Filed under: Features,In The Trenches,Not Your Average,Print Work,The Unkut Guide
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
The PJ’s have always been an essential part of New York hip-hop, for better or worse. You’ve heard the names of these housing projects shouted out in songs over the years, but unless you’re a well-traveled NYC resident, it’s likely you don’t know a whole lot about some of these landmarks. Here’s a piece I put together (with additional help from the homey Dallas Penn) for Hip-Hop Connection magazine last year for their ‘Violence Issue’ (hence the focus on head cracks)…
NAME: Pink Houses
LOCATION: Linden Boulevard, Brooklyn.
ACTUAL FACTS: Louis Heaton Pink was a wealthy businessman who became chairman of the New York State Housing Board, and was dedicated to the notion that private and public housing efforts would eventually eradicate slums. Louis Heaton Pink Houses has twenty-two, 8-story buildings with 1,500 apartments. Established September 30, 1959, its current population is numbered at 3,810 residents.
TOUGH GUY RATING: High. In the mid-80’s Pink Houses was the home of the infamous street gang the A-Team. A generation later the project would spawn the notorious ‘Pink Houses Crew’, a twenty-deep team of thieves accused of stealing $2.5 million worth of jewelry during a dozen robberies that took place between 2003 and 2005. Legend has it that Pink Houses residents used to split sides before fights based on what floor they lived on (8th floor vs. 7th floor etc).
SMART DUMB CATS: Foxy Brown was allegedly robbed outside of Pink Hoses when she dumped her boyfriend after discovering he was a “small-time pimp”. Ironically, he then instructed three of his “employees” to jump her. Foxy was dragged out of her car and relieved of her purse containing $500 cash, her hair weave and her hearing aid. After fingering one of her attackers to police, Foxy later decided to “stop snitching” and instead denied the whole thing ever happened.
RAP ALUMNI RATING: 1/5. Uncle Murda: “I’m from Pink Houses, but I fuck with Cypress niggas. I got a lot of problems with Pink Houses. I had a lot of shootouts in Pink Houses and I hurt a lot of people, so they don’t like me too much.”
LYRIC QUOTE: “And then I take a trip to Pink Houses/Check out the girls with the pretty pink blouses” Daddy-O [‘Uda Man’ - Stetsasonic]
NAME: Stapleton Houses
LOCATION: Gordon Street, Staten Island.
ACTUAL FACTS: The largest housing project in Staten, with six, 8-story high buildings that were completed May 31, 1962. Its 693 apartments currently house 1,821 residents.
TOUGH GUY RATING: High. Two undercover cops were executed, gang-land style, during an investigation into arms smuggling in the area in 2003. This year there have been several brawls between local police and firemen, stemming from an incident at Beer Goggles, which has been closed down repeatedly for serving booze to minors.
SMART DUMB CATS: According to silive.com in February 2008, “a would-be stick-up-kid pulled out a gun inside the Blu Lounge and tried to hold up two men, struggling to get their attention over the din of the music. He pulled some gold chains and medallions off one of the men, then, as he was trying to stuff the gun and jewelry into his jacket pocket, accidentally fired off a shot, hitting himself in the process.”
RAP ALUMNI RATING: 4/5. Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Trife Da God, Shyheim and GP Wu.
LYRIC QUOTE: “Stapleton’s been stamped as a concentration camp/At night I walk through, third eye is bright as a street lamp” – RZA [‘Impossible’ – Wu-Tang Clan]
NAME: Patterson Projects
LOCATION: 3rd Avenue, Bronx.
ACTUAL FACTS: Lester Patterson was a no-nonsense Bronx County judge who is said to have once sentenced a mugger to two concurrent life terms. Lester Patterson Houses has fifteen buildings 6 and 13-stories tall with 1,790 apartments, making it one of the largest in the city. Opened December 31, 1950, it’s currently home to 4,377 residents.
TOUGH GUY RATING: Medium. The neighbourhood of Mott Haven was at the centre of major drug wars in the Bronx during the 80’s. Although things slowed down over the next decade, by the turn of the century Bronx prosecutors created a Gang/Major Case Bureau to combat the rise of gang activity in the area. In April 2004, the unit busted nine alleged Bloods for selling up to $80,000 in crack a month from the Patterson Houses.
