“I say we’re like orphans,” said John Paglia, who has owned Comet beauty parlor on Liberty Avenue for the last 47 years.
Community activist and local lawyer Albert Baldeo has a laundry list of problems in the neighborhood.
“Libraries, infrastructure, transportation, sanitation, schools, foreclosures. These are all big problems in the community,” he said.
Ria Reyes, 23, has lived on Lefferts Boulevard near Liberty Avenue since she was nine years old. She said that she has watched the quality of life degrade with each passing year.
“There’s been such a change and I can see it every morning,” she said. “How dirty it gets and how they don’t pay attention to sanitation. Every Monday it's dirtier.”
Reyes touched on concerns that are shared by many in the community and easily verifiable, citing a new community fixture as an example.
“Now there are bums sleeping on the corner,” she said of a man who spent the entire summer and the early part of the fall sleeping in front of Popeye's or on the outskirts of residential property directly across the street. “I never saw that before.”
Paglia said that the biggest issue is overcrowding. “One-family homes have multiple families living in them,” he said. “So it trickles down to every other quality of life issue.”
He said that because of overcrowding in the area, there is more garbage and sanitation is a problem, transportation is an issue, and schools are overcrowded.
And many in the area remember businesses and storefronts that vanished from the neighborhood long ago.
“Small businesses are being shuttered,” Baldeo said. “Minority-owned businesses in the community are struggling.”
“There was a vegetable store I used to go to that’s not there anymore,” Reyes added. She also remembered a small Hispanic restaurant that was around for a long time, but over the summer a juice bar/breakfast place replaced it and it has already failed. A Metro PCS cell phone store has taken its place.
Baldeo’s believes the biggest issue in the community is the prevalence of foreclosed homes. He says that the Neighborhood Preservation Act, which is stuck in the State Assembly, would help ease the pain of homeowners who are teetering on the brink.
State Senator Joe Addabbo, Jr. said that he takes very seriously the idea of spreading funds evenly around the district.
Despite it all, long-time residents like Reyes might make the strongest case for changing what ails the community.
“It smells and it's overcrowded,” she said. “Where the A train and the Q10 bus meet on Lefferts Boulevard, it’s a very busy place. It can be very overwhelming and it's not pleasing to see day after day.”