It was just after World War II. Our boys were home from war and starting families. Affordable housing was a priority, so the New York City Housing Authority got started on 15 new projects. One of them, called Pomonok, went up in 1949 on the rolling hills of a former country club in Flushing, Queens. Over sixty years later, this incredible success story in public housing is finally documented and celebrated by two of its earliest residents, Alan Stark and Terry Katz.
The story is told in the voices of the people who first moved in, the kids who grew up there, and the families living there today. Over one hundred interviews, vintage photos, and home movies evoke a 1950’s baby-boomer paradise, with always enough kids for a choose-up game of baseball, football or punch ball down at the park or in the parking lots.
Still thriving today, Pomonok stands as an example of how safe and affordable public housing was, and continues to be, playground, community, and home to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
Genesis of a Dream
Way back in the 1980s Al Stark began thinking about documenting his youth in Pomonok. He got hold of a video camera and interviewed one of the legendary role models for all of us kids in Pomonok, Mr. D’Addario, head of the Pomonok Community Center. Because of limited time and technology, the project didn’t pan out, but Al didn’t give up on the idea.
Fast forward to just a few years ago. Terry Katz, who had years of experience in the film industry, started planning a short documentary about Jack Friedman, the iconic ice-cream man we all remember from our youth. Al contacted Terry on Facebook about his idea to do a larger film about Pomonok. They met over coffee, and concluded that since their ideas covered similar ground, it made more sense to pool their energy and resources on a single project. That decisions turned out to be a very smart move.
From the beginning, the project was a labor of love, something personal and totally enjoyable for both. But it wasn’t until they started interviewing people, Pomonok people from both back in the old days and residents today, that they realized they were on to something important.
The production progressed at its own pace, with both Terry and Al finding time between their work schedules. People enthusiastically reached out to them with their stories and contributed photos and 8 mm home movies. When they needed money, they figured out how to get it, or they simply worked without it. The fact that Terry was able to shoot, and had his own camera, was a big plus. Being a professional film and television editor enabled Terry and Al to edit as they were filming.
The filmmakers produced ‘Pomonok Dreams’ to document why NYCHA’s Pomonok Houses in the 1950s and 1960s was a special place to grow up in, and believe the film will resonate with many viewers today.