Neighbor to Neighbor: Laurelton starts 2004 on a fresh, blank page

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Happy new year. The beginning of each new year is like a blank page; there is the hope that you may be able to do with it whatever you wish.

We are at least inspired to try again to achieve our unreached goals of last year. Those of us who have lived in Laurelton since the ’20s, ’30s or later decades have seen many changes — some good, some devastating. Some of us have lived through very sad, dangerous times, and some of us have worked very hard and cooperatively with each other and with government agencies (including and especially the New York Police Department) to do damage control.

Although there is still a lot of work to do, things are looking up. We lost a valued, longtime business when Zickerman’s Hardware Store closed. If I remember correctly, Louie Zickerman opened that store even before I was born — back in 1925. His son, Mark, the last owner whom most of us knew, learned all about the store and the things in it as he was growing up. There was little in the line of hardware that could not be found in Zickerman’s.

Now that it has been missing for too long, we have to scrounge around looking for screws and nails that we may have stashed away. When they are found, they may have become a bit rusty, but we use them anyway because the sources for newer replacements are a hassle away.

People who moved here well after my parents chose Laurelton as our permanent home were often heard saying, “That store should be renovated.” I’d always laugh and reply, “That store is part of Laurelton’s history just the way it is.”

Now those same people are saying, “I wish Zickerman’s were back, just the way it was.” Time does, indeed, march on. Now the entire block on the north side of Merrick Boulevard between 228th and 227th streets is becoming beautiful inside and outside as well. It is like that proverbial “new page.” What will our community be willing to do to keep it that way?

Will we hold onto our empty candy and gum wrappers, our empty soda bottles and our soiled tissues until we can dispose of them at home or in a street basket? Will we admire and protect any plants that may be planted to add to the improvement process? Will we reprimand rowdiness and illegal sidewalk-cycling, posting of signs and parking, either in bus stops, in front of curb cuts or as double- or triple-parking?

And will we respect and patronize the merchants who come into this community hoping to serve us well and be our friendly neighbors? Most of us will. What about the small percentage that has given this once very respected community the very bad name it has earned? Please help any of those folks see that it is to the advantage of everyone — particularly to those who have tarnished our reputation — to prove to those outside our community that Laurelton residents and merchants are nice people living and working in a nice, clean, welcoming community.

I was at a recent meeting and was surprised to hear someone make a passionate speech that was applauded by many present. It went like this: “If someone is always worried about spending money, that’s why nothing ever gets done around here. Maybe it’s time that person shouldn’t live here any more.”

My friends, it is not those who worry about how money is spent who matter. I never heard any such statement in this community even throughout the darkest days of the Great Depression, when some of our neighbors had to “loan” their children to places such as the Ottilie Home because they could not even afford to feed and clothe them. Even then we had very little crime and dissension; instead, there was a lot of helping each other, as well as a clean, respected community.

The difference is attitude. I appreciate the good workmanship I have been watching between 228th and 227th streets on the north side of Merrick Boulevard. I also very much appreciate the investment being made there in us.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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