Periodically my father will reminisce about his childhood in East New York, Brooklyn. and sometimes I’ll pass through my old neighborhood on my way to visit my grandparents. Today, much has changed and a large majority of the people I remember from that time are gone, but he violent and shocking memories will always remain. By the time I grew up in East New York, the demographics had far changed. Rarely did I see any faces in the area that weren’t Puerto Rico, Dominican or African-American. The Caucasian faces were mostly Police Officers, Firemen, EMTs and missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints. As kids, we often heard stories about the gangs that roamed East New York waging turf battles with each other using, knives, zip guns, car antennas and anything else that could be used to inflict pain. The stories seemed unbelievable at the time but after reading this book, I have a whole new understanding of the place I once called home.
For over 60 years, the streets of East New York have been some of the most dangerous in Brooklyn. Quarantello takes us back in time to the era when East New York had begun its social decline with gangs having taken over the streets and the Vietnam War was heating up with the government drafting thousands of young men into the armed forces. Readers that are familiar with East New York, currently live there or are former residents will find this read fascinating, shocking, and nostalgic. The level of violence is high but the book is an important piece of East New York’s history and gives mention to many street names, landmarks and old businesses that will be familiar to many readers. Personally, I know all of the streets mentioned in the book and can attest to the fact that at the time I lived in the area, the streets were just as dangerous with a whole new set of gangs roaming the area. And instead of sticks, pipes and bats, guns were the primary weapon of choice. The social decline had become greater and during the 1980s and 1990s, East New York was at its lowest point. But there is hope and the City of New York plans to invest into the neighborhood the resources and capital that are long overdue. I hope to have my father read this book and get his thoughts on that time in his youth and what he remembers from those days in relation to Quarantello’s story. The book is a tough read at times and the level of violence and social tensions described in the book are not for the faint at heart. But this is one man’s story of his youth in one of Brooklyn’s most feared and misunderstood areas.