Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Lefrak City in 1964

Recommended Posts

I was doing some research on Lefrak City with I found this forum via Google... Hi

To me, Lefrak City was my wonderful and magical childhood home. A place like no other. When I attempt to describe it to my wife or kids, they're not sure if it was real. What do they know - they've lived in Florida their whole lives. So I was searching for some photos.

But I definitely remember Lefrak City...

A virtual city - 20 18-story buildings - each with maybe 40 apartments per floor - each in a "quad" with tennis courts, playgrounds, pools inside the "squares" formed by the buildings - and below the buildings was a vast shopping mall with grocery stores, restaurants, barber shops, appliance stores, butchers and bakers - over 100 stores in all. Each building was named after a country (I lived in the Mexico Tower).

I lived there in it's hay-day - 1962-1969 - a virtual mecca for the working-class New York family. Public schools all within walking distance too. For kids, it was almost like Disney land

I also remember Halloween. My kids can't even imagine what it was like. My mom used to make up little bags of candy - I remember filling garbage bags full of these little bags - hundreds and hundreds. And we'd stop handing out candy when we ran out of bags - and we always ran out.

I vividly remember the '65 blackout. We lived on the 2nd floor - but I escorted dozens of elderly up the stairs to their apartments by candle-light. My mom loved candles - and she used her candles to light up our entire floor. Then she whipped out her sterno hot-plates, and started grabbing everything she could find from the frig. She visited neighbors, and they contributed too. Before long she had her battery radio making music, and she put together the Mexico building black-out party! People brought whatever food they could find - and more radios tuned to the same channel. It went on for hours and may be the best party I can remember. People coming together in a time of need and making the best of things.

I also remember a great blizzard - maybe in 64? Our apartment overlooked a central quad, and in the morning, the snow drifts made it clear up to the bottom of our windows. The benches were gone, and only the tops of the light poles indicated where the sidewalks were. I remember that snow day well - like the mother of all snow days. Dozens of us kids building snow forts and throwing snow balls - until we were so frozen we could barely move.

There really isn't enough hyperbole to describe how good Lefrak was in the beginning. Hard working families living together and caring about each other in a town within a city.

All of this completely destroyed by a bit of social engineering called "public housing". Within 2 years the mecca became a "project". The mall an empty wasteland of closed shops. The beautiful international lobbies ripped and torn and replaced with iron chairs.

My lobby had a beautiful large mural of Mexico on one of the walls. One day I came from school and someone had literally chiseled it out of the wall.

And the real irony - after completely destroying a safe family neighborhood, and replacing it with crime and violence and drugs - The new inhabitants complained about the "slum" the city had put them in.

My mom said, when our people (her parents) came here from Russia and were put into a slum - they made it into their home. But these people were given a home - and made it into a slum. As a child, I never understood this, but I knew we had to leave.

We did move in 1969 - moved to Forest Hills - where I used to bike to the old World's Fair and visit the zoo and Hall of Science. Lefrak seemed like a far off country, even though it was just on the other side of the boulevard.

It's very interesting to me that Google says it was Russian immigrants that revitalized Lefrak in the 90's. Hehe...another irony.

But to me, Lefrak city was as close to home-town America as I've ever seen. At least for those few years in the beginning...

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

What a wonderfully written experience of Lefrak City in the early sixties. Sent a tingle up

my spine, which I only usually get when I walk up to the Unisphere. My name is Vladimir

and I am from Sea Cliff, N.Y. One square mile and two beautiful Russian Churches.

Welcome to PTU: Peace through understanding. Your first post really shows you understand

Tradeguy. Hope we hear from you again thanks...

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

HI Tradeguy!!!! WELCOME!!!

I was in the London building, that was the first building in the first section..my best friend lived in Rome..the playground was better over by you. I went to PS 13..no one EVER believes that!!! Downstairs and out the back onto 57th ave and Junction Blvd was the London Coffee Shoppe, and candy shop and bakery.

You reminded me of that snow storm! WOW..that little glass security building out front where you drove up was all covered!! I remember the door men ..and the wall of mailboxes..the lobbies were very ornate..3 sets of main elevators..It was kind of posh in its way.

I remember when we first moved on to the 17th floor, we lived in the apartment at the end of the hall 17-K..i thought that hall way went on forever!!

I remember there were underground walk ways that got you to different buildings too.

