By Arthur Z. Schwartz
In the August issue of WestView I wrote about heroic efforts to save the life of 87-year-old Humberto Gonzalez-Bernal, a 59-year resident of Horatio Street. Humberto came to Horatio Street from Cuba in 1959, just before the revolution (which he supported; he still idolizes Fidel). He made his living as a cabaret guitarist, and carpenter, but after many years he had fallen on hard times, with a landlord who wanted to push him out the door. Humberto’s friend, Judith Tweena, had fought with NYU Medical Center back in June to admit him in order to deal with a serious infection, got him in to Village Care Nursing home to recover, and facilitated his stay for a month is a temporary apartment while his apartment was cleaned so as to lessen the chance of new infections.
I got the cleaning job. I got the landlord to paint, and plaster, and fix holes in the floor which let mice and other vermin up from the basement into Humberto’s first floor apartment. I worked with others, including his neighbor, Giselle Malifatano, and my wife, Kelly Craig, to replace his bed, remove old furniture and a non-functional stove (which attracted mice), install better lighting, and scrub the place from top to bottom.
On September 23rd I picked up Humberto in Brooklyn and brought him home. He was ecstatic. The first thing he asked was “where are my guitars?” All eight were neatly lined up in his closet. As per his usual he left his door open, and neighbors came in and hugged him. “Humberto, you’re back.” And then Giselle came home, and her dog went running out of her door and right into Humberto’s arms. A little bit of Horatio Street had come home.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Village Democratic District Leader.