The New York City Housing Authority has given “Pomonok Dreams” a ringing endorsement in the November 2015 issue of its NYCHA Journal. Just follow this link and scroll down to page 10:
“Pomonok Dreams” Gets Written Up in Queens College Magazine!
Great article about Terry, Al, and “Pomonok Dreams” in the Fall 2015 issue of “Queens, the Magazine of Queens College.” Both Terry and Al are alumni of Queens College, as are many of us from Pomonok. The article is superbly written and includes stories about growing up close to the college and later attending. If you can’t make out the print after enlarging (our eyesight isn’t what it used to be), you can click on the following link to the Fall issue of the magazine. The magazine is in PDF format so your computer has to have Adobe Reader installed. Scroll down to page 25 of the magazine or type in 13 in the page box. This is probably the best article written about “Pomonok Dreams” and filmmakers yet!
CBS Radio News reporter Dave Barrett, 3-time winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award, interviewed Terry and Al about Pomonok Dreams. Check out the promo below and watch this space for Dave Barrett’s podcast of the interview.
Terry Katz Interviewed on CBS NEWS RADIO about “Pomonok Dreams” (click to listen)
New Documentary on Queens’ Pomonok Houses Recalls Fond Memories and ‘What Worked’ in Public Housing
BY Lisa L. Colangelo NEW YORK DAILY NEWS June 27, 2015
Terry Katz and Al Stark spent almost four years interviewing more than 140 current and former residents of the Pomonok Houses, including television weatherman Irv Gikofsky — known as Mr. G — and former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens).
“We found so many common themes,” said Stark, 63, whose family moved to Pomonok from the Lower East Side in 1951. “There were high expectations, but also a lot of support — and there are friendships that go back over 50 years.”
Their film “Pomonok Dreams” — which premieres on Sunday with a private screening at Queens College — examines how families moved from Quonset huts and crowded tenements in the Bronx, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side to spacious, subsidized apartments in suburban Flushing.
“Why can’t it be like this again?” asked Katz, 58, who lived in Pomonok from 1954 until 1979. “They are not building housing for the working class anymore.”
Their film ‘Pomonok Dreams’ examines how families moved from Quonset huts and crowded tenements in the Bronx, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side to spacious, subsidized apartments in suburban Flushing.
The complex includes 35 buildings on 51 acres. Even though the majority of the original tenants were white, people who grew up during that time remember a close-knit community without cultural, religious or racial barriers.
“It was the greatest place to grow up,” said Barry Grodenchik, 55, a former state Assemblyman. “People really looked out for each other and cared about each other.”
“This film shows what worked in public housing and it’s a vision that is pretty compelling,” said Nicholas Bloom, an associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology and author of the book “Public Housing That Worked.”
“People can form community and have good lives even in relatively unattractive red brick buildings.”
More than 500 former tenants and friends are expected at Sunday’s screening. Several, including Helene Herman, are flying in from out of state.
“We felt safe in Pomonok,” said Herman, 66, who is retired from a job in global marketing and lives in Florida. Her family moved to Pomonok in 1952.
“We learned to respect other cultures and other faiths; to go to hear Kol Nidre, midnight Mass or black gospel; to eat matzo balls, lasagna, corned beef or collards.”
“Pomonok Dreams”: Tales Of Early Life In The Projects
BY Carmine Carcieri QUEENS TRIBUNE July 2, 2015
“Pomonok Dreams,” a new documentary movie created by director Terry Katz and Al Stark, had its opening private screening this past Sunday at Queens College.
Five hundred former Pomonok residents from all over the United States had the chance to reignite their lifelong friendships while viewing a film that brings them back to their childhood years.
“It was incredible. It went way beyond what we thought. Very successful,” Katz said. “People were arriving from out of state and it was a destination for everyone to connect and catch up after 35 to 40 years of being separated. It was a fantastic experience.”
The uniquely informative movie goes into depth about how families moved from the Bronx, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side to a public housing complex in South Flushing called Pomonok Houses. It features an interesting twist that shows multiple contributing members of the society and the strong community that Katz and Stark grew up in. “Pomonok Dreams” not only documents life in public housing, but also how public housing first started, back in the 1950s and 60s, and what type of environment surrounds this community.