Nice to meet another Lefrakian..LOL..what made me laugh was that we called lefrak..Like the word left w/o the t..later when the family got a little snooty they changed it to LeFrak and said it like it was French.. hahaha

Welcome to the board


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for those great memories. I enjoyed reading very much. Growing up in rural America, the city life of kids my age was like a whole other world. I love reading these stories of what life was like in the mid sixties for other kids my age. Thanks again for the stories.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all!

You guys have no idea how good you've made me feel.

Glad you enjoyed my memories - they've been gone from me for some time.

I've been suffering from severe sleep anpea for the past 15 years or so, and I've had so little REM sleep that many of my long term memories seemed to be missing. Well, I now use a breathing device (cpap) at night that allows REM - in the sleep clinic I went into a dream state that lasted over 2 hours...LOL. For some reason, my brain has been in almost constant "catch-up" mode for about 3 weeks (which is when I started dreaming again).

Well, the other morning I woke up vividly dreaming about Lefrak - something I haven't thought of or mentioned in..well...forever. Right there, everything just started coming back to me - like watching an old movie you haven't seen in years. So I hit google and started researching. I think the coolest thing I've found is that Lefrak WAS a special place - and not just because it's where I spent much of my young childhood.

My kids seem to think that just about all of my childhood is "larger than life" and can't possibly be true. The first theater I can remember is Radio City Music Hall - I remember seeing a big premier there (Mary Poppins? Sound of Music?) - and the live stage show. My first circus was Barnum and Bailey at Madison Square Garden - and me and about 10 of my little friends not only got to see it for free, but got to go backstage and meet the clowns and touch the animals (at 16 my mom had spent a season as an elephant rider, and was rewarded with a lifetime free pass to the circus). Yet more stuff my kids have a hard time believing...LOL.

Some other strange things I remember about Lefrak...

Each floor had an incinerator room where you tossed garbage down a shoot where it was burned in the basement.

I also remember the 3 elevators. It really did seem posh

I ALSO went to PS 13!! Thank the lord someone else remembers this - my wife and kids laughed at me at this one. I remember a large asphalt play area where they played baseball and other sports. The school itself was ....brick on the outside? I do remember it was at least 3 stories high cause I remember going up and down stairs a lot. I also remember a large auditorium where we had "assembly" - boys had to dress up and wear ties, and girls had to wear dresses. We saw performances, speakers, all kinds of cool stuff.

I remember dressing up as a mummy one halloween and falling down an entire flight of those really hard Lefrak building stairs. I just laid there...my #1 concern was that some other kid would come and take my hard earned candy. No injuries from that one...or loss of candy.

I have a somewhat vague memory of lounge chair contentions at the pool during the summer - I remember my mom having to get there real early to get a good "spot". We felt really lucky to have a pool - no one that I knew outside of Lefrak had access to one. It was like luxury for regular people.

One evening most of my family showed (from Brooklyn) all dressed up to go to a very fancy oriental resaurant that was under one of the other buildings - did Lefrak have a Trader Vic's back then? I'd love it if someone could confirm this. I remember my grandmother thought it was a "fancy place", and that meant Lefrak was "too fancy for her". LOL

There were two very important stores just downstairs from me. One was a diner that had a small section of merchandise - including candy and baseball cards. Each month I took much of my allowance to buy baseball cards there. The other store was a TV repair shop that stocked every vaccuum tube imaginable. It was my job to keep our old black and white TV running - I made many trips down there with burned out tubes in my pockets. We'd go thru drawers of tubes looking for matches. The tubes cost pennies to replace. (I think all that TV troubleshooting prepared me for my later life as a computer network engineer...heh).

But all in all...it was a lot like a small town life in many ways. Maybe it's why I actually now live in a relatively small town (Gainesville, FL - north of Orlando), and why I wanted to raise my kids here. I think Lefrak had the right idea...


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I got a quick question...

Does anyone remember the year that Art Linkletter showed up and held auditions for his TV show in one of the offices in Lefrak's basement?

Although they didn't put me on the air...I remember meeting Mr. Linkletter and answering some questions. I seem to remember an entire show based on the interviews he got that day - all Lefrak kids...

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

<!--coloro:#3366FF--><span style="color:#3366FF"><!--/coloro-->Hi Rich..well logically now we have to try to figure out if we were in any classes together at Clement C. Moore Elementary school..better known as PS 13..I moved to NY when I was 6..that was in 1963..started right in 1st grade..went there thru 5th grade..I'll have to dust off the cobwebs and try to remember teachers..I know my 4th grade teacher moved up with us to the 5th grade..I was in 4-1 and then 5-1 ..I can't remember her name..she was an awesome teacher..I'll try hard to remember..Anyway I am 48- born in 1957, are we classmates?

