“There was a lot of drugs, shooting and killing. Now it’s coming back to what it used to be.”

I met Bill, who has lived in Sunnyside for 60 years, the day before Christmas eve at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 46th Street. He was sitting on his rolling walker in front of the corner deli as trains were rattling by above. At first I thought he was selling the apparel displayed behind him. But it turned out he was just people watching to pass the time.

Bill’s favorite thing about Sunnyside is the diversity of the people. “It used to be German and Irish,” he says. “Now it’s Spanish, Asian – Phillippino, Indian – and Irish.”

Bill broke his back four years ago in his apartment just south of Queens Boulevard. Luckily he can slowly move around with his walker. But his physical therapists say that he will never completely recover from his injuries.

A former shipping and receiving clerk at a factory in Woodside, Bill has seen Sunnyside drown in drugs and violence—and he has seen it recover.

“It changed an awful lot compared to what it used to be,” he says. “There was a lot of drugs, shooting and killing. Now it’s coming back to what it used to be.” Bill likes to read in his spare time and shops for books at the One of a Kind Thrift Shop on Queens Boulevard between 45th and 46th Streets. Bill used to enjoy eating out but now can’t afford to do so anymore. He gets his groceries from Keyfoods right across the street but since the price hikes last summer struggles to make ends meet.

Listen to Bill’s interview