Twenty-First Avenue: Place of Conjunction

  • Introduction: Neighborhood & Work

    Paterson's well-defined neighborhoods are populated by people who strongly identify with them — with neighborhoods, or "sections," such as Hillcrest, Lakeview, Peoples' Park, Riverside, Sandy Hill, and Stoney Road. The feeling appears to be rooted in connections between residential and industrial development, between social identity and occupational identity. Therefore, because its exploration could illuminate important intersections between work and other aspects of Patersonians' lives, ...

  • Choosing a Focal Point

    Recognizing that modest resources limited study to a single business strip closely associated with a neighborhood, the "Working in Paterson" team had to answer a basic question: What area should be selected? Ultimately,we settled on a section of 21st Avenue and surrounding blocks, comprisingportions of the Peoples' Park and Sandy Hill neighborhoods. There were severalreasons for this decision. The 21st Avenue area appeared to ...

  • Boundaries and Cultural Landscapes

    Straight Street defines the western terminus of the portion of the 21st Avenue area I studied. North and south, the area extends for just one block in either direction, to 20th Avenue on the north, and to 22nd Avenue on the south. For the purposes of this report, the study area extends to about East 24th Street in the east, then west across Madison ...

  • The Cultural Context

    The 21st Avenue section is culturally diverse, but may be divided into two main categories: (1) European Americans, many of whom are Italian Americans; and (2) Hispanics. There are also some black-owned businesses along the avenue (a laundromat, a beauty salon, a bar), and some Chinese-owned restaurants. Blacks do not have a significant presence on the avenue or in the surrounding neighborhoods. There is ...

  • Italians on the Avenue

    A significant number of businesses on 21st Avenue are owned and operated by people with ties to Montescaglioso, a small town in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. Italians from that town found their way to Paterson, and settled in the 21st Avenue area earlier in this century. This population increased over the years, at least in part because of the Italian practice of ...

  • Italian Identities and Relationships

    Although the Italian community along the avenue is diverse, it can be defined in terms of the three regional affiliations just mentioned: Basilicata, Sicily, and Campania. The people from Basilicata (from the town of Montescaglioso) seem to be the dominant force. Italian solidarity on the avenue is probably enhanced by the fact that most members of that community use Italian as their primary means ...

  • A Declining Community?

    There are indications that the Italian community may be in eclipse on the avenue, or that it has at least suffered a decline, a falling away from the solidarity that was evident a decade or two ago. The slowing of immigration from Italy is one possible reason. Another is success itself, which induced many former merchants in the area to leave the avenue for ...

  • Hispanics on the Avenue

    The decline apparent in the avenue's Italian community seems absent from its Hispanic communities. The majority of Hispanic-owned-and-operated businesses offer services — as in restaurants, beauty salons, travel, and real-estate agencies — rather than the sale of merchandise. Moreover, they reproduce aspects of Hispanic culture by providing trips to the home country, hair and nail styles that reflect a culturally defined aesthetic, and ethnic ...

  • Hispanic Work and Economic Patterns

    According to informants interviewed for this report, work in the Hispanic community is divided among people of different national origins in the following manner. Puerto Ricans were early arrivals, and by the 1970s they had established themselves, mainly as small business owners with corner grocery stores, liquor stores, gas stations, tire companies, and so on. Their success enabled them to purchase houses for themselves ...

  • Arturo and Elsa Mantilla

    Two cases drawn from the 21st Avenue area illuminate the contemporary condition of work and work opportunities in Paterson. Arturo and Elsa Mantilla gradually built a retail clothing and sundries business, eventually opening a store at 368 21st Avenue which they still operate. They were successful because they tapped the Hispanic market at a time — the 1970s — when no other merchants were ...

  • Garden State Cutting Company

    A second example that illuminates the contemporary condition of work and work opportunities in Paterson is found at Garden State Cutting Company, located at 66 Gray Street. It is owned and managed by Vincent Landi Jr., who opened the business in Paterson in the late 1970s. As Landi explained, the company operates on the basis of low overhead and quick return on "investment" (labor ...

  • Conclusion

    The 21st Avenue business district is especially interesting for a variety of reasons:

  • Map of Project Area

    Map of project area in Paterson, New Jersey, was compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Online Data Base portal for the USGS Digital Orthophoto Quadrangles (DOQ) (Accessed April, 2002). Map information was modified for illustration purposes.