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Guide to the Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History collection 2010.020

Brooklyn Historical Society
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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 22, 2017
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

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Lesold, Constance, 2010 April 7

Biographical / Historical

Constance "Connie" Lesold was born in North Carolina in 1938. She first visited the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1966 and had an apartment with her husband, Helmuth Lesold, by 1967. The couple had one son, Benjamin, who was born in 1970. She is a social worker, who was president of the Parkway Independent Democrats and an official of Community Board Eight. Along with her husband, several Brooklyn community boards, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and a public coalition, she opposed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's move to end service on the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in the mid-1990s. A widow since 1994, she volunteered with the Brooklyn Mental Hygiene Court Monitors Project and became a member of Disabled in Action. In 2004, she joined a group occupying a firehouse that shut down service in Williamsburg. Lesold joined lawmakers and citizens at the Capitol in Albany to protest rent control regulations in 2015 and she remains an active participant in MTA Board hearings.

Scope and Contents

Constance Lesold begins the interview by talking about her first memories of the Crown Heights neighborhood in 1966. She talks about her late husband, Helmuth Lesold, and the early years of their marriage in an apartment building on Eastern Parkway. Along with other residents, they petitioned their landlord to integrate their building. She remembers the dramatic change in the fall of 1967, when Whites became the minority in the diversifying community. Lesold refers to the multicultural school her son attended. She focuses on the battle to save the Franklin Avenue Shuttle from permanent closure and names the pivotal activists involved: her husband, Sybil Holmes, Community Boards Three, Eight and Nine, Borough Presidents Howard Golden and Marty Markowitz, Councilwoman Mary Pinkett, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Lesold makes the point that there is still work to do in subway accessibility, and discusses the garden above the Franklin Avenue Shuttle that was vandalized by Transit Police. The Atlantic Yards Project, the Daily News' departure, and past efforts to get federal funding for neighborhoods are the other concerns for Lesold. She concludes with advice for young activists. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact

Subject Names

  • Golden, Howard
  • Lesold, Constance
  • Lesold, Helmuth

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Community Board No. 8 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway Coalition
  • New York Daily News
  • New York (State). Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Subject Topics

  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community gardens -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Environmentalism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Social justice -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Subway stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Subways -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tenants' associations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban beautification -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Ocean Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Prospect Heights (New York, N.Y.)