“We wanted to document what we did as children,” Katz said. “And this is a good strong springboard for public housing and for the Pomonok Houses.”
The housing complex, located at 67-10 Parsons Blvd., is complete with 35 buildings, three, seven or eight stories high, and 51 acres of land with 2,020-apartments that fits an estimated 4,204 total people. The development was built in 1949 with the name coming from a Native American word for eastern Long Island that means “tribute.”
They are spacious, red brick buildings that give their members a bonding experience, creating their own community-like atmosphere where everyone is treated equally and fairly no matter their race or age.
The 65-minute film was created in part to undo the false perceptions of crime, racial incidents and religious disagreements around these types of housing environments. There have been mentions of gang activity, shooting, robberies and drug busts in the past.
Stark originally attempted to put together a film in 1986, but it was difficult to make a movie during that time because of technological barriers. As the years went on Stark kept the idea in the back of his mind and as technology improved, he met up with Katz in order to put their resources together to build what is expected to be tremendous production.
“Pomonok Dreams” has been in the works for four years, including over 100 interviews with current and past residents, and received marvelous feedback from the attendees at the opening screening on Sunday.
‘Pomonok Dreams’ Looks Back at Past: Two Former Residents of Flushing Complex Make a Documentary
BY Liz Rhoades QUEENS CHRONICLE July 2, 2015
“It was a labor of love and we hope it serves as a springboard for public housing because there’s nothing built for the working class now,” said Terry Katz, who produced the film with Alan Stark.
Both men grew up at Pomonok, a public housing project with 35 buildings on 51 acres. Originally, Katz wanted to do a film on a Pomonok legend, Jack the ice cream man. When Stark heard about it, he contacted Katz on Facebook to do a larger project.
“I knew Al as a kid, but he was three years older and didn’t want to hang out with the younger kids,” Katz said.
The project took four years to complete with interviews from current and past tenants, movie clips and photos.
Both men have other jobs. Stark, who now lives in Electchester, not far from Pomonok, is director of the MS 216 Beacon Program in Fresh Meadows. Katz, of Fresh Meadows, worked as a film and TV producer and now teaches at St. John’s University and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
“We wanted to document a great childhood and why it was,” Katz said. “Pomonok was like a little village. We were safe and it could be that way again.”
Problems began in the 1960s when budget cuts caused maintenance work at Pomonok to suffer, the producer said. “The city used to polish the brass doorknobs, but things are getting better.”
Katz noted that the complex is installing new windows and making other upgrades, but “it would need $200 million to restore it to the way it was in the 1950s, I’ve been told.”
He believes Pomonok succeeded so well in the early days due to the first-generation Americans who lived there after the war. “They brought a lot of values,” he said. “People watched out for you.”
Some of the more famous ex-tenants include former Congressman Gary Ackerman, former Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik and TV weather man Irv Gikofsky, known as Mr. G.
The documentary was shown to about 500 people on Sunday at Queens College, many of them former residents and a few current tenants.
“It was awesome, like being at a wedding, very exciting,” Katz said, adding that there are no immediate plans for another showing, though the producers have entered the documentary in several film festivals.
“We’d love PBS to pick it up,” he added.
Filmmakers Close in on Finishing Pomonok Documentary
After almost three years and more than 120 interviews later, the duo are close to completing their documentary, which chronicles what it was like to grow up in the Flushing housing development in the 1950s and ’60s.
The idea for the documentary, “Written on a Project Wall: A Reminiscence,” was first conceived when Katz wanted to make a short film about Jack, an ice cream man who used to sell treats, baseball cards and hula hoops to the development’s children.
Katz found Stark, who also grew up in the development, while trying to figure out what happened to Jack, and the two decided to embark on telling the story of the community that sprouted from Pomonok.
The 35-building development has 2,070 apartments that house an estimated 4,204 people, according to the city Housing Authority. The mammoth development, bordered by 65th and 71st avenues as well as Parsons and Kissena boulevards, was completed in 1952 and Katz’s family moved in shortly afterward.
