YORKVILLE — Lifelong Yorkville resident Jared Grossman has had to watch the neighborhood he knows disappear before his eyes — that's why he's on a mission to capture what's left of it before its too late, he says.
To Grossman, the neighborhood of Yorkville was the playground on First Avenue and East 93rd Street, where he used to play during his elementary school years. As a teenager, it was the independent skate shop on East 86th and Third Avenue where he hung out with his friends after school.
Both are gone now. The playground was bulldozed over for a new luxury apartment building, called Easton, and the skate shop has been replaced with a Shake Shack.
Even the public housing complex Holmes Towers, where he played and many of his friends grew up, is being infiltrated by a mixed-income high rise that the city is planning to build on top of a playground there.
"The Upper East Side comes with baggage, or connotations, that Yorkville didn't originally carry, but now it's becoming ambiguous because of the luxury buildings," Grossman said.
Yorkville, though part of the Upper East Side, has distinct characteristics that make it its own. Bound by East 79th and 96th streets from Third Avenue to the East River, the neighborhood is made up of shorter townhouses, mom-and-pop shops and was historically home to the working class, while their more affluent neighbors lived closer to Central Park.
But new development is on its way to changing that fabric, Grossman says. That's why the 28-year-old bartender and music videographer is now on the hunt for Yorkville natives like him who'd be willing to share their memories in a new documentary he's producing — a feat he'd like to complete before the neighbors he's grown up with are pushed out.
"It would be interesting to get people from the project on First Avenue to people in townhouses on York and East End avenues and everything in between," he said, noting that this would be his first documentary.
"Yorkville has been a strong, working class, far-east side enclave, and I want to give a really great perspective of Yorkville history as far back as I can."
Grossman started posting fliers around the neighborhood last week in search of lifelong residents to film, but he already has some candidates he's hoping to approach for interviews, including butcher shop Schaller & Weber, Rathbones bar on Second Avenue, and Glaser's Bake Shop on First Avenue.
Prime candidates for the film would be willing to pull out their photo albums and talk about their experience growing up there, the businesses they frequented and where they hung out.
"Yorkville has changed so much in the last 50 years that it will be really interesting to see how people of different ages and backgrounds perceive their own neighborhood," he said.
He's ultimately hoping to submit his film to public broadcasting channels and museums, and while he doesn't expect the documentary to stop the momentum of development in the neighborhood, he's hoping it'll preserve its pride.
"There's a loss of character, which is why I would like to make this film before it’s too late," he said.
Grossman filmed the music video for Benaladiva's "Free Shmurda" and a video for the song "Fuori dal Mondo" by Ludovico Einaudi. He's currently reaching out to the community and making appointments for interviews. If you're interested, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 646-244-3344.
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