Got a story to share?
The New York Public Library is currently collecting ‘Voices from East of Bronx Park’ as part of an oral history project that will archive stories from the neighborhoods of Allerton, Pelham Parkway, Van Nest and Morris Park.
The oral history initiative, which has previously visited Greenwich Village and Harlem, is being facilitated by the neighborhoods’ library branches.
The oral history project is the first of its kind in the area.
“We’re making history by recording history,” said Alexandra Kelly, outreach services coordinator for the NYPL.
The library will be conducting the project through May, which means there is still time for local residents to get involved both by interviewing others and by telling their own stories.
Community Board 11 has been an early supporter of the project, and district manager Jeremy Warneke has taken it upon himself to make sure their stories have been recorded.
He’s been interviewing board 11 members, some of whom have been a part of the board since the 70s, in order to capture their rich stories and acknowledge the work they’ve done over the years.
“It’s about putting the community board on the map, and who better to do it then those who live here and volunteer here?” said Warneke.
One of those board members is Vincent Prezioso, a long-time member who moved to Morris Park with his family in 1939.
Prezioso, 81, told Warneke about what the neighborhood was like 70 years ago, when he attended P.S. 83.
“It was all farmland,” said Prezioso. “It was a different kind of society.”
At that time, West Farms was the borough’s hub, and you could rent rowboats in Bronx Park at 180th Street.
Prezioso said he was glad to hear about the project, and thinks the resulting archive will be valuable.
“It should be on record how the Bronx was in the 30s and 40s,” he said.
Interviews with residents like Prezioso illustrate the unique history of the area, said Kelly.
“His individual story epitomized the drastic change in these neighborhoods,” she said.
The library is continuing to do outreach for the project, and Kelly is hoping the final archive will have a diverse group of stories that represent the neighborhood’s past.
“If people don’t step up, if they don’t take park, where is the history going to go?” she said.
There will be a community meeting for current and interested participants at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 28 at the Pelham Parkway-Van Nest Library.
For those interested in the history of the area, a screening of the documentary ‘At Home in Utopia,’ about the history of the Allerton Coops, will be held at the Allerton Library on Saturday, January 31 at 1 p.m.
To learn how to participate in the oral history project as either an interviewer or interviewee, contact Alexandra Kelly at (212) 621-0552 or AlexandraKelly@nypl.org.
Interviews from the project can be found at oralhistory.nypl.org.