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.”

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See the entire three-part series here.


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