Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tell me about your neighborhood . . .

"Our neighborhood arose upon a vision.

 "Unlike most neighborhoods in New York that simply evolved willy-nilly, where a few immigrant families established a foothold and others of similar race, religion, or ethnicity followed -- only to yet again have the environment metamorphize when economic conditions shifted and another wave of different faces speaking different languages appeared -- our neighborhood was truly the first intentional com...munity in the five boroughs. The vision of the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative was simple and profound: create affordable housing that was cooperatively owned and democratically managed. . . .

 "Led by the Secretary-Treasurer of the ACWA's credit union, Abraham E. Kazan, and supported by Sidney Hillman, President of the ACWA -- as well as by people gathered around "Forverts" ("The Forward," a Yiddish-language daily newspaper) -- a sparsely populated region of the north Bronx became a living field of dreams. It seemed only fitting that the formation of the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative in 1927 (referred to simply as "The Amalgamated"), was inspired by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England, the birthplace of the modern cooperative movement in 1844. Rochdale was England's center for the burgeoning textile and weaving industry; therefore, what better models for the ACWA visionaries than these original "cooperators," these kinsman-by-trade. . . . It was as if simultaneous with the first groundbreaking, the seeds of a modern Rochdale were also sown, providing these earliest cooperative pioneers, now settling in the Bronx, with a root system that would blossom and guide them and this nascent community across the twentieth century. Both the tangibles and intangibles within their founding principles provided the cornerstone and the scaffolding for this project: voluntary and open membership; democratic governance; surpluses belonging to cooperative members; no social or political discrimination; education of members and the public in the cooperative movement; cooperation with other cooperatives; and care for the community. It was impossible to live in our neighborhood without both touching and being touched by this progressive and communal spirit that seemed to be everywhere." ("The Rail," Chapter 3, "The Neighborhood -- Oasis in Brick").

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