One-Bedroom Apartment in Three-Story Brick Building

 Location Ridgewood, Queens
Rent $700/mo. (rent-stabilized)
Square feet 750
Occupants Anaida Duran (manager, music business); Dina Rodriguez (lyricist; bartender, Vixens topless bar)

First, let's hear about those Williamsburg-activist days, when you were a 12-year-old Toxic Avenger and fought to close down a radioactive waste storage warehouse to make Williamsburg a better place to live. [Anaida] I'm kind of retired now at 25, but I used to attend the El Puente community center. Twenty of us kids formed an environmentalist group. I won a Giraffe Award for people who stick their neck out for their community. It's a national award. Famous people won them—Reagan, Bush, Gorbachev. I traveled to Russia. [Dina] Anaida's been everywhere. [Anaida] I grew up in Williamsburg. My mom had me when she was 15. I didn't really know my father; he's a police officer. My brother and sisters all have different fathers. I was raised by my grandmother. When I was five, I lived at South 3rd and Roebling over a bodega. The building was tilting. The landlord had to move us to a dingy hotel. It was the worst. Then a private foundation sponsored a bunch of kids from public schools. They sent me to Northfield Mount Hermon School. Uma Thurman went there. [Dina] Anaida and I met eight years ago, when I was living with my sister upstairs from Anaida in Williamsburg.

We hear artists can't afford to move to Williamsburg anymore. But what's happening to the children who grew up in Williamsburg? [Anaida] We can't afford to stay there. A one-bedroom is $1100. [Dina] Puh-lease! Those buildings are all crappy. [Anaida] A lot of people are moving to Ridgewood because it's close to home, just a few subway stops away from their parents. I moved with a friend who bought a house here in '98. That didn't work out. I found this apartment last year. Two Italian sisters own the building. Their father owned like 40 buildings. [Dina] I moved in with Anaida six months ago. She's the only one who can put up with my tantrums. [Anaida] She's so silly.

Your Jefferson Street subway stop is in Bushwick, near those broken-down houses with the piles of garbage in front. That's where the pimps and prostitutes are. You see them getting into cars, old, dingy women. After we crossed Cypress Avenue, it became Queens.

Dina Rodriguez (left) and Anaida Duran with Barbies and kitties in Ridgewood
photo: Bilyana Dimitrova
Dina Rodriguez (left) and Anaida Duran with Barbies and kitties in Ridgewood

Pink awnings, children playing, the famous Dutch Colonial Onderdonck House. I can't stand colonial things—town criers, powdered wigs, all that spinning and weaving, not to mention the pewter tankards. . . . I like all that. [Dina] If we do well, I want to buy a colonial house. [Anaida] I'm into antique type of things. I got it from my grandmother, I guess. [Dina] Her grandmother collects everything. [Anaida] Typical old Latin woman.

What a beautiful four-poster bed. [Dina] It reminds me of my grandmother's bed in Puerto Rico. It was made out of sugar cane. When I was a kid, I used to bite into it. I grew up in Washington, D.C. My mother had a travel agency. Here are my Hello Kitty dolls. I'm a Barbie collector, too. I don't have a cabinet to put them in. They're all in the closet. This purple dragon is from my favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty.

Do you know your neighbors? [Anaida] We know the woman upstairs. Her name's Fred. [Dina] She braids my hair, puts in extensions, corn rows. [Anaida] Trish does my hair. She lives down the block. They have different braiding techniques. They're good friends.

Your living room is all candlelit and pink and white. But no windows. [Dina] There's one behind the curtain with the peacocks on it. I like peacocks a lot, they're a symbol of beauty. [Anaida] Dina designs everything, I do the work. We're going to make the hallway the Time Zone, with all different clocks from different time zones. It just came to me as a theme.

 
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