Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer of '77

News stories have a way of intertwining events. And, as has been evident to loyal readers of this blog, often my life has a strand woven into the fabric of a story.

George Steinbrenner died last week. His first championship season as owner of the New York Yankees came In 1977. That season coincided with the Summer of Sam, the months David Berkowitz, the self-proclaimed Son of Sam, terrorized New York with random shootings. On the day Steinbrenner died, The NY Times ran a profile of Berkowitz’s life behind bars, his born-again Christian status and the efforts of his “admirers” to make over his image (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/13/nyregion/13berkowitz.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=david%20berkowitz&st=cse).

Gilda and I returned to New York in mid-1977 after spending four-plus years in Connecticut. Not wanting too long a commute into the city, we looked at communities within a 30-35 minute train ride into Grand Central Terminal, a short walk from my office at Park Avenue and E. 55th St. We visited apartments along the Hudson, along the Sound but finally settled on a two-bedroom unit on Lake Street in White Plains. At the last moment, before signing the lease, I saw an ad for a two-bedroom co-op in Yonkers.

We drove down from New Haven. The building on North Broadway was a magnificent Tudor-style structure. The apartment was beautiful. Oak floors. Window views of the Hudson. Modern kitchen. A garbage shoot to the incinerator off the kitchen. Fireplace in the living room. Priced within our budget. Impulsively, we committed to buy the co-op. We left a deposit. Within a day, buyers’ remorse set in. Did we really want to live in Yonkers? Though the seller wanted to hold us to the contract, a firm letter under my brother’s legal stationery resolved the conflict. We took the Lake Street apartment and have lived in White Plains, happily, ever since.

When they finally caught David Berkowitz in August 1977, turned out he, too, was a commuter. During his 13-month reign of terror, he drove from his Westchester home to New York City to kill six people and wound seven others. Berkowitz commuted from his apartment on Pine Street in Yonkers, around the corner from the co-op Gilda and I almost bought. It still gives Gilda and me chills to think we almost had Son of Sam as a neighbor.

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