Three-Bedroom Apartment in 1970s Townhouse


Location Bayside (Queens)

Rent $1785 (market)

Square feet 2000

Occupants Dr. Reucar Quijada (pediatrician, Pediatric 2000); Dr. Alba Pumarol (family practice resident, Bronx Lebanon Hospital); Paola Quijada (first grade, Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament)

A bright, icy day, the wind pushing against houses and trees. We came off the Cross Island Expressway and there was all this slate-blue water with whitecaps. Then the streets. New York can become suburban so quickly. All the houses look the same: mid-1970s, two apartments each, two garages each, two kinds of shingles each—each home with two apartments, attached to another two. All these blocks of fours. Soon there will be four of you. [Alba] I’m expecting in January.

Look, a bassinet—white ruffles, pink, blue, and yellow dots. You came to the states in 1996, lived in Elmhurst, then Flushing, then . . . [Alba] I wanted a dishwasher, dryer, washing machine. People are telling me, “You are requesting a lot. You are in New York now.” I said, “Well, but I want to pay for it.” They said, “Why do you want a three-bedroom apartment if there are only three people.” We looked at like seven or eight houses. We even went to Astoria. For the same price as this, the apartments were so small. You have trash in the entrance of the buildings. My husband was not as demanding. [Reucar] We got this through a pediatrician who lives in Bayside. The owner is from Korea. The area is very diverse, people from Colombia, Dominican Republic, a lot of Italian, Greek. [Alba] Next door are Americans. [Reucar] Chinese are in the front. African American all the way in front.

You like to play baseball. Is there a team around here? The New York Mets!

I meant for you. Oh. The Dominican League. I play every Sunday in warm weather, in Corona, 114th and 37th. I play first and third base.

You look so proud. [Alba] He is a frustrated major-league player. [Reucar] My father had something else in his mind. [Paola] You could still make it. [Reucar] I’m getting a little old. [Alba] Reucar’s father is a doctor. My father is a doctor. Paola said she will not be a doctor. [Paola] I want to be a singer and an actress.

W.C. Fields used to live in Bayside when they were making lots of movies in Astoria—Sally of the Sawdust, 1920—a fact which has nothing to do with your lives or mine or probably the reader’s, just a floating scrap of history. Every day, both of you cross the Throgs Neck Bridge, which sounds like you’re crossing through the neck of a frog. Reucar, you are in a special doctor’s program? [Reucar] If you work in an undeserved area for three years, you can get your green card and work anyplace. I work in Washington Heights. Most of our patients are from the Dominican Republic.

That’s where you went to medical school, though you’re from Venezuela. [Alba] Latin Americans everywhere, basically it’s the same. I’m from the Dominican Republic. I was born in Mexico. My father went there to do his medical training. I’m the oldest, there’s another girl, and triplets, brothers. That’s incredible. When they were born, they had to bring extra doctors to help. In my practice, I also do home visits. Mainly Hispanic, African American patients. [Reucar] Very old apartments and crowded. [Alba] If you are just in a clinic, you don’t know anything about the person. When you go to their home, you realize more. One lady was using a cane. She lives on the 10th floor!

You have a wall with little pottery houses, the red one . . . [Alba] Two balconies with flowers, typical Colombian. Here is Venezuelan. My mother has a collection. Every time she visits, she brings me one. I say, “No more.”

And all these little paintings. Each one has a small house, with two black windows and a palm tree. Those lavender clouds above, island clouds, always moving, very hormonal. Did you have a house like this? [Reucar] This isn’t anywhere we lived.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 17, 2002

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