SOCCER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: Ridgewood, Queens

Several distinct soccer cultures converge in Ridgewood, a little triangle along the Brooklyn border hemmed in by the industrial zone north of Metropolitan Ave and the freighter tracks to the east. Yesterday, I saw a guy walking on Fresh Pond Road in a Lewandowski jersey (representative of the neighborhood’s large Polish population) and a little kid in a Barcelona SC kit – the yellow one cluttered with more ads than an XVideos page – kicking a ball against his garage (an example of the Ecuadorian set). Meanwhile, my Albanian landlord is obsessed with Real Madrid, Serie A, Albanian SuperLiga and seemingly every other world league. There are also Romanian-American cultural and soccer centers, minivans decked out in Chivas paraphernalia and a growing footy hipster contingent who visit local bars to brunch with the Premier League.

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QNS on a bad day

Woke up looking out the window into Queens and all those pleasantries:

Woodhaven Woodside Ridgewood Sunnyside;
Beaches, Points, Parks, Gardens, Hills.
The lead paint chipping off the factory cross the street
trickles into the sewer with the rain.
Everyday there's a new mattress blocking the sidewalk at the bus stop.
The sad old man bar has a slot machine
that's 'sposed to be for fun.
Just ask the gambling addict.
I first met Queens idling in line outside the Shea parking lot.
Lotsa deconstructed cars, you know?
There's a junkyard in a forest on toppa a mountain in my hometown
and I always thought, this is here to stay forever, huh?
Just because one hoarder couldn't get enough carburetors
and so he 'ccumulated several acres of doorless car carcasses.
People mock real estate developer spin:
East Williamsburg, Something or other Heights
Do you know that "Blissville" in Queens
Borders a toxic creek? It's just poison factories
And a crowded field where formaldehyded beings
decay.

In Sugar Hill: Convent Garden and its Determined Caretaker

For almost ninety-years, a wedge in the uptown grid at the quirky intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and Convent Avenue, designated a park by the Board of Estimate in 1909, sat misused, abused or neglected.

Initially, the triangle contained a gas station until the Parks Department discovered its rights to the rare patch of land and razed the pumps there in 1985. A group of neighbors then developed the first iteration of Convent Garden, but after the city uprooted their landscaping to remove the underground gas tanks, weeds grew and trash accumulated in the triangle. The chain link fence around the perimeter began to collapse and police officers from the nearby 30th Precinct commandeered the lot to stash seized vehicles or park their own cars.

In 1998, Juliette Davis, who lives on the fourth floor of a building across the street and who neighbors call Miami, decided to rejuvenate the so-called garden. Today, the .13-acre park, full of flowers, trees, a gazebo and an assortment of decorations donated by friends and neighbors, stands out as a colorful oasis amid the Sugar Hill brownstones and a testament to Davis’ determination.

“You can sit around and wait for days and months and years for somebody to do something for you and never get it done, but maybe with a little knowledge you can do it,” Davis said as she sat in the shade beneath a rosebud tree near the garden gate and reflected on the history of Convent Garden and her neighborhood. “I just started doing the work. I started cleaning the place up and doing things myself. I cleaned off this entire lot because my first thought was, ‘I want grass.’ It was like the wilderness here. Garbage. Weeds growing up above your head.”

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