Inner City Press: Voice of the Bronx

On this page:  Scrapmetal Diary, I Love the Bronx, Pampers & Lies

Scrapmetal Diary

[Note: What follows are excerpts from an interview ICP’s editor did with a scrapmetal collector in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx, a man we used to call “The Lost Homeless” when he lived in an abandoned car on 146th Street. He always got along with everyone on that block. Old ladies would cook and bring him pernil, roast pork. He helped out with whatever work there was. Eventually someone gratuitously smashed in the windows of the car, and it was towed away. At the time of this interview, he was living in an abandoned building on Melrose Avenue and 152nd Street.]

ICP: Where is the scrap metal place you go to?

Lost Homeless (“LH”): It’s on Hunts Point Avenue, past the auto parts. Sometimes I take it to the places closer to here, but they pay you much less...

ICP: How long does it take you to get to Hunts Point?

LH: It all depends how you go. I take the short cuts, side streets, past Spofford and the monastery.

ICP: You roll your cart back empty?

LH: Nah, man, I pick up over there on Hunts Point. I can make around six trips a day over there, just going around and around in Hunts Point.

ICP: How much can you make in a day?

LH: Around $35, sometimes more. Between copper, aluminum, stainless steel.. Even refrigerator motors... They take the whole motor... Transmissions, alternators... You can find ‘em in any car, it don’t matter how burnt up they are, you still get your buck and a half...

ICP: They melt the alternators and motors down?

LH: Nah, some of them they throw in the truck and rebuild. They only melt the copper down... And the lead -- you can get a buck for a battery, it don’t matter if it got run over by a steamroller...

ICP: Your cart must get heavy...

LH: Hey, if you need that money, you’re gonna get it. I remember one time I had five transmissions on my cart... No one told me it was a holiday, I got over there and every damn place was closed... I went all the way down to the last one, right on the water front. Closed. That did it-- I kicked my cart over, and left those trannies right in the middle of the street. Didn’t even look back. No way I’m going to roll them all the way back over here to Melrose..

ICP: Where do you leave your cart at night?

LH: I leave it in the back of this building, back where the dogs were barking at us.

ICP: You chain it up?

LH: No. The people who would steal it are too scared to go back there where the dogs and the pushers are... They figure they might get killed....

...ICP: It sounds like scrap metal is it’s own little world... At least you make your living, you survive...

LH: Yeah, man, I survive. But there’s no question I’d like a better job. I’m getting too old to be doing this. Take this winter for example. I’ll probably have to be scraping again this winter, just like the last one, grab my cart and push it through the snow like a fool. I don’t see no one else out there but me...I be pushing that thing like a dog sled and people’ll say, don’t tell me his hands aren’t frozen, and his toes... I tell you, if you hold on to that bad boy, they’re going to freeze...

ICP: Do you know a lot of the other scrapers? Are they your friends?

LH: Yeah, I know about twelve of ‘em... But you see, I can’t go scraping with them much... They scrap in the wrong way -- they strip cars that aren’t even abandoned yet. I ain’t out on the street here to get busted...

* * * * * *


               Voice of Enrique Gonzalez

     “Aye, I’ve been in the Bronx for almost twenty years now... And since I’ve been here, I’m always swinging with the Boricuas, with the Puerto Ricans... They’re my people, really, more than the other Dominicans, who are mostly over in Upper Manhattan, you know... And when I tell them I live over here in the Bronx, they say, ‘Oh my God...’. But what does that mean, really... This is where I am, and I like the people... I remember about fifteen years ago, I lived on Hoe Avenue and Aldus Street in Hunts Point. Now, that really wasn’t a good area, you know... If you called the cops they would never come, and sometimes when they did the kids would shoot at them from the roof tops... Things just went crazy, the people were too poor, and too forgotten, and the kids started making some noise... The drugs were everywhere, and the super of my building would rent out my apartment while I was at work, out in a meat packing plant in New Jersey... I told him it was OK with me, as long as he changed the sheets before I got home... It was crazy over there, but I never had a problem with the people, never even had a sock stolen... Though those buildings are all demolished now...

     Now I’m fixing up one of the abandoned buildings they didn’t knock down, I’ve brought my family over, we’ve fixed this apartment to live how we want. Because I love the Bronx, I don’t think I’ll ever leave it... for all its problems...”.

* * * * * * *

Pampers and Lies

     “... I remember last year this one time, we were all in here, I mean, me, my husband and the kids, and the President was on T.V., and he’s giving some speech, it’s going on and on, we’re kind of half-listening, you know, I’m looking around the apartment to see if we don’t have at least one pampers left... And suddenly we hear that “there is no one hungry in the United States tonight.”... And I mean, we’re trying to get together the money to buy a dozen eggs and milk for the kids... My husband started screaming, just stood up and started screaming... He picked up a book and threw it at the TV and there was a bright light on the screen and then it went dark...”

                                                       -- A.C., Belmont, The Bronx

[To be continued....]

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