Manhasset and Great Neck residents gathered at the Manhasset Public Library on Onderdonk Avenue Wednesday night to view "Spinney Hill," a documentary that highlights the often-overlooked African-American population of the title community.
Filmmakers Dedrick Johnson, 47, of Manhasset, and Lloyd Means, 46, of Baldwin, both grew up in Spinney Hill and decided to make the documentary to remember the successful African-American owned businesses, which once flourished in the affluent area.
“From the early 1900s to the 1970s, that’s when the community was thriving,” Johnson said.
The area was populated by successful hotels, nightclubs, barbershops and taxi companies, all run by African-American residents.
According to Johnson, the community’s vitality was ruined in the 1980s by an urban renewal project that replaced the black businesses with large office buildings and retailers.
“After the urban renewal, stores catered to the more affluent population,” Johnson said. “The community lost its vital support.”
The film debuted at the Great Neck Public Library in November 2011. The Manhasset Preservation Society, which sponsored Wednesday’s event, has used the film to encourage residents to remember the community’s African-American past.
“We’re trying to achieve a better togetherness within the community,” Manhasset Preservation Society president Norman Nemec said. “The one objective is to preserve Manhasset because if you don’t preserve it, you’re going to lose it.”
Kayla Winchester, a senior at Manhasset High School, plans on using the documentary in a cultural scholarship essay for her application to Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
“I want to learn more about the community and see how the culture has progressed in Spinney Hill,” Winchester said.