The Governor of 12th Street

The first time I met him was on Halloween. Mookie and I were at NYCPet on 7th avenue and he was sitting by the door making sure all the kids (the two-legged and four-legged) got treats. From then on, I’d see him from time to time sitting on the bench outside Naidre’s coffee shop or just walking on the sidewalks of 7th ave. We’d give each other a look of recognition followed by a greeting of some sort and then carry on our days.

The last time I saw him was Wednesday in a picture displayed on a table outside Naidres. It was a memorial for him. His name was John “Whitey” Glendinning, and I only learned it after his death. Neighborhood folks gathered to remember him and his contributions to the community.

I discovered more about him from this Daily News story from last year:

Six days a week, you can find John (Whitey) Glendinning working his hustle on the west side of Seventh Ave. between 11th and 12th Sts. in Park Slope. He keeps the sidewalks in front of businesses on that side of the block clean.

Whitey also does other odd jobs, like sitting in double-parked cars to ward off ticket agents while the car owner runs an errand or eats a quick meal. He had more of a work load back when the South Slope was more of a working-class neighborhood and more folks knew him. But many of those people sold out and left.

Whitey had more to his story, more to his past. He got addicted to heroine at an early age and ended up spending sometime in prison. There he was offered a deal to get out of jail if he signed up for a methadone program, which he did, but with consequences:

“Methadone is good for some people, but it’s hard to wean yourself off it,” he said. According to the Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Web site, methadone is harder to kick than heroin – something Whitey knows from experience. “Once you’re on this thing, it’s got you,” Whitey said. “All but two of my teeth have dropped out. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

I heard a story about Whitey on WNYC this morning. He was diagnosed with cancer and afraid of dying alone. But he was reverered and appreciated in the slope community. One resident interviewed said that Whitey was a close friend of his father and is going to make sure that he has a proper burial. They mentioned a funeral at Greenwood Cemetery next Saturday.

The community gathered signatures and created a plaque honoring him as the “Governor of 12th Street.”


~ by sangamithra on May 9, 2008.

One Response to “The Governor of 12th Street”

  1. thanks for the touching rememberance on Whitey. He definitely left a positive impression on myself and many others. He will be missed.

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