I am writing this article in regard to the ways Maspeth has changed over the past few years. I am a third generation resident of this community and, no doubt about it, Maspeth is in my blood. Several years ago, as a result of the declining quality of life in NYC, I sold the home of my youth and moved to Nassau County. Yes, the quality of life in Nassau County was better but the price was high and I am not talking just about the taxes, which became unjustifiable. The price was that I was forced to give up the home and the neighborhood of my family. Along with this came the long commute to work and the constant need for a car in order to perform such simple tasks as food shopping.
Maspeth and its surrounding communities had and still have much to offer. Being able to walk to Grand Avenue to go shopping, even if just being able to pass the time and get in a little exercise by window-shopping, is a great pastime. But we have lost immensely; we have lost much of the infrastructure, which made this middle class community so desirable. As little as several years ago Maspeth was a self sufficient community. Anything one needed was located on the avenue and a mere short walk from home. Gone are the A & P and Ben Franklins, replaced by Drug Stores. The clothes stores, all but lost to 99¢ stores and from good food to fast food. Box stores replaced the quality and the service of places like Griff’s or Newman’s Hardware. We still have a few die-hard owners out there but we must be wary or they too will leave and with them will go the remnants of Maspeth’s character.
Make no mistake, we are under siege, some call it progress. I call it the dismantling of our heritage. The classic colonial houses are being torn down or modified to look like something from Eastern Europe. While Europe may be OK it is not America and we should not be copying their style, we should be preserving our own.
So how do we do this? Residents need to awaken; the Community Associations are a fantastic source of help and of strength. Just look at the high end communities on Long Island. They all have strong community representation, which takes involvement. Residents need to get off the couch, come to the meetings. Store owners need to get the word out; most are family owned and provide service you don’t get in a corporate box store. As an example, back when my parents bought their home they went to Lakins for appliances. The salesman knew his product line and since he was a Maspeth resident he knew the house and what fit and what worked. Maybe the price was a bit more but the service and the support were worth it. You also saved the drive to Nassau County, and the time and the aggravation, so in total, you received a bargain. The same can be said for the other shops, so shop keepers, get that word out.
The moral of this story is that we should preserve our community; it still has the advantages worthy of our efforts. We need to turn back the hands of time, make business areas marketable and attractive, both to the residents and to independent store owners. We don’t need another bank; we need quality shops like those we once had. People, get involved, find out what is going on and stick together. Most important, acknowledge those who are fighting Maspeth’s battles. These people deserve our thanks and our support because without their dedication our town will continue to lose the unique character, which resulted in the three to four generations of Maspeth’s families.
My advice for those who feel Maspeth is beyond hope is simple and, based on my own experience, don’t live for a past dream and don’t move to an area you believe is a commutable distance to work. Sever all ties to your memories and start anew. If you move, move completely, far away so you can’t look back. This town haunts and to a true “Maspethite” it may never be out of your blood.