Oral History: Oscar Pagan Reflects on Red Hook at start of NYC ferry service celebration, 2017

In 2017, the inauguration of the NYC Ferry service was a big deal in the mind of Oscar Pagan, enough so that he drove from Staten Island back to Red Hook where he grew up to experience this big change for the neighborhood. He came to PortSide NewYork's complimentary breakfast aboard the Mary A. Whalen held early in the morning to celebrate the new ferry service.

PortSide's Carolina Salguero captured Oscar's thoughts as he reflected on the neighborhood he loves and the changes here over the years.

Transcript of interview

"My name is Oscar and I was raised in Red Hook from 1960 to 1988.  I really never left Red Hook.  I was one of the guys who made it out of Red Hook when Red Hook was a tough neighborhood and I became an electrician but I never forgot my neighborhood. And I am very happy to be here. I came all the way from Staten Island for the celebration of the new ferry, 'cause Red Hook was the forgotten neighborhood for a lot of years.  The highway separated Red Hook and isolated the neighborhood, and we don't have a subway system.  All we have are two buses coming in and out, so it is very exciting to have this ferry leaving here from Red Hook. "

[Oscar shows his tattoo: "REDHOOK" in gothic letters on the inside of his forearm]

"This means I am original Red Hook"

"My wife is from Red Hook also.  She was raised on Van Brunt Street, and we are together 38 years. And we are all for Red Hook.  And like I said I never forgot Red Hook.  Even when the baseball fields were being done, I brought back softball to keep the community going with the baseball.  I also do volunteer work at the church, at Visitation Church.  The developers were looking to take over the church and the community did not want that to happen and Father Claudio was looking for volunteers and I did some volunteer electrical work to help keep the church open, and that is what we do in our community to give back. I was educated here; it is not all bad about Red Hook.  There is a lot of good stuff that came out of Red Hook.  My brother became a naval commander, did 32 years of service and he was in the Royal Cadets in Red Hook, the marching band, when he was a young man.   So, Red Hook is a great neighborhood.  Can't afford to live here anymore, so I had to buy in Staten Island but my wife's whole family they owned houses here - they long since sold the houses, moved away.  Big mistake. But she still has a nephew here who owns a house here and he stayed and he is going to do very well. I love this neighborhood. I drove all the way from Staten Island to make this celebration because I am very happy and excited to be here."

This oral history was first posted to PortSide's Facebook page, June 1, 2017.




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