Top Floor of Three-Story House

The Bodega Network and the Coincidence of the Landlady in Bushwick

 Location Bushwick (Brooklyn)
Rent $850 (market value)
Square feet 1400
Occupants Yoselin Genao (director of constituent services for City Council member Hiram Monserrate); Luisa Diaz (social worker, St. Christopher-Ottilie foster care agency)

You won't believe this! I got off at the Myrtle L stop, so bustling. There was this big crowd of women waiting for the B52 and I started talking to one and she said she and her husband bought a house—they came from Puerto Rico, were only going to stay a year, but then September 11 happened and they needed guards, he's a security person, and she has a part-time job at Duane Reade, and I said I was interviewing two women, Luisa and Yoselin, and she said she used to rent to a Yoselin and a . . . I screamed! "You're her former landlady." Of all the bus stops, all the landladies! [Yoselin] Oh my God! We moved to that apartment, two doors from here, in June. We got it through a broker, one and a half bedrooms, so small, we were paying $1100. The guy in the bodega says, "You're paying too much." He found us this. The bodega connection. They know everything in there.

I saw yours on the corner, lights twinkling in the snowy night. I like the dark red stairway coming up to your apartment here. [Yoselin] Red and yellow. People say it's like McDonald's. We have a third person living here—our landlady! She's always around, cleans everything. We come home: two-hour conversations! [Luisa] She likes having them. She's Puerto Rican. Most of the block is black, Hispanic, home owners. [Yoselin] Did you see all the new low-income housing? Bushwick's so much better now. When we lived on Troutman—we both did, with our mothers—we lived for a while in the same house. They had to close off that street for a year because there was so much drug stuff. You had to tell police why you were going on the street. They had a sneaking way to sell the drugs anyway. I went to high school at Manhattan Center for Science and Math in East Harlem.

The mirror has two faces: Yoselin and Luisa in Bushwick.
photo: Jay Muhlin
The mirror has two faces: Yoselin and Luisa in Bushwick.

You're good in science and math? No. It was the farthest school. [Luisa] We met in '92 in church. I was 14. St. Joseph's, it's like 10 minutes from here. [Yoselin] There was the Dominican youth organization. They keep you out of trouble. We played games, did plays, spent a lot of time at church. Did we have anywhere to go? [Luisa] Not really. [Yoselin] My mom came to the States in '84. In '90 she brought the four of us. I was 12. My father died in '86. She worked in a factory in Bushwick, making luggage. Then she lost her job, was on welfare, got sick of that, got a job as a home attendant. She found it through Luisa's mom.

This apartment is so beautifully white, white floors, drapes, cloth flowers over the doorways. Was it like this when you moved in? [Yoselin] It was a shithole. [Luisa] We were always in Home Depot.

How do you get to work? [Yoselin] Oh my God, I take the 52 bus to the 58, then the 72. I cross all the neighborhoods in Queens. I'm already tired. It takes an hour and a half. At night, I go everywhere. We like Club New York in Manhattan. I think I'm only going to live once. My motto is, wait, what is my motto? Oh, I go where the wind takes me.

Do you want families? [Yoselin] No! [Luisa] I want to have a family, not now, though. I want to move to Miami. You can get great houses, not expensive. [Yoselin] Why should I get married? My mom raised us by herself. I have 19 cousins, most are female, most of them work their asses off, take care of whole families. My cousin Judy works four jobs and takes care of the family. My cousin Lourdes has two jobs.

So what's this Spanish soap opera on TV? Everyone looks so hormonal and puffed up, women in orange sarongs sitting around the blue pool, men with their flowing hair, big necks. That maid with the green parrot on her shoulder. [Yoselin] No one can identify with this soap opera.

 
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