19th century enclave in East Harlem, partially demolished
Pleasant Village was the site in the 1930s of the largest concentration of Italian-Americans in the country--the first "Little Italy." It features row houses, tenements, and stores that date back to the 1830s through the 1930s. Today, it's threatened by the demolition of the Washburn Wire Factory, in Pleasant Village, to build a one-million-square-foot Home Depot, Costco, and indoor parking.
118th Street between Pleasant Ave and the old Washburn Wire Factor, including Pleasant Ave itself and the Pleasant Village Community Garden and mural, has several wonderful assets. Civil War-era houses, old factory buildings--small scale, human scale! Sense of quiet. The houses were occupied by Italian stone artisans... The mural in the Pleasant Avenue Garden gives a sense of vista, of sky. It's an area in the neighborhood where you can feel the river and it is buffered from the FDR traffic by the old Washburn Factory.
But there is definitely a threat of development, namely at the Washburn Wire Factory. Private commercial property has already been taken under eminent domain and there is great fear that some of the houses will also go to provide parking(!!) for the proposed development!
Pleasant Village is what is left of three generations that started in Bari, Italy. My home on East 120th Street between 1st and Pleasant Avenues was torn down; I have only the neighborhood to go back to where I can show my grandchildren where my grandparents walked, and where my mom and I also walked. I still recognize the neighborhood and think what is left of it should be treated with kindness and be protected from further destruction. It should be left for all to see, and to learn about the unique people who lived there.
The area was known as Italian Harlem has been partially destroyed by public housing (Wagner Apartments). What is left of one side of East 120th Street looks good and the same goes for East 119th and East 118th Streets and Pleasant Avenue. The old P.S. 80 is still there, but is not being used as a school.
If the rest of Pleasant Village were to be taken down, it would wipe away what is part of my past, my mom's past, and my grandparents' past. I think there are many other people whose pasts are connected to that area. I also feel that the old apartment buildings look good, and provide housing for many people. However, I have heard that there is talk of further demolishing some buildings. (January 2012)