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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 11201

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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Esquilin, Frank, 2010 April 26

Biographical / Historical

Born in New York City in 1947, Frank Esquilin was raised in the Harlem section of Manhattan. A high school dropout, Esquilin was a technician for Verizon and its predecessor companies for thirty-two years. He is a father of four and shared the responsibilities of raising his family for some time in Brooklyn's Ozone Park neighborhood. With the last of his children becoming adults, he moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in the mid-1990s. He retired in 2004 with a pension and, due to his love of books and advice from his mother, took to creating craft book covers and wallets. He often sells his wares at the Franklin Avenue Flea Market in Crown Heights. In 2013, he helped to establish a sewing scholarship for select high school students to study under a master tailor. In 2014, Esquilin became the President of the Crow Hill Community Association, taking the reins from founder Eve Porter.

Scope and Contents

Frank Esquilin begins the interview by tracing his background from Harlem in Manhattan to the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Ozone Park and Crown Heights. Esquilin describes his entry into crafting, in particular his book protectors and wallets. Traveling has featured greatly in his retirement and he speaks about the special places he's visited and the perception of Americans in those countries. Esquilin recalls his work experience at the phone company after dropping out of high school. He talks at length about the changes in Crown Heights over the past fifteen years, including the increased presence of police officers, patterns of garbage and recycling pick-up, local businesses, rent changes for residents and other developments on Franklin Avenue. (Esquilin notes the appearance of Kevin Phillip, another narrator in this oral history collection.) He recounts his understanding of what led up to the 1991 riot in the neighborhood. In closing, he remarks on the evolution of terminology like "ghetto" and "inner city" and how renaming neighborhoods is a marketing tool in the real estate business. Interview conducted by Floyya Richardson, Treverlyn Dehaarte and Alex Kelly.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

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

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Esquilin, Frank
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Police -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Real estate business -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Franklin Avenue (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ozone Park (New York, N.Y.)