Pomonok Dreams for Classroom Use
This hour documentary can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom, depending on subject, grade level, and time constraints. Ideally, it can be used as a basis for a one or two week unit in a middle or high school History or English class.
A. Guide Questions – The film can be shown in ten minute segments accompanied by a handout with corresponding questions. The questions can be used as a guide or the teacher could stop the film and ask students to answer the questions in writing or verbally at appropriate points.
1. Why was housing such an important issue in 1945?
2. Describe at least three features of the Pomonok Houses built in 1950?
3. Where did the families who moved into Pomonok live before? How was Pomonok an improvement?
4. What were three features of the tower blocks (tall brick buildings) that were considered to be modern back then?
5. Describe the “21 factors” background check a tenant had to pass before moving into Pomonok.
6. How did the landscaping of Pomonok make it a desirable place to live?
7. How was Pomonok maintained (taken care of)? Why is that important?
8. What was the big difference between the successful public housing in New York compared to some of other public houses around the country?
9. Explain what is meant in the film by Pomonok being a “community.”
10. What made Pomonok such a great place for kids? Why were there so many kids to play with?
11. How did the mix of ethnic groups inside Pomonok compare to the ethnic mix in other places like Harlem or Long Island?
12. What were some of the jobs fathers had in Pomonok to support their families? Would you say they were rich or poor? Explain.
13. How did Pomonok families show they valued education?
14. What are some of the memories people have of their school days in Pomonok?
15. How did the Boy Scouts contribute to the Pomonok community?
16. Describe the excitement of John Kennedy’s visit to Pomonok in 1960.
17. Describe the importance of playgrounds and sports in the lives of Pomonok kids. Compare to today.
18. Describe the importance of music in the lives of Pomonok kids. Compare to today.
19. Describe how the 1964 World’s Fair a big event for kids in Pomonok?
20. How did hanging out outside in the summer contribute to the feeling of community in Pomonok?
21. How did the Pomonok Community Center contribute to kid’s lives? List at least five activities kids were involved in the Community Center.
22. What contribution did Mr. D make to Pomonok? Describe a local hero from your neighborhood.
23. In what ways was Jack more than just an ice cream man? 24. In what way were Pomonok winters as fun as summers for kids?
25. What are the advantages of growing up with large numbers of kids?
26. How do you think living in Pomonok contributed to the success of the people from Pomonok interviewed in the film?
27. What are some of the recent problems Pomonok has had? What are some of the possible causes of those problems?
28. Should more places like Pomonok be built today? Explain.
B. Group Work – After the completion of the film, the class could be divided into groups. Each group would be assigned one particular theme from the film to report on in front of the class as a whole. The groups could also be assigned further research projects based on those themes. Possible themes are:
1. Need for affordable public housing – historically and today
2. Negative image of city projects – contrast with Pomonok experience
3. Physical attributes of Pomonok as an example of a well-planned housing project
4. Importance of management, maintenance, and standards – causes of decline
5. Post WW II Era – the baby-boom generation history and experience
6. Community – ethnic melting pot, shared values, especially education
7. Childhood and shared childhood memories – nostalgia, lasting friendships
8. Heroic figures and role models – Jack, Mr. D, etc.
More creative projects might include groups competing to see which could plan out the best housing project or an intergenerational role-playing exercise between baby boomers vs. kids of this generation.
C. Essays – Students can also be asked writes essays based on the film. Here are a few suggestions for extended written pieces:
1. Explain a) why affordable public housing was necessary after the Great Depression and World War II, and b) how Pomonok specifically fulfilled the needs of families back then.
2. Describe at least five physical features of Pomonok and explain how each feature contributed to Pomonok’s positive environment for bringing up a family.
3. Someone in the film states that living in Pomonok was like growing up in a small town. Explain how community made Pomonok a good place to grow up in terms of
a) ethnic mix
c) organized activities
4. A role model can have lasting positive influence in a person’s life. Choose three such people from Pomonok and explain how they were positive influences in kids’ lives in Pomonok.
