Gerald Rosengarten’s memoir, Jump on the Train, takes readers on a ride as he details one inspired enterprise after another.
Rosengarten had a singular knack for seeing potential in offbeat ideas. In the 1970’s, with no money or college degree, he parlayed work in the textiles industry into a business netting over $20 million a year by creating a comfortable men’s garment using knit fabric from womenswear. Unfortunately, what became known as the leisure suit met its ignominious demise when copycats produced inferior products.
In 1978, “before it was hip,” Rosengarten began buying vacant industrial buildings in New York City and successfully converting them to lofts. Much later, in 2004, he and partners built the new Bowery Hotel. Gentrification had come to Skid Row, which had proximity to some of “the best places in Manhattan.” The elegant hotel was frequented by billionaires, artists and actors.
Eventually, concerned about the environment, the author sought to build a 100% self-sustaining community on 100 acres on Long Island. When this effort failed, he created a solar farm that has been operating since 2008.
Rosengarten, who is dyslexic, has also invented many products he intends to market, including the Reading Rainbow: colored screens which, when placed over text, can help some dyslexic readers overcome the handicap.
While Rosengarten’s story is noteworthy and unique, the writing style is problematic. The chronological telling lacks finesse and is mired with extraneous detail, such as a litany of minor players mentioned but never developed as characters. Further, his use of informal phrases (“but that’s another story”; “You know how older brothers are”; “as you’ll see,” etc.), presumably used to make the author relatable, fall flat and prove distracting. A less detailed narrative would have made this tome more accessible.
Still, the author’s life has been a fascinating melding of creativity, grit, and determination. As such, despite its drawbacks, his memoir could appeal to readers with an entrepreneurial bent.