Yes there was like ALL asphalt outside..I remember the assemblies once a week we had to wear special clothes..white shirt, blue skirt and a red tie..boys: slacks, shirt and tie..it was required on that day each week..

The pool at Lefrak..ah yess..there were two lifeguard chairs..I remember that people sort of gravitated to the same chairs..and there was a baby pool too..lots of events there at the pool..I won some sort of diving contest back then and Mayor John Lindsay came by to give out the trophies..I felt like a celebrity..but it was just a Lefrak event..I don't remember the Art Linkleter thing..I remember that candid camera came to do something there, but I can't remember if that was an urban legend or not

The incinerator room! I remember that...it kinda stunk sometimes..there was fire at the bottom!! You pulled a metal door down from the wall and placed the garbage there and then LISTEN while it made its way down. We lived on the 17th floor!! Sometimes you'd hear other peoples garbage going from below..but I don't remember anything from above passing by..I remember tho that sometimes people left stuff out in boxes or in the hall and my mom got an awesome complete set of Shakespeare plays and sonnets that someone left to throw away. I bet "dumpster divers" did very well just taking the elevators up and down and looking at each floor...

I remember that there were some sections that had better stores and restaurants. I remember going thru the sections to go shopping on 99th street which was chock full of good shopping. I remember a HUGE paharmacy , like a Walgreens that had EVERYTHING!! I’ll have to ask my dad if he remembers a trader vics..I have a vague memory of a fancy place that was downstairs in one building but I don't recall the name. Junction Blvd had very good shopping as well. I remember going to the doctor in Lefrak City..there were professional offices on the first floors of many buildings with outside entrances. My dentist i remember- Dr Sheinbaum..I remember because he had these dreamy blue eyes..yes I really still remember that!!

This is great because its triggering my memories too..I did kind of block it for many years. You said you moved to Forest Hills, we went to Jamaica Estates and I ended up in private school , by then Lefrak's reputation was tainted and I never really spoke of my life there. But to be honest my memories are very good ones..its just a shame as you said that the urban plan that created this “city” wasn’t able to predict how easily it would fall prey to violence and drugs and disrespect.

Keep remembering..this is wonderful! My daughter is a member here, she’s in her first year of college and she encouraged me to join. I would tell her how friends of my parents would come from Boston to flop at our apartment and go see the World’s Fair. It did feel like it was OUR fair living in Queens. I never really got the global-ness of it until I was older. Its nice reconnecting with my childhood memories.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have seen reruns of Candid Camera on Comedy Central and more then one segment was filmed at Lefrak. The fair is mentioned on a few but not seen.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

These are wonderful stories. I grew up in the city (Chicago), but not in a high-rise. It's really nice to hear how things were.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

This looks cool- a 1965 magazine with an article on a new movie theater for Lefrak City, with a latest-technology 'Dimension-150' curved screen which could handle projections in many different aspect ratios.



Also inclues an article on Norelco projectors at the World's Fair.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Everyone I just joined the board yesterday and I received a lovely message from Lefrak 63 who directed me to this topic. I have a bunch of pictures that has images of Lefrak City in the background from when I lived in the third section and when I was very close with the Indonesians from the World's Fair. In order to satisfy everyone's thirst for images of Lefrak city I have decided to post those images here. Some of them were taken in the area between the building in the third section of Lefrak, and some were taken in the lobby of the Argentina Building, and some were in back of the Argentina and I think it was the Brazil building , and some were taken as you approach the third section from the street. I hope that everyone enjoys them. One of the pictures shows a green bus and a kind of empty lot, this was taken before they built the Social Security Building. There is also one that is taken on the Terrace of the apartment where I lived with my parents. It looks out to the Long Island Expressway in the direction where Alexander's was located.







All the pictures above were taken in the plaza between the

buildings in the third section.





The above four pictures were in the lobby of the Argentina building.



These were in the back of the Argentina Building.








I think you will be able to figure out where the rest of the pictures

were taken. I hope everyone enjoys them.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just read through this whole topic. What an interesting subject. I wonder if Tradeguy lurkes here. He only posted 3 times and they were all gems. Great photos Westlake16 thanks Lefrak 63 for your memories as well enjoyed them very much.

FYI many buildings in NYC and the surrounding areas have those old incinerators in the basement. It has been decades since they were able to use them. When you think of it that was a crazy way to dispose of trash.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the pics Westlake. I am glad that you and Nancy were able to make contact with Nancy.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this