Friday, August 20, 2010

Understanding Port Richmond

After a string of attacks against Mexicans in a far-flung neighborhood near the waterfront overlooking Bayonne, the media descended into a place rarely visited, even by Islanders, and played the role of armchair sociologist.

What is Port Richmond? Did the Mexicans just get there? Is all the strife new? Must be due to some recent incident, or a national trend, right?

Well, actually, no. They were almost always wrong.

But a new piece from City Limits puts some much-needed context on the situation. Particularly, with the perspectives of community leaders like Rev. Terry Troia, of Project Hospitality, and Ed Josey, president of Staten Island's NAACP branch.

"There's a negative pulse in the community," Troia told City Limits. "The people committing these crimes hear this negative verbiage, like ‘Oh, these damn Mexicans are taking all the jobs,' and they act impulsively off that buzz."

The piece also explains that bias incidents have been on the radar of feds since a profoundly disturbing election night beating.

The election night attack was perpetrated by young Italian-Americans who beat a Liberian immigrant with a baseball bat because they were "out to target black people" after Barack Obama had been elected President. There have been other incidents as well, but this one put the Island on the map as a new haven for hate crimes.

The City Limits piece also mentions how the seeds of the current tension were planted long ago - when the Mexicans began to transform this historic, and neglected, neighborhood.

Port Richmond has a rich history as a commercial hub and shopping mecca. It was largely abandoned after the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island Mall shifted the balance down toward the landfill part of Richmond ave (Port Richmond ave, was once also, simply Richmond Ave. as well)

In the 1980's you wouldn't be likely to enter areas of Port Richmond, unless maybe you were looking to buy crack or something. Then the Mexican community moved in a built a small, vibrant universe for themselves, slightly to the dismay of the local black community who still lived in abject poverty but now had neighbors thriving off their business with Mexican groceries, restaurants, bakeries, etc.

Add to this bubbling cauldron the fact that, as the Advance reported, some of the Mexican residents like to get 'drunk and rowdy' - doesn't everyone.

But with the added charges of harassment aimed toward the local African American women - the cauldron turned into a powder keg. Unconfirmed reports also say that the Mexicans started selling drugs as well, which may have peeved the longtime dealers who made a living from it.

So was this violence aimed at a specific group of people? Absolutely.

But were Mexicans being targeted largely because of their race, or is it more of a territorial battle between groups with long-standing divisions in a place neglected by an Island that left the once-thriving commercial strip to rot?


  1. Well you Sidump and the Rev prob never had to compete for labor jobs.
    you fucking faggots!

  2. A few days ago, I spontaneously drove down Port Richmond from Richmond Terrace as a shortcut to Forest Ave. I cannot remember the last time I did that. What you say about marginalized groups competing against each other in a forgotten area by the past-majority is true. (The Vietnamese community in New Orleans that picked itself up faster than the spotlighted African-American areas after Katrina come to mind.) For the most part, most people do not navigate through Port Richmond as part of routine local life. It has taken several decades to reach its current state. It is surprising, nevertheless, to see the community that lives there now.