5. If you were asked to design a housing project today, describe five features it would have and explain how each feature would be beneficial to the people who lived there.
6. Someone in the film states that housing projects today have a negative image. Explain
a) what that image is, and b) how the city can go about changing that improving that image.
7. The people interviewed in this film are mostly over 50 years old. You are young. Discuss three things you have in common with these older folks and three ways in which you are different.
D. History Vocabulary – Vocabulary and historical background information should also be taught, discussed and researched. The following are important historical references included in the film:
World War II, tenements, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Great Depression, Robert Moses, Fiorello LaGuardia, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), civil service system vs. patronage system, subsidized housing, baby-boom generation, the Cold War, the bomb, integration, blue collar jobs, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, assassination of Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Vietnam War, Vietnam War protests, World’s Fair 1964
E. Supplemental Material – Fact Sheet
1. Pomonok is part of the New York City Housing Authority, one development out of 334 around the five boroughs in which over 400,000 New Yorkers reside.
2. There are 2,070 apartments in Pomonok, housing a population of 4,271 people.
3. There are 8,838 total rooms, an average of 4.27 rooms per apartment (to get the number of rooms in an apartment add the number of bedrooms to 2 1/2)
4. There are 35 residential buildings, of three-floor, seven-floor, and eight-floor types, with a total of 121 stair halls (individual entrances)
5. Pomonok covers 51.40 acres of land, only 16.5 percent of which are buildings.
6. The population density is 83 people per acre.
7. The development cost was about 22 million dollars, or about $2,500 per rented room.
8. The average monthly rent is $461.
9. It is bounded by 65th Ave on the north, 71st Ave on the south, Kissena Blvd on the west, and Parsons Blvd. on the east. It is just east of Queens College of CUNY.
10. It is in Community District 8, U.S. Congressional District 6, New York Statte Senate District 16, New York State Assembly District 27, and NYC Council District 24.
11. To get there by bus take the Q17 to Horace Harding and Parsons or the Q65A to Jewel Avenue and Parsons.
12. The Pomonok branch of the Queens Library system is located across Parsons Blvd. in the Electchester Housing development.
13. The Pomonok School and Star Academy (PS/MS 200) is located a long block away on 164th Street, with an enrollment of 474 students.
14. P.S. 201, the Discovery School for Inquiry and Research, is located at the northwest corner of the housing project has an enrollment of 472 students.
15. Pomonok Playground, located at the northwest corner of the development, is 3.6 acres in size and includes multiple basketball courts, handball courts, and an enclosed asphalt softball field with concrete bleachers. It was built in 1954.
16. Built in 1949 on the site of the Pomonok Country Club and Golf Course, It was completed June 30, 1952.
17. Pomonok is a Native American word for eastern Long Island. In Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”, he says “Starting from fish-shaped Paumanok, where I was born,” referring to the shape of Long Island, where Whitman was born. In 1840 Whitman taught at Jamaica Academy on the grounds of today’s Queens College, which is across from Pomonok.
18. Pomonok Houses was cleared for development by NYCHA in July of 1949, the last of 21 housing projects built under Mayor O’Dwyer’s program of public housing.
19. First applications were accepted on May 21, 1951 and the first residents were able to move in a couple of months later.
20. In 1952, the housing crisis in New York was so acute that there were 350,000 low income families applying for subsidized housing that held 63,000 families. Middle-income families that could afford to were moving out to the suburbs of Long Island and Northern New Jersey.
21. In February of 1953, F.W. Woolworth and the Jamaica National Bank leased space at the Pomonok Shopping Center, which was built that spring at 72nd Avenue and Kissena Blvd.
22. In June of 1955, overcrowding at PS 163 was acute, with only 745 seats for 1,100 students, including many from Pomonok and Electchester. The next year $130,000,000 was put aside for building new schools by the Board of Education.
F. Reading Comprehension Exercises – A variety of personal essays on growing up in Pomonok accompanied by multiple choice and extend response questions. (To Be Posted)