Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

285 Riverside Drive

When I arrived in New York in 1935 my husband toured me around New York City. When we walked along Riverside Drive I vowed to myself that one day we would live on this avenue. I had never seen such a beautiful street. It stretched from West 72nd street along the Hudson River to 125 street. Robert Moses, the park commissioner, had redesigned this park. He moved the railroad tracks that bordered the river underground. This change made it possible to walk close to the river. Beautiful trees shaded paths that wound through hilly land natural rock formations were left in place where possible.

But we first made our home in Brooklyn, where my two children were born. Shortly after the United States entered World War II in  December 1941 my husband  joined the medical corps and I felt I stranded, alone in Brooklyn. It was then that I started to look for an apartment in Manhattan. Apartments were plentiful and I finally chose one on Riverside, Drive, 285, located on the corner of 101 street. The rooms were large and had high ceilings; most faced the river. My children and I were fascinated by the traffic on the river which was lively day and night. Warships lay at anchor, oil barges went back and forth among smaller boats which went up river to Albany. It was an exciting place to live.

But slowly the neighborhood changed. After the war, the streets started to become unsafe. No longer could one sit on a bench in the park after dark and enjoy the evening breeze carrying the sweet smell of flowering linden trees that lined the promenade. By 1960 streets in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan became unsafe during daytime too. Handbags were torn from women’s’ arms and children were assaulted on their way home
from school.       

One day in 1962 or was it 1963,  I returned earlier than usual from work in the afternoon. When I opened the door to my apartment the lights in the corridor were on. I did not think anything about it, but when I reached my bedroom I was surprised to see two  men there. Thinking that they were some new assistants of the superintendent I asked innocently: "What are you doing here?" Then it dawned on me that they had broken into our apartment. I ran screaming along the lengthy corridor, opened the door which led into the building’s foyer, and, since we lived on the main floor, called for help. The doorman heard me and called the superintendent, a fierce man from Malta, who, with revolver drawn, entered the apartment, while the doorman called the police. No one was in the apartment. We found my jewelry and some silverware strewn along the corridor carpet, over I which they had evidently tripped. Valises were neatly packed with some bottles of wine and with silverware; the thieves had left them behind in their hasty escape through windows overlooking a back courtyard. I suddenly remembered our dog. We found her locked in the bath room. She was terrified and never again barked when strangers rang the bell, but instead crept under the bed and hid.

The police came hours later. Nothing had been stolen. We were told that there were so many break-ins in our neighborhood that unless you were to say "robbery in progress" so that there was a chance to catch the thieves it was hopeless for the police to search for them.

We had an alarm system installed which would sound at the most inconvenient times, for example, during thunderstorms or when heavy trucks passed by.

We left New York around 1970. The children were grown up and we, who had vowed never to leave the city, because we loved it dearly, moved to New Haven, Connecticut.


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