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.