Two-Bedroom Apartment in 1937 Building


Location Sunnyside, Queens

Rent $1700 (sublet)
Square feet 1200

Occupants Thom Powers (producer and co-owner, Sugar Pictures); Leela Jacinto (producer,; Joe Sacco (cartoonist, journalist)

You were saying . . . [Thom] I don’t want other fucking hipsters moving to this area. We moved here two months ago. I don’t want this to be another fucking Williamsburg or DUMBO. I’m from Detroit, suburban house, then Seattle. I was an editor for Fantagraphics. I had to live in a fucking basement that smelled of mold. I moved to New York six years ago, a dumpy building in Williamsburg. The staircase slanted as if it was in a Gorey-type comic strip. Even if the hallway didn’t smell of cat piss, it looked like it smelled of cat piss. Then my friend sublet me her studio on Grand. After two years of subletting, the landlord came down like a 200-pound shit hammer and got my ass out of there. The same month I got evicted, I got chicken pox and I was out of a job and could barely scrape together beer money. This friend who had a business in DUMBO let me move into his loft, where they made novelty pillows. When you squeezed them, they made different sounds, mooing, giggling. That’s around the time I met Leela. She was born in Bombay. She was living with her brother in New Jersey. We got engaged, moved to Windsor Terrace. Beautiful but another sublet. About this time Joe moved here from Portland. He was born in Malta. Leela really likes Joe. We knew we could all be compatible, and we could get more space with three of us. I knew an Irish writer who moved to Queens a few years ago. I just thought the place was brilliant, for all the reasons denizens of Williamsburg and DUMBO wouldn’t.

Have you run into any other gentrifying forces in the neighborhood yet, other than yourselves? No.

I’d like to ask Joe what he thinks, but he’s in his room working on a book. What about you, Leela? [Leela] Well . . . [Thom] Our first expedition here was a disaster. Leela had a slight aversion to Queens. [Leela] Slight? I hated it. I was just opposed to the idea of moving to Queens. When I first came to New York, I discovered all these energizing neighborhoods, like Little India in Jackson Heights. I used to do a lot of stories there. But I said, Oooh, Queens is good journalistically, but to live in Queens? [Thom] I think we need to put a better spin on this. . . .

Let her continue. You see, for Leela, it was a separation-from-Brooklyn anxiety.

That’s not what she’s saying. [Leela] It wasn’t about leaving Brooklyn! Queens was a great weekend trip, but Queens every day? Bombay was so sensuous. We lived in a great neighborhood. We had a park down the road. . . .

Sunnyside is very cosmopolitan these days—a far cry from just being about families and gardens. There is the Transylvanian restaurant, and then the Irish, Korean, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Bangladeshi places. Plus you get to have so much space. I don’t want space. In Bombay, we had a million people crawling over each other. There were four of us and my parents in a two-bedroom apartment. I had 36 cousins. We never got our own bed. We always had to give it up to guests. I loved it.

You are sitting backed up against the wall in this huge living room. Everyone complains about the crowds in New York. I don’t know what they’re talking about. I miss India so much. I’m used to just having lots of people around who I really love and really know me. When I lived with my brother in the suburbs in New Jersey, I couldn’t stand the silence. I’d carry a cassette player with me room to room just for the noise.

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