Friday, November 10, 2017

I Am a Rent-Stabilized Tenant

East Village resident Susan Schiffman has been photographing the apartments of rent-stabilized tenants living in the East Village for her Instagram account, I Am a Rent Stabilized Tenant. She will share some of the photos here for this ongoing EVG feature.

Photos and text by Susan Schiffman

Tenant: Raquel S., since 1983

When my parents came for the first visit, before I did all the renovations here, when the apartment still looked like hell, my father sat on the futon on the floor with tears streaming down his face and he said, You moved to America to live like a Bedouin?

When I picked them up at the airport I had to tell them that I had a bathtub in the kitchen. So I said, In America you can make coffee and take a shower at the same time. That is basically my story.

Why did you move to NYC?

I didn’t know the East Village existed. I came from a kibbutz in Israel. I just felt suffocated both in the kibbutz and in Israel. I used to be a dancer and I wanted to study acting and mime, and more dance.

I did do theater here. Mostly in the EV. I acted, directed and produced. I even had a theater for 5 minutes. On Ninth Street in 1986. The New York Theater Asylum with a partner Tri Garrity.

Immediately when I arrived to New York, the East Village became my place. It was an instant attraction. Why? Maybe because I was a bit marginal? And most everyone else seemed a bit marginal. I loved all the colorful people here.

I met my husband about a year and a half after I got here. We were married for 36 years till his death, last year. My beautiful gay husband.

I got the apartment through a friend. One day the landlord knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted the lease. First I thought it was a trick, but then I realized he was serious. He always treated me nicely. Though the building suffered — years and years without heat.

I love the East Village — the community, it is still a lovely community, and it was affordable.

What do you love about your apartment?

Well, at the end of the day, my apartment is my temple. I made it so. Before the renovations, you have no clue what it looked like. It was disgusting. And the roaches. The first time my parents came to visit, one night I came in at 11 and saw my parents on all fours chasing roaches. I told myself, That’s it, I’m gonna win the war.

And I did. But as I’m growing older, I want a real kitchen, a real bathroom, and a real bedroom. I really do want it.

If you're interested in inviting Susan in to photograph your apartment for an upcoming post, then you may contact her via this email.


Anonymous said...

I love the architectural detail on the walls. I think it's a lovely apartment, but I understand the desire for a 'real' bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. I get along fine without those things, but when you visit someone in a 'real' house you realize the luxuries you're missing.

Jose Garcia said...

I love this series, I really do. I wonder if this is the same Raquel who tends her garden on the median in front of Tile Bar? Lovely. xo

Anonymous said...

Boy, East Villagers have a great sense of humor. I hadnt thought of my tub-in-kitchen arrangement back in the day. But making coffee while showering would have been a great idea had I thought of it.

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful. The drapes are stunning. It is a never ending dream to be able to move into a cheap old apartment and create your own world. This is a luxury in this day and age of overpriced controlled boxes where you are a dime a dozen. How charming and full of life this apartment is.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful and tranquil place. So full of art and detail. A good story too.

Anonymous said...

These apartments are all so incredible. Plus, who doesn't love a woman that keeps a dagger on her wall! And I'm not even being sarcastic here.

Anonymous said...

the decor of this place is interesting! a good, fun interview.