"I feel like I'm trapped"

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Adelaida in front of her building at 32 Seigel Street in 1955.

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Here, we see the view Adelaida had before the condominium went up, blocking light from entering her apartment.

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These pictures illustrate the obstruction of sight from her window that Adelaida discusses in her interview. The building casts complete darkness over her windows, making her feel as though she is trapped.

 

 

Arriving in South Williamsburg (or “Los Sures,” as it’s called by its residents) at age 12, Adelaida was a fairly normal adolescent. She attended an all-girls junior high school called PS 196, enjoyed spending time with her friends, and thoroughly felt that her neighborhood was her own. Although she had immigrated to the United States in the 60’s, Adelaida felt that “[she] was still in Puerto Rico,” because of how familiar her surroundings began to feel, and how friendly people were. She says the community used to have several spaces where they could convene, three of which were Spanish language movie theaters, which closed down several years ago. Many of the integral parts of Los Sures have disappeared. This sense of belonging Adelaida felt initially in South Williamsburg stands in contrast with her current sentiments about her neighborhood, as the neighborhood has undergone such a drastic transformation. During my time speaking with Adelaida, the sentence that struck me most was when she said she “I don’t have no air, and I feel like I’m trapped.” This sensation of being trapped manifests itself in many ways, although it manifests itself quite literally in the form of Adelaida’s home and the establishments she used to frequent.

Growing up, Adelaida spent much of her time outdoors, walking around her neighborhood, and, when days were moving a little too slowly, “inventing things” with friends to entertain herself. There were shops, restaurants, and a plethora of other reasons to stay outside. Now that the neighborhood has changed, Adelaida no longer has that luxury. The shops and restaurants that used to cater to her and her neighbors have now been replaced by “liquor stores” and “karate” training studios. The bodegas she used to rely on her food and miscellaneous household items have been replaced, leaving her with fewer and fewer places to patronize. Sharon Zukin illustrates this concept in her book Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places by stating, “In-movement by whites, coupled with African Americans’ out-migration, suggests a process of ethnic succession in reverse, with whites now replacing blacks and Latinos and the corner bodega selling organic whole wheat pasta,” altering the quotidian aspects of life in the neighborhood.[1] With the lack of the neighborhood staples that once existed, Adelaida spends more time indoors than she did previously. However, the sensation of being trapped does not stop there. A few years ago, the empty lot behind Adelaida’s apartment building, upon which her windows once looked out, became a residential development. She says that for many years, she would survey her neighborhood from her windows and get fresh air from inside her home. The building completely obscures her line of sight, and shrouds her home from daylight and breeze. In Adelaida’s home, she is, quite literally, trapped.  Adelaida’s experience is not unique. Over the past decade, the blocks of South Williamsburg have exploded, with many condos and housing developments towering above the houses of those who have lived there long before the neighborhood became trendy.


[1] Zukin, Sharon. Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Accessed April 17, 2016. https://wp.nyu.edu/displacedurbanhistories/wp-content/uploads/sites/3081/2016/01/Zukin-How-Brooklyn-Became-Cool.pdf.

"I feel like I'm trapped"