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The Dorothy Day Cottage

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Spanish Colony Staten Island NY 10312 USA

Jim O'Grady, an activist with the Catholic Worker movement in New York, and a frequent writer for "New York Times," wrote a biography of Dorothy Day, who founded the movement, and who has been nominated for sainthood in the Catholic Church. He also lived in Spanish Camp in Staten Island, where Dorothy Day had also lived. He tells the story of the 2001 demolition of her cottage and Spanish Camp in the audio segment. "The Spanish Naturopath Society," he told us, "founded Spanish Camp originally in the late 1920s as a retreat for Spanish Americans, many of whom lived in crowded hot neighborhoods in NYC. This for them was their retreat and they created this beautiful haven which originally consisted of canvas tents on big wooden platforms where these Spanish American families would go in the summers. The kids would, as we heard many times, put on their bathingsuit the first day of summer and they wouldn't take it off until the last day of summer. And they'd romp around with each other in packs and swim and catch fish and fry it on open fires outside their tents. And this went on for decades. When he cottages were built, everyone who bought into it got a slice of the total piece of land, sort of like a co-op. Nothing fancy was ever built, everything was crooked, but really nice, really nice. And at some point, a controlling interest in the Society froze the membership in the land trust and allowed members to rent their cottages to other people and actually sell their cottages to other people, usually for not very much money. That was the turning point. From that point on, if you bought a bungalow in Spanish Camp you just bought the bungalow but not the land underneath. That is why, in 1998, the Society sold the land for $7.1 million to a real estate developer named John DiScala, a real estate developer."

Credits: Hosted by Jim O'Grady. Photos by Michael Falco. (6:04)