Since I began work on this report, I’ve heard myself referred to by that word dozens of times — sometimes with affection, sometimes with suspicion ; sometimes humorously, sometimes angrily.
I grew up in your typical white middleclass suburban home where we didn’t even use that word for female dogs, so it took some getting used to.
But hearing it spoken constantly as a virtual synonym for
“woman” finally wore down my knee-jerk reaction.
I never did get used to “ho,” though.
—reporter Gail Donovan, Hudson City Mirror
Freetown is mostly residential, and most of the residences are high-rise projects or apartment buildings.
There are plenty of small businesses serving the populace — grocery stores, drug stores, cell phone providers, restaurants and bars, things like that — but relatively few major employers.
Here and there a factory remains open, drawing on the wealth of relatively cheap labor to keep operating costs down.
But most industrial facilities shut down long ago, victims of America’s shift away from a manufacturing economy.
The crime rate in Freetown is the highest in Hudson City — there are parts of the neighborhood,
such as the Numbers, where only the bravest policemen dare to go without significant backup.
- The Numbers
- Freetown Community College
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Park
- Mt. Zion Baptist Church
- Smithstone Jewellers
- Stewartville Mall
- The Paradise Club
The heart of Freetown, and the most dangerous part of the entire neighborhood, is the Numbers — nearly two miles of streets and housing projects built as a joint project by the city, state, and federal governments in the Sixties and early Seventies, bisecting thirty-seven numbered streets beginning with First Street in the west, thus creating roughly 240 individual blocks.
There are no lawns to speak of, and no parks, kids play in the street or in vacant lots, heedless of the junk, the junkies, and other threats all around them.
Most of the kids don’t go to school beyond junior high and according to Department of Social Services estimates as many as 12% of the girls above age 14 are pregnant or have children already.
What money there is in the neighborhood is mostly squeezed out of the residents by the drug dealers, then recycled back through stores catering to the nouveau riche thugs.
The largest institution of higher learning in Freetown, FCC (as it’s widely known in Hudson City) is the center of the somewhat nicer communities of Wister Park and Charlesburg.
In 1970, city officials renamed Abercrombie Park in Freetown to honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since that time the park has deteriorated. What was once a beautiful park, suitable for families and children, has become a battleground between gangs and a haven for criminals and the homeless.
Mount Zion was once the largest church in Freetown — and the most beautiful as well, with architecture evoking both European and African designs.
Unfortunately, it burned down in June, 2006.
Formerly a more or less ordinary jewelry store, Smithstone became better known in the community, and more profitable, when it began designing and selling its own line of the “bling-bling” jewelry favored by gangstas, rappers, and their fans.
This large mall, completed in 2007, sits right on the edge of the city proper and the suburb of Stewartville.
Most pundits predicted that it would fail within a few years, but its clever managers have confounded the experts by making the mall one of Freetown’s few modern economic success stories.
It caters primarily to black and Hispanic consumers, which make up about 65% of its business.
A dark, seedy bar in the mold of dark, seedy bars all over the world, Eddie’s serves a clientele that ranges from the poorest Freetowner to the richest gangbanger.
While most of the city’s topless bars and sex clubs congregate over in North Elmview along the Strip, not all of them do.
Freetown has its share of vice businesses, and the Paradise Club is one of them. With its red-carpeted entrance, plush decor, fully-stocked bar, and beautiful dancers, it’s the destination spot for gangbangers with money to blow.
This dance club often features guest DJs from around the country spinning the latest dance favorites, and sometimes even live acts.