part was (duh) getting in my Artist Date.

The venue, the Andrew Freedman Home was a place I had never been to and in fact I had never heard of this particular Bronx destination. Intrigued by this, I Googled it beforehand to get a sense of the space and be able to spot it once I emerged from the subway.

Turns out, the Andrew Freedman Home is pretty fascinating. It’s a humungous, ornate, limestone building that takes up an entire city block. Andrew Freedman was this really rich guy who was one of the first investors in the New York City subway.  He also owned New York Giants at one time.

When he was a child, his parents lost nearly everything through a series of bad financial decisions and the story goes that young Andrew vowed to never allow rich people suffer the indignity of being poor. As such, when he died in 1915, his will left his considerable fortune for the establishment of the Andrew Freedman Home. The ornate, stately palace was built specifically as a retirement home for former millionaires who had fallen on hard times and had no more money.

Residents of the home did not pay a dime for food or housing, but they lived like the kings and queens they once were. A delightful 1924 article  published in the Evening Tribune soon after the home opened, describes the immaculate space in great detail.

Inside, the building is equipped with every comfort which a modern millionaire would put in his own house. Telephones, radio, phonograph, soft-voiced servants, tiled private baths, billiard rooms, card rooms, a library, and a living room so luxurious that even a modern millionaire could find no lack in it.

When it opened in the 1920s, it was pretty much right on time for the soon-to-be poor millionaires who lost their fortunes during the Great Depression. But just like its residents, the home ran out of money in the 1960s and could no longer operate as it had. It re-opened in the 80s as a “regular” retirement home for any person who could pay the fee to stay there. The space was reinvented again in the 21st century, operating as an event space and daycare, which it remains today. It also offers 10 guest bedrooms that are attended to by locals who are being trained in hospitality and culinary arts.

I find it most interesting that this wealthy man’s dying wish was to use his fortune to help other (formerly) wealthy people. I think most everyone is deserving of help, but to use one’s immense resources to help other people with long money? Hmmmmm. Seems a tad insensitive and by “a tad” I mean very. Especially considering that in Freedman’s lifetime, New York was an extreme example of the haves and have-nots. The New York City Zoning Resolution did not come to pass until 1916 (a year after Freedman’s death), which means that there were deplorable living conditions for poor people that included a lack of basic amenities like light, air and disease-free water. With all of that going on, he chose to leave his money to people who he felt would feel poverty more harshly than those who had lived a lifetime of it. How noble. Not.

But all is well. The Andrew Freedman Home today does indeed tend to a multitude of demographics and specifically the poor and disenfranchised of the South Bronx. So there, Mr. Freedman. I shall visit there again soon.

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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Creativity, Writerly Things

 

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The Artist’s Way2: Week 7

The Artist’s Way2: Week 7
The making of my current vision board.

The making of my current vision board.

Last week was a long, crazy and very busy week for me, so it was fitting that Week 7’s reading focused on regaining a sense of connection. I was being pulled in so many different directions, it’s very easy to lose sight of your personal or creative goals at such times.

My favorite quote for this week was from Martin Ritt. He said “I don’t have a lot of respect for talent. Talent is genetic. It’s what you do with it that counts.” Yes, sir. If you’re the best writer on earth, but you words never leave your personal diary, you’re not doing much to share your gift with the world, right? And even though it can be really scary, sharing my work feels good. Gotta work on pitching more this week, come to think of it.

Some of the tasks and exercises for Week 7 were related to essentially creating a vision board, so I skipped those. I already have a vision board. I think one is enough. It did remind me to get back on my calligraphy grind though.

For my Artist Date, I went to the Bronx Museum of Art. I was actually there for an urban policy event, but the museum made the exhibitions available for guests. It was cool just to be in the Bronx at all. I honestly haven’t  been there much outside of going to the Bronx Zoo, so it’s nice to see a bit more of the city than I normally do.

 

 
 

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Hip Hop Landmark for Sale

Photo: Getty Images via New York Magazine

You might not be familiar with the address 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, but if you’re a hip hop fan, you can thank it for your iTunes library (maybe). The unassuming, 100-unit building used to be home to hip hop legend, DJ Kool Herc. Specifically, the community room at 1520 Sedgwick housed what most consider to be some of the first hip hop parties. Many legends passed through that little community room and the tracks DJ Kool Herc was spinning in the early 70’s often turned up at parties in parks and on the streets. Back in the days of blockbuster block parties, the system and the sounds were all that mattered once you plugged the 1’s and 2’s into the nearest streetlamp.

Today, the building is up for sale (possibly converting to condos eventually) and the working class residents in the building are actually trying to use the building’s hip hop history as a reason to not only preserve the building, but to keep it affordable. They are trying to come up with the funds to buy the building.

Click here to read more about this.  The comments on the story are actually more interesting than the article itself.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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