Narratively

 

Life in the Hole, Part II: The Creator

After his brother is stabbed to death, a troubled man raised on violence carves a surprising new life using the last gift his sibling ever gave him—a shiny pocket knife.

By | February 6, 2015

Straddling the border of Brooklyn and Queens, the vast majority of residents in East New York—let alone NYC at large—have no idea the municipal oddity known at “The Hole” even exists. But to residents like Will Henry, who live in the five blocks between S. Conduit and Linden Boulevards in the southern reaches of New York City, the area is a shadowy borderland where almost anything goes.

The Hole is built on land thirty feet below sea level and does not have a sewer system. It was long a haven for victims of organized crime, including those rumored to have crossed John Gotti. Flooding and sanitation are perpetually a problem. Yet the inhabitants of the area, who live in apartments and ramshackle houses and trailers, continue to build their lives, families and communities.

In part one of this series, “Life in the Hole,” we introduced you to Bam, who killed a man at twelve, became a father at fifteen, and is now trying desperately to balance the baggage of his violent past with his murky, uncertain future.

Now, in part two, we profile Will, 49, a four-year resident of the Hole. He lives in an apartment with his wife and her three children, not to mention the twins that are on the way. Will is a carpenter and master carver who began his relationship with wood at a young age when his brother gave him a pocket knife and told him create something out of a stick. That same weekend his brother was stabbed to death.

Will began hustling early in his teens. After serving a three-year prison sentence, he was able to turn his life around by purchasing tools to start his own contracting business and eventually a workshop in the Hole.

“It’s like a blank canvas,” Will says of his neighborhood. “You can build whatever you want.”

* * *

See the entire three-part series here.

Play

Faces of Freelance: Meet Carolyn

An award-winning producer on how freelancers bring freedom and innovation to structured work environments.

Play

Mission Impossible: Finding the Perfect Name for My Kid

A new dad on the nightmare-inducing challenge of coming up with a timeless but fresh, cool but not too cool name for his son.

Play

Adventure Is in My DNA

A filmmaker and surfer proudly explores her Indigenous roots, and discovers that thrill-seeking runs in the family.

Play

These 4 Women Are Taking on a Politician Near You

The coalminer’s daughter. The bartender. The police brutality activist. The grieving mother. Each looked at the man representing her in Congress and said, “I can do better.”

Play

The Grieving Mom Fighting for a Healthcare System That Actually Works

Amy Vilela lost her daughter when she couldn’t afford the medical bills. When her Congressman told her he wouldn’t support universal healthcare, Amy said, “I’m running.”

Play

This Ferguson Activist Wants to be Missouri’s First Black Congresswoman

Cori Bush is a registered nurse, a pastor and a mom. After taking to the streets to protest police killings, she looked in the mirror and said, “why not politician, too?”

Play

The 28-Year-Old Latina Challenging New York’s Most Powerful Congressman

“The Boss of the Queens Machine” hasn’t faced a primary challenger in 14 years. But an underfunded upstart is suddenly giving him a run for his money.

Play

This Coalminer’s Daughter Is Mad as Hell—And Running for the U.S. Senate

Paula Jean Swearengin has seen West Virginia’s land exploited, its people fall ill, and its politicians do nothing. So she decided to do something herself.

Play

The Collector of Time

As Mark McKinley puts it, “no collector ever says, ‘I’ve gone too far.'” After 27 years and an official Guinness World Record, he stands by that statement.