Massapequa & Massapequa Park
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Massapequa & Massapequa Park

The tale of two completely different worlds that are parallel to each other

Massapequa & Massapequa Park
Edwin J. Viera

On Long Island, there are several towns that stand out from the area that surround them, mainly because of the wealth that created them. These are called incorporated villages are nothing more than the wealthier areas of town that have prime real estate.

The incorporated village of my town, Massapequa, is Massapequa Park. Aside from having to pay higher property taxes, and a village tax, these incorporated villages are often considered better than the area surrounding them. Some of the incorporated villages on Long Island also have their own separate stations on the Long Island Railroad.

Classism may seem foreign to some but it can be right around the corner. In the case of these towns, and the city of Buffalo, this is true. Based on an assignment of walking along parts of Grant Street and Elmwood Avenue, I found how separate classes can be and the different worlds they are in.

To Grant Street & W. Ferry Street

My journey began on Tremont Avenue off of Forest Avenue. I walked from my apartment along Baynes Street and slowly began to realize the change in the landscape, the closer you get to Grant Street. Many of the houses, closer to Forest were well kept and had trimmed lawns. However, as I walked further and got closer to Grant Street and Baynes Street, I realized that many homes fell into a state of disrepair.

Aside from dilapidated homes, there were no green lawns, but rather just dirt. As I rounded the corner and walked down W. Ferry Street, I noticed La Nova Pizzeria. It was enormous, and took up more space than other places do. I wondered why it occupied so much real estate? Many of the stores had bars on the windows or were in a slight state of disrepair.

To Dibble’s Hardware Store and the West Side Bazaar

I walked into Dibble’s Hardware and was greeted warmly and was asked if I needed help looking for anything. Despite being small in size, this store had a lot more to offer than the Home Depot on Elmwood Avenue does. This store will; not be driven out of business by them for several reasons. First, it’s convenient for people who live close by to walk there or even take the bus.

Even though the 20 bus goes to the Home Depot on Elmwood Avenue, this place has a much more welcoming feel to it. After leaving there, I walked to the West Side Bazaar and found it to be a small piece of paradise. The places there were all dealing with at least one customer and the food smelled amazing. I would have had lunch there but I was still full from having breakfast earlier that day.

Walking Along Grant Street

I began walking along Grant Street and didn’t see a sign that mentioned loitering. I do know what the term means but I have never loitered anywhere before. My friends and I always hung out in New York city just walking around and would often go to a pizza place after our weekend classes to talk, have some good food, and laugh. I walked into the Nice Price Market and found that it was in a state of organized chaos. The bins containing wigs and hair extensions, shoes, and other clothing items completely messy.

Also, there was a random person sleeping at the front of the store. I didn’t want to wake him up, and he seemed pretty peaceful. I bought some pens while there and the cashier said something interesting that no one has ever told me before. He said, “We take EBT cards if you want to buy a sandwich something.”

No one in my twenty years on this earth has ever told me that. I was a bit taken aback because I felt like he was trying to call me poor without using those exact words. However, I thought about the makeup of the neighborhood and questioned how many people come into his store and have to use an EBT card as part of their payment.

After leaving I noticed that there was a new building going up that would house some offices, one in particular that caught my eye was that of a state assemblyman. I’ve never really seen a government office on Elmwood Avenue or any other street in Buffalo for that matter. As I passed by I wondered if he thought this was an investment in the neighborhood. Soon, I came upon Frontier Beverages.

The Lotto Room has since been converted to a Cricket Wireless. Instead, I went into the bodega, next to the liquor store. As I walked around, I found snacks, and drinks that are native to bodega type stores and would be completely uncommon in upscale corner stores along Elmwood Avenue. I bought a Calypso Blue Lemonade, and two bags of Trolli Gummy Octopus candies for my roommate.

As I walked along, I popped into West Side Stories and found that this bookstore had a better, though limited selection than Talking Leaves and Barnes & Noble. While I was there, I purchased two books. One was Fifth Avenue Bus, which is a collection of works by Christopher Morley, it only cost about $6 dollars. The other book was a copy of Lafayette in America, which I later discovered was a limited signed copy of that book, of which only 294 copies had been made. At other book stores a find of that caliber would be hundreds of dollars, I purchased it for $22.50.

