Pity the Poor Immigrants


This excellent piece got me to thinking about my own bad neighbourhood.  I grew up in the North End  of New Bedford in the 50s and 60s. We started off on Washburn St, moved to Beetle, then Holly and finally Deane, when I finally moved up into the middle class world by renting a flat with my boyfriend in a Victorian house on Allen and Orchard. From there, I never looked back, although I sometimes drive down those mean streets with Bruce Springsteen’s, My Hometown playing in the background.

“These jobs are going boys, and they ain’t coming back to your hometown..”


Although they were poor neighbourhoods, they weren’t “bad”. We all knew each other, the streets were full of kids that played together, we didn’t have drugs nor very much violence and we weren’t afraid. All of the people were poor immigrants or just poor Americans. I remember our landlord coming every week for the rent and how my parents would be respectful and subservient to him. They called him “The Boss”. His son went to high school with me and it was just embarrassing to see him in the halls and we never talked. Now I know, he should have been the one to be embarrassed that his father was a slum landlord. I mean, couldn’t he have fumigated the place to kill the cockroaches, insulate the place so the ice didn’t form on the inside of the windows in the winter and clean out back yard so the rats wouldn’t make a home there?

From the New Bedford Standard Times:

Very few times in 16 years in New Bedford have I been scared in broad daylight on a city street.On Wednesday, someone fired six shots into the front of the Pimentels’ triple decker in what Maria says was a drive-by shooting between two cars belonging to bad guys on the street. Just after I entered Maria’s handsome wood-framed front door, she wanted to take me back out onto the porch to show me the bullet holes.They call it their “‘hood,” said Maria and they do what they what want in it.But her problem is not with the changing ethnicities. Her problem is with a slumlord named Ron Oliveira and his company, the Landlord Connection.No one seems to work in the properties, she said, quickly rattling off three neighbors who she said receive their monthly disability checks for being mentally ill, or having substance abuse problems, bad knees, bad backs.And you’d be surprised, she says, by the people who come to the neighborhood to buy drugs — the well-to-do as well as the poor. And plenty of the middle-class, as far away as the Cape.Ron collects his rents from the street, the tenants come down to give him their money. “I think he makes himself superior if they go to him,” says Maria, who works as a translator for SouthCoast Health. Other than when there’s an emergency, she says she never sees Oliveira do anything to maintain the properties and it’s fair to say, the buildings are shabby. On one, there was so much trash in the driveway it was hard to imagine you could get to the garage. Carlos, who owns a small landscaping business, says the city’s new problem properties’ ordinance should throw a little scare into him, at least once a year.Ron doesn’t often return Standard-Times’ phone calls and he didn’t return two of mine left on his business answering machine Saturday or two of our reporter Curt’s Brown’s on Thursday.So we write about Ron Oliveira and the Landlord Connection, and his “hundreds of apartments,” every once in awhile. And the city, from year to year, decade to decade, struggles on and on to come up with a solution to the problem of bad landlords and bad tenants, bad guys who take neighborhoods away from good people like Maria and Carlos Pimentel.No one, it seems, has found a solution.

Mayor Jon Mitchell has called him out a number of times, including this week when he said “It’s no secret that Ron Oliveira’s properties are the source of a disproportionate amount of illegal activity.”

The Pimentels say they’ve tried to talk to Oliveira but he seems to take their concerns as a joke. “Are you keeping your neighbors in check?” they say, he asks.

She tells of one woman who knocked on her door looking for “the Spanish Lady” to buy.

The start of the month is the worst, she said. When the checks come in, the drug activity picks up and the street is noisy, almost like a celebration.

Maria tells me that the Landlord Connection owns the properties on either side of her and across the street. The drug-dealing and partying goes on day and night. And then there’s the fights. Over perceived insults. Over territory. Over drug deals gone bad.

Maria’s family has been part of the Cove Street neighborhood since 1966 and she’s seen it evolve from a neighborhood of French-Canadian and Polish immigrants, to one dominated by the Portuguese to one dominated by Latinos and African-Americans.

Maria’s family has been part of the Cove Street neighborhood since 1966 and she’s seen it evolve from a neighborhood of French-Canadian and Polish immigrants, to one dominated by the Portuguese to one dominated by Latinos and African-Americans.

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