News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
March 5, 2021
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News + Views

Gowanus Houses Reunion

By joshua kristal
Gowanus Houses Old-Timers Day brings hundreds of current and past residents together for food, music and catching-up with old friends.
Photo Gallery by Joshua Kristal

A celebratory mood overtook the Gowanus Houses in Boerum Hill on Aug. 13 for Old Timers Day, a reunion that brought families and friends from up and down the East Coast to eat, talk and recount the good ol’ days at the complex bounded by Hoyt, Wyckoff and Bond streets. The Gowanus Houses were built in 1949, and more than 2,800 people call it home. In 1995, the development was the setting of Spike Lee’s film, Clockers (1995).

Hundreds turned out to visit with old friends. Many at the celebration lived in the apartments in the 1960s, and had a lot of catching up to do. Like a giant family reunion, families picked their spots early and set up camp with long tables stacked with soul food standards: red beans and rice, mac and cheese, and North Carolina-style pulled pork with coleslaw. There was music, dancing, performances and a basketball competition for men over 40—the play was sweaty and fierce.

Puerto Rican chicken BBQ here; an intense timed-chess competition there.

A board hung on a fence announcing the deaths of residents over the course of the year. People took long looks at the photos of those who passed.

New-school rap was followed by an old-school female dance routine, half-clown, half-Michael Jackson impersonation.

Kids ran amok and the swings swung high. Drinkers got on their drink and laughing was ever-present.

The housing community has seen its share of drugs and violence, but on this day, the communal courtyard was filled with an air of love and friendship, family and warmth, and the feeling one gets when everything sits just right.

To see some great photos of the Gowanus Houses residents in the 1950s and 60s, check out the Old Timers’ Day Facebook Page.





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