SMART DUMB CATS: In April, 2005 a man climbed down the building shaft after dropping his mobile. While he was climbing back up he slipped and fell four stories. It took a team of fire fighters and a stretcher to hoist him to safety. The guy suffered several broken bones for his troubles, but got his phone back.
RAP ALUMNI RATING: 3/5. Percee-P and Andre The Giant.
LYRIC QUOTE: “And on the other side of town was a kid named Flash/Patterson and Millbrook projects, Casanova all over, ya couldn’t stop it” KRS-One [Boogie Down Productions - ‘South Bronx’]
NAME: Soundview Houses
LOCATION: Rosedale Avenue, Bronx.
ACTUAL FACTS: Soundview Houses has thirteen, 7-story buildings containing 1,258 apartments. Completed October 29, 1954, it now houses 3,148 residents.
TOUGH GUY RATING: Off The Meter. Spawned the infamous Sex Money Murder Bloods (founder Pistol Pete is not to be confused with the character of the same name who is part of Fat Joe’s Terror Squad). Was named New York’s “Murder Capital” in 2002, and currently holds the title for the most car thefts in the city.
SMART DUMB CATS: In 1999, four members of the now-disbanded Street Crimes Unit emptied 41 rounds into Amadou Diallo after they mistook him for a wanted rapist. When the plain-clothed officers thought he was reaching for a gun, when he was in fact tryin to show them his ID, they opened fire. All four of the officers involved were later exonerated of “any wrongdoing” by jury trial.
RAP ALUMNI RATING: 3/5. The Jazzy 5 MC’s, Lord Tariq and Big Pun.
LYRIC QUOTE: “Lord Tariq, Soundview ain’t bout it, we of it/Round the world they respect my gangsta, gotta love it” Lord Tariq – ‘This Cold World’
NAME: The Polo Grounds
LOCATION: F Douglass Boulevard, Manhattan.
ACTUAL FACTS: Originally the home of the New York Giants before the stadium was demolished to make way for the buildings. Polo Grounds Towers has four, 30-story buildings with 1,612 apartments. Completed June 30, 1968, the Towers are home to 4,196 residents.
TOUGH GUY RATING: High. January 2007 saw twenty-five people arrested for trafficking heroin and crack-cocaine in and around the Polo Grounds Towers and across the street, at a community grocery store and a Chinese takeout restaurant. In April of this year, a robbery victim was doused with gasoline and set on fire in the lobby of the Towers after having attended a party upstairs the night before with his boyfriend. The Rooftop roller disco had been located directly across the street from the housing project and thus was the source of many robberies and stick-up attempts including the incident in 1991 where Slick Rick was accused of shooting his cousin and another person he thought were attempting to rob him.
RAP ALUMNI RATING: 2/5. Pioneering mixtape DJ Ron G, who perfected the art of blending R&B vocals with hard beats.
LYRIC QUOTE: “We left the rally now we’re maxing uptown/8th Ave, 25th, 45th, and the Polo Grounds” Lord Jamar [Diamond feat. Brand Nubian ‘A Day In The Life’]
NAME: Brownville Houses
LOCATION: Sutter Avenue, Brooklyn.
ACTUAL FACTS: Brownsville Houses has twenty-seven buildings, 6 and 7-stories tall with 1,337 apartments. Completed April 16, 1948, it is currently home to 3,550 residents.
TOUGH GUY RATING: Simmering. Northeast Brooklyn was the location of 765 murders in 1990, while 2007 saw it reduced to 212. Since the locals have adopted LA-style gangs, the Brownsville and Tilden Houses’ Bloods have been at war with the Crips across the street at Marcus Garvey projects, and the murder rate is on the rise again.
SMART DUMB CATS: According to the New York Post, in January 2008, a “meathead thief shoved seven salamis into his trousers and up his sleeves at the Western Beef on East New York Avenue in Brownsville.” When the assistant manager confronted him, he was “slugged in the face” before other customers grabbed the thief and held him down until the cops arrived at the scene. It’s unclear what became of the recovered salamis.
RAP ALUMNI RATING: 4/5. Agallah, Masta Ace, Sean Price and Mike Tyson (M.O.P. are from Prospect Plaza, which is why they rep the Brownsville area).
LYRIC QUOTE: “Duke wanna fear one Rock shoot this nigga/Brownsville projects I’m not stupid nigga” Sean Price – ‘Don’t Say Shit To Ruck’
Uncle Murda repping his new residence.
Tomorrow: Part 2.
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