After leaving there I noticed Sweetness 7, a cafe that was originally on Parkside Avenue, across from the Buffalo Zoo. Since the property over there must have been terribly expensive, they moved to an area where the property might have been cheaper. Cafes like that one might be in the area because of the proximity to Buffalo State. Students might want to go there because of the environment but it does show the changes of the environment.

As I walked back towards Breckenridge Street, I noticed that there were several large vacant lots that might be parking or might have been a building at some point.

The upscale gentrification had moved into the neighborhood and would make its way to all points where I had been. Though my time in Buffalo is short, whose to say that all of that stuff won’t be gone by the time I graduate from college.

Walking from Grant Street to Elmwood Avenue via Breckenridge Street

It seems that many of the streets that connect Grant Street to Elmwood Avenue show the biggest change in class structure and wealth. They also show a change in demographic. Along Grant Street there were many minorities as well as a few white people, but as I drew closer to Elmwood Avenue, I noticed that the area was predominantly white. There were not many minorities, and if there were, they were in the company of white people. I walked to Elmwood and soon realized that this is a different world than that of Grant Street.

Walking Along Elmwood Avenue

As I looked along Elmwood Avenue, I found that this was a seemingly more cared for area of Buffalo. All of the buildings were pristine and found to be in great condition. Houses were large but built to be homes and not just apartments. In Spot Coffee, as compared to the West Side Bazaar, I found that this was one large business operating in a single space.

Unlike the Bazaar, it wasn’t a group of business, and it certainly wasn’t being run by immigrants. The Lexington Cooperative was, to me, a Whole Foods. Upscale, pricey items that many people wouldn’t have access to at a regular grocery store. By this I mean they have specialty items that are more upscale than places like Wegmans or Tops would have.

Walking Along Cleveland Avenue, St. Catherine's Court, and Tudor Place

Cleveland Avenue had a large number of big houses. It was St. Catherine’s Court that tipped me off about the area. It was originally gated off. One home on the street had a brick wall that spanned a whole block. However, that same house had a driveway that led out onto Cleveland Street. The person or one of the people who live there, drove out in what looked like a classic Jaguar.

After passing Nardin Academy, I was reminded about my own schooling in a Catholic school. It also reminded me that i was walking into an area that was similar to the one I called home for years. After that I walked along Tudor Place and remembered that West Ferry, between Delaware and Elmwood Avenues is a very wealthy area.

I have driven through the area before and found that it was unlike any place I’d seen in Buffalo. The buildings had such an air of class and wealth surrounding them, I felt as though I was an outsider. Better yet, I felt like I was a kid back in my elementary school looking so much different and being so much different than the other kids.

A lot of the area didn’t make me uncomfortable but I knew that I wasn’t wanted in this area. So many of the homes were things that people dream of owning, however, some fall short of the desired goal.

The Home Stretch: W. Ferry Street to Grant Street

As I walked along West Ferry, I saw the change in the social class structure in the way that the homes and apartment buildings were built, as well as maintained. This entire experience brought me back to my childhood on Long Island. I would go to my friend’s neighborhoods and notice the differences in the landscape. It was different to see the way that people responded to living in those areas. Their houses were all maintained, while several homes on my street fell into disrepair and neglect. Not by the owners, however, but by the town. This seems to be the same with the Grant Street area of Buffalo's West Side.

At no point along this tour did I feel uncomfortable. Both Elmwood Avenue and Grant Street reminded me of the familiar places I grew up in. From the bodegas of the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, to the upscale markets and cafes of Elmwood Avenue, to the semi-gated off homes of St. Catherine’s Court, and the mansions of Tudor Place; all of it was familiar to me.

Much of my life has been spent in a series of different environments, all of which I had to adapt to. I was constantly reminded, though, of the narrative of Massapequa and Massapequa Park. How, despite sharing the same area, and partly the same name, these two towns are vastly different based on class. This is the way Elmwood Avenue and Grant Street can be viewed.

Despite occupying the West Side of Buffalo and being large hubs of life, these two areas are vastly different in class structure.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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