Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, May 14, 2010


“We are American; leave us alone!” cried the Pakistani immigrants to the CBS-TV news crew that had come to Centereach, Long Island to report on the FBI’s early morning raid of house in a solidly middle-class neighborhood.

The owner had rented his basement apartment out to suspects in the Times Square bombing plot. Well, you know, renting out basement apartments just isn’t something that generally is done in suburban middle-class neighborhoods.

It’s more of a blue-collar town type of thing. Neighbors in the Watertown, Mass., neighborhood where another suspect lived noticed that the house kept changing hands frequently. Another thing that just doesn’t happen in home-town America.

With satellite images, such as Google Sat, you can now find out what’s on the other side of the fence, what’s in your neighbor’s backyard.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” the owner of the house in Centereach declared.  If he doesn't know what's going on in his own house, then who does?

Another neighbor said, "I never knew of anything strange going on but obviously something pretty big happened," said one resident.

They didn’t think it was strange that their neighbors were renting out the basement of their $300 to $400K home? Maybe that kind of thing happens in Hempstead. Brentwood. Centereach is on the North Shore. Mark Tree Road. Not the road these people lived on, but boy, not exactly the wrong side of the tracks, there.

In Centereach, only about 12 percent of the residents rent. By the way, Brookline, Mass.? Sound familiar? Birthplace of President John F. Kennedy. Not exactly slumming.  If your neighbors are turning their single-family homes into apartment houses, you need to find out what's going on with your zoning board, look into what sort of crazy ordinances they're passing.

Camden and Cherry Hill, N.J. Well, they’re another story. I’ve been in Camden. My company sponsored a garden event in a Camden neighborhood. The police had to come protect our volunteers.

If the owner of that Oxhead Road house and his neighbors had looked at their neighborhood on the Google satellite map, they’d know what’s going on in their own backyards.

You can see, for instance, that Oxhead Road is kind of main drag. Starting in the south, near Rt. 25, the houses are small and modest and get substantially larger the farther north you look.

Farther south, there appear to be family-sized swimming pools on the somewhat small lots (this is Long Island, of course, and your property is either the size of a postage stamp or the old U.S. Post Office in NYC – a full city block long).

There are some old, beat-up cars in one backyard, a pleasure boat in another. Again, that’s Long Island for you. Oxford Road appears to be busier, however, than the typical suburban cul-de-sac. People of less-confident means tend to buy along such roads.

And they rent out their basements to terrorist guys.

We’re supposed to put up fences to guard against intrusion by nosy neighborhoods. It’s a long-standing custom in suburban America. You frankly don’t want to know if your neighbor is engaging in nude sunbathing over the fence there.

Making bombs to blow up in Times Square, on the other hand.

Well, sometimes fences don’t make such good neighbors….


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