Melting Pot on Nostrand

Before our client starts construction in the vacant lot (foreground), I need to photo-document the conditions of the outside of the neighboring building and the interior walls of all the apartments bordering the site. I have been granted access to 16 apartments this morning and am waiting on five more after 3:00pm.

Although the floorplan of each apartment is repetitive, walking across each threshold is almost like traveling the globe, visiting a different culture in seemingly every home. The superintendent says there are tenants from at least Haiti, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, India, and South/Central America—not to mention the tenants native to this borough. She estimates there are at least ten languages spoken in the building (she only speaks two!).

I could only begin to mention all the sights, and sounds, and aromas of this six-story melting pot. Prayer mats, quotes from the Quran on the wall, a crucifix above a bed, wigs on the bedposts, mattresses on the floor, a Skype call to India between toddler and father, and a superintendent who knows each tenant by name and greets them all with affection and warmth.

In my 36.5 years of life, I have never left North America—but on days like today I feel like I’ve travelled the world.

December 21, 2018

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