and text by
On an isolated peninsula at the far edge of New York City there lives
a close-knit community of impoverished social outcasts who, bearing the
stigma of mental illness and the perception of moral turpitude, have found
themselves exiled to a forgotten corner of Queens known as THE LAST STOP
– ROCKAWAY PARK.
I visit the Rockaway Park community, the site of my project, on a regularly
basis and have been doing so for the past four years. During that time
I have developed close personal ties within the community.
While it is less than twenty miles from Manhattan, Rockaway Park is another
country. It is a place that many financially-strapped mental hospitals
and nursing homes have for years used as a dumping ground for some of
their indigent patients. This famed Irishtown is the last remnant of hope
for many elderly and low income families living in fear of homelessness.
My photographs reveal a society of the disregarded. Unlike most accounts
on the urban poverty of minorities, this is also a story about white poverty
in NYC. Marginalized and dysfunctional, many have severe disabilities,
and are besieged by chronic illness and addiction. They inhabit a hazy
twilight world of ramshackle bars, boarding houses, single room occupancies
and frayed social services that teeter just beyond the last stop on the
New York subway system’s A line
There is a deep sense of loneliness here. The people in my images, many
of whom I have come to know and feel great affection for, have revealed
to me something about the perseverance of the human spirit amid isolation
and decay. Here one still finds friendship, laughter and even love.
— Juliana Beasley
For more great stories and photographs, be sure to check out Juliana's blog.