Meet the Residents of MacDonough Street

Photo: Francis Agyapong for New York Magazine

White folks feel comfortable wherever they are. We’re the ones who live with a certain amount of uncomfortability.

—Annette Cox

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Annette Cox, 69Current Owner

At first, I was going to look in Harlem, and my mom said, “You know, I think you might be better off if you looked for a brownstone in Brooklyn, because I think Harlem might be overpriced.” That’s kind of how we do things, West Indian people. Elders have a lot of weight in the family. My mom came here from Trinidad in 1948; I moved from the islands when I was 12 or 13, with my grandmom. 

I came in 1985, during a period when there was a lot of crack. You’d see the vials on the ground, even on this block. One night, one guy was chasing another from the bar on the corner with a hatchet — this was before people were using guns as much as they do now. He jumped up to that large window there, in the front of the house, in order to get away. I had a Doberman at the time. The dog was just standing there, looking at him. Thank God. Otherwise he might have come in to save himself. That was before the window bars were up. Those bars, they tell a story.

I used to say it’s happening, but it has happened. The pioneers are no longer needed. When you start seeing the flags hanging out people’s windows, you know who’s here. We don’t hang flags — white people hang way more flags. I have no idea why — maybe it’s their way of showing patriotism. They move in and it’s like: “Okay, we’re here. Don’t fuck with us.”

When I got here, there weren’t any white people. Not unless they owned a property — and no sir, they didn’t live here. I think, though some of my colleagues might not agree, that services have improved. Better produce in the supermarkets. They start fixing up the stores. You start seeing the word organic thrown around a lot. You start getting things that for many years you didn’t have access to. You’d have to go [out of the neighborhood] to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Now you don’t have to. I think it’s good. But when the conversation happens with just black people, a lot of them don’t like it.

The other thing is, white folks are not afraid to come into the neighborhood any time, night or day. Who’s gonna mess with them? Who? You gonna have the police here like that. We’re the ones who have to watch how we approach the police. White folks feel comfortable wherever they are. We’re the ones who live with a certain amount of uncomfortability. Black mothers have to raise their boys a certain way so that they can make it to manhood. My son got punished a lot for hanging around with certain kids that could breed a certain kind of behavior, which might warrant the attention of the police. I was more concerned about police attention than what the kids themselves were up to. Policing is much better than it was in the ’60s, I’ll say that. But because I did live through the ’60s, that affects the way I see the world.