“Lots of people think of public housing today as these rat-infested places, but it isn’t like that today and definitely wasn’t like that back then,” Katz said. “We wanted to demystify that.”
Katz, who was born in the housing development in 1954, fondly remembered it as a friendly community where there were always other children nearby to play with.
“Everybody kind of knew each other there and if you were doing something wrong, people would tell your mom,” he said. “And by the time you got home, your mom would know what you did.”
The two interviewed a number of prominent people who grew up in Pomonok Houses, such as former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, actor Mike Starr of “Goodfellas” fame and Max Grodenchik, brother of former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.
Katz, who now lives in Fresh Meadows, said there were many overlapping themes in all the interviews they conducted, but the main one was of racial diversity. In the ’50s, 13 percent of the residents in Pomonok Houses were black at a time when only 9 percent of the borough was black, according to Katz.
“It was considered a highly integrated environment back in the 1950s,” he said.
Katz and Stark did a pre-screening of the documentary last week to a get feedback on the film and are going to give it its finishing production touches this summer.
“Over this course of three years, I’ve met so many nice people I didn’t know growing up there because you didn’t hang out with people a year or two older or younger than you,” Katz said. “I really wish I knew them back then and had their friendship all those years. This film has been a very rewarding personal experience.”
Baby Boomers Research Pomonok’s Post-WWII days
BY Joe Arnuta TIMES LEDGER December 6, 2012
Do you remember Jack the Ice Cream Man?
Terry Katz and Al Stark often find themselves asking this question while compiling material for their documentary about growing up in the Pomonok Houses.
They were just two out of the legions of baby boomers raised there in post-World War II America.
Jack, by the way, was a sometimes vindictive ice cream vendor who sold frosty treats and trinkets on Kissena Boulevard.
“There were so many kids in Pomonok one would think it was a requirement to live there,” Katz joked in a recent interview.
Thousands of working-class families moved from places like Manhattan’s Lower East Side into Pomonok Houses, completed in 1952, which then were brick monoliths jutting up from the unpopulated rural Queens landscape.
Katz and Stark recently sat down with TimesLedger Newspapers at Gino’s Pizza, at 65-01 Kissena Blvd.
As he recalled summer softball games and winter snowball fights, he paused and with a hushed voice pointed out two people in the restaurant who also grew up in the projects.
“He lived on the fifth floor, three up from me,” he said, discreetly pointing to a bespectacled man eating with his family.
The film crew consists solely of Stark and Katz, who are at this point compiling information from anyone who lived in the houses.
They met a man named Willy Sutton who used to sing doo-wop in the hallways and returned to his favorite hallway with the best acoustics to give the filmmakers a performance.
Others who grew up in the houses describe memorable events like the World’s Fair or the moon landing.
The two filmmakers want all of it, and as far as collecting material, they make a perfect team.
Stark knows everybody and is a natural interlocutor, and Katz, an adjunct film professor at St. John’s University, gathers vintage footage and takes care of the technical work.
The two contend there was a sense of community that existed back then that has been lost in time.
Some of it can be attributed to the brick structures themselves.
They did not have air conditioning, Katz said, and during hot summer nights all the mothers and fathers would sit outside on benches and lawn chairs and socialize, Katz said, getting to know their neighbors.
And the kids got to stay out late, too, running around playing games in the dark.
It was because of intimate moments and the general close quarters that everybody knew everybody.
The young versions of Katz and Stark might have thought they were getting away with some youthful endeavor, but a network of mothers, sometimes referred to as the “Mothers Mafia,” were always keeping an eye on the children.
And it did not matter which race or ethnicity the mother or child represented, according to Katz, since they were all living in the place.
“Race was not an issue,” he said.
But they do not want the film to be an exercise in nostalgia, nor do they simply want to attach a rose-colored lens to their camera.
They will take the good along with the bad, and hopefully recreate the Pomonok back then that produced Queens notables like U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik and actor Mike Starr of “Goodfellas” fame.
“In a way it’s like a mosaic,” Katz said, since the film as a whole will be comprised of individual memories. “Everybody is telling their own little story.”
And if you remember Jack the Ice Cream Man, or anything else about the houses, they encourage you to get in touch. They hope to have a rough cut of the film ready by next fall.