April 29, 2012

USA: 100 Years of Staying Put

NEW YORK, NY / The New York Times / New York Region / April 29, 2012

Damon Winter/The New York Times
CONSTANCY Lillian Jacobs, now 102, moved to East 84th Street at 2. Her parents ran a candy store, right, in the building where they lived. Bottom, Ms. Jacobs's signature on a library ledger from 1916

By Benjamin Weiser and Noah Rosenberg

WHEN Lillian Jacobs was 2, in 1911 or ’12, her family moved from the Lower East Side into a tenement building on East 84th Street, just off York Avenue, then known as Avenue A. Her parents ran a candy store on the building’s ground floor, catering to the newly arrived immigrants from Germany, Hungary, Austria and Ireland.

People came and went over the years; apartment houses were built and tradesmen’s shops disappeared, along with the family candy store. But the character of the area, and specifically this part of East 84th Street, has largely remained the same. The brownstones, built at the turn of the 20th century and flanked by trees planted in more recent years, have stayed true to the block.

So has Ms. Jacobs.

Since arriving on East 84th Street, Ms. Jacobs, who is now 102, has moved to four different addresses, but always stayed on the street; her five homes have all been within 1,200 feet of one another.

“I don’t know why,” she said last fall in her sunlit apartment on the 17th floor of a building near First Avenue, where she and her husband, George, moved two decades ago. “But it seemed to be destined that I stay on East 84th.”

Ms. Jacobs is already a demographic rarity: she was one of 2,126 city residents 100 and over recorded in the 2010 census. But even though very few New Yorkers can claim a century spent in essentially one place, the notion of maintaining roots on a street is not entirely uncommon, said Andrew A. Beveridge, a Queens College sociologist.

A decade ago, Professor Beveridge recalled, one of his students interviewed a man of about 100 who had lived his entire life in the same house in Richmond Hill, Queens.


© 2012 The New York Times Company
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