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Film Spotlight: The Neighborhood That Disappeared

As the festival quickly approaches, SRFF has invited its filmmakers to blog about the behind-the-scenes process of making each film. This first entry is written by Mary Paley, producer, writer and director of The Neighborhood That Disappeared:


The Neighborhood That Disappeared spotlights the life-altering events surrounding a massive urban renewal project launched in 1962 by first term governor Nelson Rockefeller that sterilized the cultural and ethnic heart of Albany, NY, displacing 9% of the City's total population and approximately one-third of its ethnic population. Although the story was hiding in plain sight for 50 years, the deception and arrogance that motivated the seizure of 98 plus acres, split the social fabric, and destroyed the iconic built environment of our 400 year old city, was swept and hidden by the political culture of that era until our production team created this film.

A critique of Eminent Domain and a counter-narrative, our feature length documentary challenges the conventional wisdom that the acres seized for Rockefeller’s monumental government complex supported a hothouse of vice and corruption. Our oral history heavy film features “proof-of-life” testimony from ethnic and minority residents of Albany’s South End that invokes the richness and vitality of “the greatest neighborhood in the City.”

Co-writer, historian and neighborhood resident, Patrick J. Bulgaro, the “inside” narrator of this reality based film, brings to the project a poignant advocacy for the 9,000 displaced South End residents, some of them family and friends. Although an army of historians has shrewdly managed Nelson A. Rockefeller’s legacy, recasting his seizure of the 98 plus acres as a revitalizing boost to a struggling city, Bulgaro knows better. In his words: “That vast, mostly empty place (read the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza) was built on the broken hearts of thousands of people.”

The Neighborhood That Disappeared will screen at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas on Friday, March 18 at 10pm.

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