Italians love being Italian. The Irish think that everyone wishes they were Irish themselves. People of color are proud to be Black, Asian or Hispanic. When asking a person what their ethnic background is they will usually give you a two word answer such as; Italian-American, Irish-American, Black-American or Asian American, etc.
Prospect Heights is also two words. And those of us who call this neighborhood home are just as proud as an ethnic group. We may not refer to ourselves as Prospect Heighters or Prospect Heightonians or even Prospect Height-Americans yet we are equally proud to announce to anyone who asks that we are indeed from Prospect Heights. It wasn't always like that around here.
I grew up in this neighborhood as a young boy through my adolesence. I was an altar server at Saint Teresa of Avila R.C. Church on Sterling Place and graduated their boys' grammar school. My family didn't move out of this neighborhood until after I graduated from Saint Augustine Diocesan High School on Park Place in 1969. It was during that summer that my mother looked down the barrel of a hand gun as she was being robbed while standing on the stoop of the Sterling Place apartment house where we lived until that time.
During my college years I continued working in the Washington Avenue hardware store () that I had worked in since I was 12 years old. I continued moonlighting there while I was employed at Merrill Lynch. I finally bought the place in 1976.
I can tell you that this was a pretty tough neighborhood in the mid 1960's through the second major NYC blackout in 1977. That was the final devastating blow for Prospect Heights.
For a decade and a half our country was dealing with the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. There were race riots in Watts, Los Angeles. The police beating of Rodney King created more civil unrest which reached the streets of Prospect Heights. Crime in Prospect Heights was rampant. Conflicts were racially motivated.
The 1977 blackout sparked looting in Prospect Heights which seems to have capped a period known as "White Flight." For a decade and a half, white residents and businesses left the area by the droves. Many apartment houses were abandoned. It wasn't safe to walk the streets. Neighborhood pride went out the window and the windows were getting boarded up.
But then an interesting phenomenon took place. Savvy businessmen began to quietly buy those boarded up and abandoned properties. Another new Prospect Heights term arose, "Real Estate Warehousing." The properties remained boarded up waiting for better economic times. Some of the properties were even renovated but still left boarded up as in a "warehoused" condition. This condition lasted nearly a decade until the Stock Market crash on Black Monday in October 1987. That was when the real estate renovations of the warehoused properties went full force in Prospect Heights. It made better sense at that moment in time to invest in bricks rather than stocks.
When Mayor Giuliani took office in 1994 the crime statistics in Prospect Heights took a turn for the better. With the close proximity and easy access to Manhattan and the mayor touting how safe the city is, the newly renovated, formerly warehoused properties became very attractive. It suddenly was "smart" to live in Prospect Heights. We have been on an up-tic ever since.
Yes, you can be proud to come from Prospect Heights. Neighborhood pride is a good thing.
What's your view?