Troy, New York – WMHT-TV (PBS) will focus attention on our region’s history on Tuesday night with the broadcast premiere of the local documentary, ECHOES FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT DISAPPEARED.
ECHOES FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD offers a fascinating look at the incredible Italian-American experience in the Albany neighborhood that once stood where The Empire State Plaza was constructed 50-years-ago. It’s the brand-new sequel to THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT DISAPPEARED , the film that premiered last December which told the story of the massive urban renewal project that sterilized the cultural and ethnic heart of Albany.
The original film, THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT DISAPPEARED, is the most successful local documentary in WMHT history and will be rebroadcast on Tuesday at 9pm following the premiere of ECHOES FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT DISAPPEARED.
Filmmaker Mary Paley describes the original documentary as a film that documented the event that changed the lives of thousands of families and altered the landscape of the city of Albany forever. The sequel is a tribute to the Italian-American community that lived there and shares what it was like to grow up in that wonderful neighborhood.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT DISAPPEARED was the landmark documentary that tells the story of the neighborhood that was destroyed to make way for the construction of the Empire State Plaza. In 1962, one of the most massive urban renewal projects in American history sterilized the cultural and ethnic heart of Albany. Almost 8% of Albany’s diverse population was displaced to make way for the construction of the South Mall. The project razed more than a thousand buildings, dislodged 3,600 households, and closed 350 businesses.
One-third of the city’s ethnic population was displaced to build the South Mall. An Italian-American settlement resembling a southern Italian village was swiftly uprooted, transforming the city of Albany forever. In that moment, a mode of life mixing Old World flavors with mercantile aspirations was dealt a death blow. Albany's Little Italy was a feast for the senses. Its goals embraced the American dream. And its story could have been lost forever. But producer Mary Paley and her team changed that with this film. From beneath the cornerstone of the Empire State Plaza, Mary and her film team unearthed a vibrant ethnic neighborhood that housed courageous immigrants and the Greatest Generation. Young boys invented street games; goods were exchanged in place of cash; no child grew up anonymously; no one went hungry. In these Italian American stories, we have all found an inspiring resourcefulness that’s gone missing in America.
In the words of former Assemblyman Jack McEneny, "The South End was much more of a Lower East Side of New York because it was home to many different people who were cheek and jowl to one and other." Although "The Neighborhood That Disappeared" focused primarily on the Old Italian neighborhood, the South End was a vibrant blend of cultures with individuals from so many walks of life who came together to help tell this story.
Earlier this summer, the 50th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the Empire State Plaza was observed. This is the story of what made way for that construction.
The presentation of locally focused documentaries is part of WMHT’s ongoing commitment to sharing the history and heritage of our region’s people, places and events. More locally focused broadcasts are on the way including several new documentaries that are in production. The next of those documentaries, THE GREAT LEDGE: EXPLORING THACHER, will be unveiled on Wednesday night at 7:30pm.
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