q and a with noel duan of am-ny paper

Q&A with William Hooker, resident and musician.
William Hooker

William Hooker, 69, is a drummer who has been living in Hell's Kitchen with his wife for 44 years and he raised his son in the neighborhood in the mid-1970s. He is the co-founder of the Hell's Kitchen Cultural Center, a non-profit that showcases works from local artists at various venues in the area, and hosts an annual jazz fest, "Rhythm in the Kitchen." We spoke with Hooker about art and life in Hell's Kitchen.

What does Hell's Kitchen contribute to the rest of the city?

Let me give you an example: Alvin Ailey [American] Dance Theater [on West 55th Street] is the most diverse dance company in the world. They are three blocks from me. I walk up there and I see little children of every race doing dance, I see older individuals doing dance. We go into the [Alvin Ailey's] black box theater and we can get tickets for about $20 to go see dance shows. That's an incredible thing. That brings a certain intelligence to the neighborhood, which brings a cultural intelligence to the rest of the city.

What do you think about the new developments?

Look at Harlem, the East Village, Bushwick: All these other places are undergoing these exact same gentrifications that Hell's Kitchen is undergoing, too. And I'm not going to change the way I live. Just as we have to put up with how other people define life, people have to put up with how we define life as well. So we just have to find a way to co-exist and to keep that wholesomeness in the neighborhood. I raised my son there in the '70s, and what's exciting for me is that if I go outside Saturday morning and I look at the park next to P.S. 111, I still see parents with their children -- just as I had done over 30 years ago. It was, and is, a diverse place. And if we can co-exist in our neighborhood, that's an example to the rest of the city.

What's the music scene like here?

So many of the people that live in Hell's Kitchen are the great people performing throughout the world. And it's a beautiful thing when you can just take your drums and walk five blocks to go and give a concert and there's people from the jazz and experimental scene that don't have to go all the way to Gowanus or Red Hook or Bushwick, which people think are the only places where things are happening.

(Credit: NOEL DUAN)

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