Third Avenue: Only the Strong Survive

60mins | 1980 | DocumentaryNR


Jon Alpert
Third Avenue: Only in America is a harrowing urban survival tale chronicling six people's lives as they live and work on Third Avenue - a stretch of roadway running through Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx.

Eddie works in an automobile junkyard. The living he can scrape together will never satisfy his dream to become a millionaire. So he steals cars at night and sells the parts during the day. Trudy lives in condemned squalor -- no heat and no hot water. She is a frail, overwhelmed and vulnerable welfare mother. Ricky was starving in Grand Central Station. Out of desperation, he turned to the twilight world of male prostitution, drugs, and violence. It's dangerous, but the money is fast and plentiful. Joe has been a Bowery bum for the past decade, saying ""I just can't stop drinking."" Tired of panhandling and sleeping on the streets of Third Avenue, he begs his wife to take him back. Raul has been earning slave wages for 20 years. This diminutive, God-fearing man goes to church seven days a week and hopes his children will follow his Protestant ethic. One by one, however, they are lured by the call of easy money, drugs and prostitution. The Pascones have lived on Third Avenue for over 50 years.

The younger generation is deserting the old neighborhood, leaving a void where a happy, vibrant life used to be. But when Mama Pascone puts her spaghetti on the table, and the whole family gathers together to sing and dance, it buoys their otherwise lonely existence, filling everyone with love. THIRD AVENUE: ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE is a milestone in video and television history as a portrait of a changing urban landscape.

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