Sunset Park was full of activity on July 2 as temperatures rose into the high 90’s. I scouted the area and met 50-year-old Anibal “Tito” Pabon, a local resident. We chatted as a traveling Marimba Ensemble from Albuquerque, New Mexico performed. I was fascinated by the randomness of such an event, but Tito was quick to disagree.
“Things like this happen in the park all the time,” he said. “That’s what I love about it. “ Tito has lived in Sunset Park for 40 years and he’s proud of the neighborhood. He remembers moving there at age ten from Park Slope and says the neighborhood has seen the best and worst of times. “I remember when people would hide in the trees to rob people, he says. “All of that is gone.” Now, he says, he enjoys watching chess and domino matches, Tai Chi, ballroom dancers, and kids playing soccer. “The community is now multi-cultural, and I think it’s great.” He says occasionally you’ll hear complaints about all the changes, but he believes the park represents America and the transformation in our culture. “Every change is for the better, it benefits all of us.”
I asked him what was the most American thing that he would be doing for the Fourth of July? “Fireworks!” he said. He pointed to the hazy, yet magnificent view of the Manhattan skyline. “Fireworks!” He was planning to prepare a picnic for his mother right on the grass in the park and watch the fireworks, an event that he’s been looking forward to every year since the Macy’s Fireworks show moved to the East Side five years ago.