October 18, 1998, Sunday


NEW YORK ON LINE; Life as It Was in the Projects

For Pamela Weintraub, life in the Linden Houses, a working-class housing project in the East New York section of Brooklyn, was intimate. ''You could hear what everyone was talking about through the walls,'' Ms. Weintraub, 44, said. ''You could smell what everyone was having for dinner, especially if it was stuffed cabbage.''

It was an intimacy that she would one day miss. When the projects grew violent in the late 1960's, many of her friends' families left for what they regarded as safer places, like Canarsie and Starrett City. By 1970, Ms. Weintraub's family also left, for Co-op City.

Last year, using Internet search tools, Ms. Weintraub and others tracked down many of their old friends. A result was a reunion in March for more than 300 people -- doctors, teachers, architects, writers and others -- who used to live at Linden and nearby Boulevard Houses, near Stanley Avenue and Linden Boulevard.

To keep the reunited friends in touch, Ms. Weintraub, a journalist who now lives in Chappaqua, N.Y., developed the ENYprojects Web site this month after visiting the Linden Houses for the first time in nearly three decades. Crime there has dropped sharply in recent years.

''It was like a lucid dream,'' she said. ''Everything was almost exactly the same.''

WHAT YOU SEE -- The site has a chat room, photographs of the projects today and in the 1960's and stories about the 1998 reunion. Most remarkable is the message board.

''Remember that huge bag of french fries from Chicken Delight on Linden Blvd for only 35 cents. Wow!'' someone named Glenn writes. Alan Blaustein remembers differently. ''I remember Chicken Delight as being on Stanley Avenue, in the storefront where the Conservative synagogue had its shul before they built one,'' Mr. Blaustein writes.

Michele Shipp writes, ''O.K. I admit I was a bad girl growing up . . . any of my bad girl friends out there?'' To which somebody signed ''Nice Italian Boy from western Brooklyn'' replies: ''I hate to say this here, but growing up we always thought that 'project girls were easy.' How politically incorrect of us. We were spoiled kids with cars who would head east looking for the really bad girls that our mean old nuns and priests warned us about. Of course we came back empty-handed and were forced once more to subject ourselves to the good girls from nice homes.''

Jay Goodman refers casually to a police officer in an old photograph. He writes, ''I remember that fat sow of a policeman when he arrested Steve for desecrating the flag.'' Someone named Dan responds: ''Look at your old neighborhood now, pal. Not that it was much better when you lived there in taxpayer-supported housing. Next time you read in the papers about an officer killed in the line of duty, think about your cute remark.''

LINKS -- One, to Thomas Jefferson High School Alumni Locator (http://hometown.aol.com/smscompute/tjhs.html), a growing list of E-mail addresses for alumni of a nearby school.

WHAT YOU GET -- A candid peek at life as it was in a New York housing project. ANTHONY RAMIREZ


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