To the Editor:

I don’t know whether or not this little story throws much light on the present state of “inter-group relations” in New York City, but perhaps your readers will find it of interest.

I recently traveled from the Riverdale section of the Bronx to Manhattan in one of those “limousine” taxis which carry five or six passengers to different destinations at a considerably lower cost than that of a regular taxi.

I sat in the front seat beside the driver, and there were four passengers in the back, three women and a man, all rather prosperous-looking, middle-aged Jews bound for various addresses on the middle West Side of Manhattan. One of the women talked continuously to the others about the present “situation” in New York. Neighborhoods deteriorating before one’s eyes. You’re not safe on the street any more. “My sister-in-law on 84th Street kept her windows closed all summer; she couldn’t sleep with the noise they were making.” Filth. Noise. Crime. Those Puerto Ricans live sixteen in a room, have no sense of cleanliness. It is reported that their children get born after six months instead of nine; nothing else could account for the rapidity of their increase. “Fifteen years I’ve lived in my apartment, and now I can’t recognize the neighborhood any more. It’s a tragedy, a real tragedy!” One landlord, owner of a high-class building in the Eighties near Central Park West, had committed suicide as his tenants fled from the onrushing hordes. Others have not scrupled to enjoy the profits to be gained from renting to the Puerto Ricans—“those landlords are the real criminals.” And so on. Except for the theory about the shorter period of gestation among Puerto Ricans, there was nothing that one doesn’t hear all the time in New York these days, though often in more apologetic terms: “I’ve always been a liberal, but . . . !”

This time, for some reason, I turned around and said, “Lady, how do you know I’m not a Puerto Rican?” Even as I said this, I was sorry for what I was doing, feeling suddenly that the woman in the back seat was, after all, not so dreadful a person, only saying what many others were saying, and that I was wrong to embarrass her with my challenging question. But she proved perfectly equal to the difficulty. “It doesn’t matter if you are,” she said. “I’m not talking about your type of Puerto Rican.”

The monologue in the back seat then continued as before, though after a while, it must be admitted, there was some tendency to taper off. The lady left the taxi at West End Avenue and 88th Street.

Charles Eshkenazi
New York City



+ A A -
Share via
Copy link