96 Street and Lexington Ave, a neighborhood with a mixture of tenement buildings, high rises, copy centers, convenient stores, modern supermarkets and clean parks.  You’ll see a few Latinos and blacks in the area who might live there, or come from their neighborhoods to experience what it’s like to play in a clean park, and play basketball on a decent court with a hoop that has a real backboard and a net. It’s a different world in El Barrio, which has buckets as hoops hanging off light poles tied together with electrical wires.

In the 96 street park, kids can swing on real swings, and climb real monkey bars, unlike the ones in El Barrio with jagged edges that penetrate your skin instantly on contact.  In the 96 street park, the water fountain actually works, and provides real water, not mud, or nothing at all.  Kids actually get wet while playing with real sprinklers, not like in el Barrio, where although it is illegal, kids find a monkey wrench to crack open the nearest fire hydrant to get blown away by its powerful force when opened all the way. But change has made its way to the historic El Barrio, where Italian restaurants are flourishing, Internet cafes adorn street corners and old Mexican restaurants have been revamped, to maintain part of El Barrio’s culture.

By Danny Contreras (dancontreras44@yahoo.com)