By Yepoka Yeebo
An ear-splitting roar blasted its way through the mid-morning Brownsville silence, sending the flock of birds pecking around Betsy Head Park into a fluttering, flapping frenzy and turned the heads of the two girls sitting on the picnic table. No one knew where it came from.
It had started as a low rumble, drowning out the patter of the men on the corner as they debated the day’s pressing concerns with impassioned hand gestures and rueful head
“Back the day, it was a sweet thing, it was peaceful,” said a man with a salt-and-pepper
Afro. “There were gangs back then, but it was peaceful.”
The rumble had been building by the time a police car from the 73rd precinct rolled up.
The officer in the passenger’s seat exchanged a laconic glare with the men on the corner.
The sound built. and built. and then came the roar.
It came from a cinderblock garage nestled in the midst of row houses with
well-manicured gardens festooned by Caribbean flags. Then the car emerged. It was a
rusting, red hulk of a 70s hatchback with massive tires. Its chassis hovered a full
two-feet above the pavement. Its hood was topped with a blinding chrome engine. Three
men in grease-stained overalls, followed in its wake, cheering.
The car screeched past the park, past the men on the corner, who turned their heads as
they followed it down the block. Slowly, the roar became a faint hum.
“Jackass,” said the man with the salt-and-pepper Afro.
The three men retreated to the garage. The two girls began complaining again about the
kids at the Brownsville Recreation Center. “People from the projects go there, and they
don’t have any home training,” one girl said. “I’ve been in those project buildings
plenty of times, no matter how many times you bleach those stairs, they’ll smell like
But her complaints were drowned out. First came the roar. Then came the car, its journey
around the block at a quick end.