By James Maher
Name: Angel “Petroleum” Luis Roman
Occupation: Security, Construction.
Location: East Ninth Street and 1st Avenue
Time: 4:10 pm on Monday, Aug. 26
I’ve been here since 1952. I was 12 years old when I came to the neighborhood from Puerto Rico with just my mother. It was a big change. Rent used to be $17 a month.
I graduated from Seward Park High School in 1958. I retired last year from security. I used to work in construction for awhile. I worked as a security guard and I worked in the stock market from 1986 till 1994. I used to be what you call a messenger.
One of the oldest places around here is Katz's Delicatessen. I worked for them for awhile. I used to wash dishes for them — making a living, you know. I also occasionally work at Moishe’s for the Jewish holidays sometimes. Sometimes they need me to work for one week. I like working with people.
I saw this neighborhood grow up. It was a poor neighborhood. Years ago people used to play dominoes in the streets, getting fresh with the ladies, throwing beer bottles on the street. Now you don’t see that. To tell you the truth, there were a lot of gangs, a lot of racketeering, but it was better than it was now — 100% percent better. Give me the old neighborhood and I would take it anytime. I liked the Dominican places, the Puerto Rican places, but I don’t eat in restaurants so I’d go there to drink my beer and that’s it.
For fun, I’ll have a few drinks with my friends — enjoy myself. You can ask anybody around here, you know Petroleum? They will know me. They call me that because I can outdrink them. I also used to go to the skating rink. I used to be a good ice skater. I’d go up to 57th Street.
The old people that used to live here, the Puerto Rican, the Jewish, whatever it is, they moved to New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Miami. A lot of people moved to Florida. I like to live right here. I’ll tell you one thing, I love New York, but I don’t recommend nobody to come here. It’s tough. The good thing about New York is that it is one of the safest places to live now. You go to Puerto Rico, Miami — it’s much more dangerous. Here I am not afraid. New York is one of the safest places.
I have my wife and my daughters. They are doing good. One is 41 and one is 37. They’re doing better than I did. They have houses with pools in New Jersey.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.