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One man's fight to stop blight in East New York

Larry Rose walks around his warehouse, pointing to huge supplies of snow shovels (steel, aluminum, Teflon-coated), eight-penny common nails (galvanized, aluminum, and copper made for flooring, concrete, or drywall construction), and sandpaper.

''We're busy,'' says Mr. Rose, president of L. Rose Hardware Inc., a wholesale firm based here since 1925. People are doing their spring gardening, he says. And after a hard winter, homeowners are heading to hardware stores to buy equipment to repair their roofs.

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Rose joined his father-in-law's business in 1935 and has watched this neighborhood go through a number of changes. Some well-known companies, such as Ideal Toys, got their start here. But an exodus of industry began in the mid- 1960s, and East New York lost nearly 75 percent of its industrial base. Buildings were abandoned and crime increased.

''We had break-ins every week,'' says Rose, who can point to the patched-up holes in the side of his original wood-frame office. One time, a truck drove through the wall to get inside.

The area is tough. A stripped and abandoned car - with 6,000 miles on the odometer - sits several blocks from Rose's office. But things are beginning to turn around in this still-formidable urban wilderness. With the help of the Local Development Corporation (LDC) of East New York, which Rose co-founded, crime has been reduced dramatically. Burglaries are down 90 percent. Abandoned buildings have been razed, and fences have been put up. Rose has been able to enlarge his building, with a tax abatement, and plans further expansion.

And, most significantly, a few new industries have moved to area, which has been designated an in-place industrial park. More are expected, says Rick Recny, director of the LDC.

Rose, who was born in the area, agrees.

''(This area) has a future,'' he says. The former Brooklyn College basketball star has every right to be a booster. He has stuck it out in East New York. Rose considered leaving at one time, but never got around to it.

''I knew business had to return, and it will.''

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The LDC is a ready source of information on available property, tax incentives, financing programs, job training and placement, and problem shooting. It was started, as one observer puts it, ''out of desperation.''

''We wanted to interest new business and to keep firms already here,'' says Rose, who also wants to see job opportunities increased for the area residents. Unemployment in East New York is estimated at 30 percent. His commitment seems genuine.

''He's concerned,'' says one 19-year-old employee from East New York, who got his job when Rose called up a development corporation. ''He cares about youth.''

With a large labor pool in the area and the low cost of space in the recently formed East New York industrial park, new businesses have been attracted and resident firms have expanded. A recently opened building filled quickly with furniture and shoe manufacturers and a security-fence business.

''As far as I am concerned, New York is the hub of the United States,'' says Rose, who employs about 25 people, mostly from Brooklyn. And he believes that East New York can and should benefit from that status.

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