When I was six months pregnant with baby Lorraine back in 1965, I was desperate -- and so I took a train from San Francisco to New York, with only a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jam, a ball of yarn and two cardboard boxes. By the time I got off the train at Penn Station, I had knitted a sweater but had nowhere to go. "Rents are cheap on the Lower East Side," someone had told me and so I headed down there.
After a few days, I ran into Bill on Second Avenue and he found me a place to live -- a two-room rent-controlled walk-up with a toilet in the hallway and a bathtub in the "kitchen". I paid $28 a month. The same place rents today for over $3,000 a month. I will forever be grateful to Bill Tatum for finding me that home.
But wait. There's more. Bill and his rag-tag little group of Second Avenue survivors then took on City Hall. At that time, Robert Moses' NYC Slum Clearance program was in full swing and it was Moses' most cherished ambition to tear down my little tenement hidey-hole on the Lower East Side and replace it all with swank condominiums, thus leaving me pregnant and homeless in the middle of winter. But Bill was determined to stop that from happening and save the Lower East Side (and, of course, me and baby Lorraine too).
And somehow, miraculously, thanks to Bill, we won.
A small handful of ragamuffins and our fierce Captain Bill saved the Lower East Side from destruction. And aren't you glad that we did?
Now, in 2009, there is another Lower East Side that needs saving -- East Jerusalem. Gigantic bulldozers are operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to destroy this historic neighborhood, home to Arabic and Christian Palestinians since the time of Christ. The race is on. Soon historic East Jerusalem will be toast too -- and won't the entire world regret it when this legendary area where Christ Himself walked and taught is replaced with row upon row of sterile condominiums.
According to Press TV, "Israel plans to evacuate and demolish at least 1,700 Arab-owned homes in East Jerusalem" -- unless we also step up to the plate and save Jerusalem's Lower East Side too.