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love you, always

Paying homage to mothers who are raising or have raised children in New York City, while overcoming the challenges of gentrification and displacement of culture.

Photographer: Sylvia Kim


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emely and her daughter naiara, washington heights

 
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“My family has been living in Washington heights since 1988…

They came from the Dominican Republic. The first markers of change in the community were when businesses that had been around for decades began shutting down. Then came all of the new neighbors that did not speak Spanish and landlords offering old tenants cash
to move out of their building.”


We had two small toy stores in the neighborhood. One was located close to the corner of 180th street and Broadway and it was owned by an Asian couple. The other was located on 182nd street and Broadway and was owned by a man who was Indian. They knew all of the kids from the
neighborhood. They gave discounts and when kids wanted toys and the parents could not afford them at the moment, they would let the kids take the toys home and the parents would come at a later time and pay for them.

Bakery El Panadero , 1380 St Nicholas Ave, New York, NY


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“I want Naiara to continue to be surrounded by our culture in the same
way that I grew up...

I want her to speak Spanish fluently, know how to dance bachata and merengue, enjoy eating mangu for breakfast and having locrio for dinner, and spending hot summer days playing in the cold
water from the fire hydrant. All of the things I enjoyed as a kid growing up in Washington Heights.”

 

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kenya and her son ashton, crown heights


We’re well aware now that the influx of people who are able to afford $1600+ for one bedroom apartments has put a stamp on the hood. Renting places at that price brings in store owners and buyers. It’s only conducive to the people who have grown up here if they feel comfortable in those spaces. I saw a white man on a skateboard passing through the projects in the middle of the day, and that’s when I knew things were changing.

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“I love Ali’s Roti Shop and the Brooklyn Children’s MuseuM…

…which always felt like a getaway when it was really a block away. The St. John’s recreation center was a great place as a teen to talk to people my age and be as expressive and creative as we wanted to be. Many of these kinds of places have been displaced but what brings people together remains.”

St. John’s Park, Troy Ave & St Johns Place Brooklyn, NY



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“i hope passion and gratitude remain

in the community.

There are many people who and will succeed because of how they redirect their passion with so little to live on. That’s where the respect comes in, appreciating what you’ve done with minimal resources. We needed each other more before we needed smoothie shops and local bars.”

 

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massiel and her mom sandra, washington heights

 
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“My parents met in college in 1984, married in 1986...

had my sister in 1987, and moved to NYC from the Dominican Republic in 1988. They first lived with my aunt on 96th street until they got settled, and later moved to Washington Heights in 1989. After I was born, they realized they needed more space and saw an opportunity to move into my current apartment.

There was definitely a lot of Dominican people in my neighborhood growing up but the neighborhood was originally made up of mostly Jewish people before the Dominican influx. The Jewish culture kind of overlapped with our community. My sister and I took ballet classes in the formally known Jewish center that is now closed on 184 and Ft. Washington.”


I remember New York was not as open minded when I was growing up as we are now. People looked down on my parents for not speaking English. Our neighborhood offers comfort for them because they are around other people who share the same journey and background.

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“My favorite food my mom makes…

…is the typical Dominican breakfast - plantains, fried cheese and salami - I will eat that anytime, any day! My favorite bakery is called Floridita. There are a lot of other local ones but I’m loyal to Floridita. For birthday cakes we love ordering from a family friend’s bakery, D Lilian on 207th. There are a couple of restaurants that have been around for a while like Mambi, El Conde, and El Malecón is very popular. I really hope the food in the neighborhood doesn’t change. I love my local bakery and Dominican restaurants.”

 

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danielle and her mom diane, bed-stuy

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“My grandmother, Thelma Covington moved to Brooklyn from South Carolina…

…at about age 18. My grandfather, Willie Covington, moved to Brooklyn from Cheraw, South Carolina at about age 16. They met in Brooklyn when my grandmother was 21 and my grandfather was 25. My grandmother initially came to Brooklyn on a temporary basis to stay with her sister who had already moved her a few years prior. She ended up staying and getting a job. She felt it was better to stay because she was making more money to care for her young daughter that she left in SC with my great-grandmother. My grandfather moved with his family when they relocated to the Bed-Stuy/Clinton-Hill area at age 16.”


The demographic structure of the neighborhood while I was growing up was mostly working families with young children around my age at the time. There were some policemen, teachers, nurses, bus-drivers, factory workers, sanitation workers and etc. to name a few. It was just a large Black & Hispanic community; doing the best that they could to raise their children. It definitely had that village feel to it because I remember that everyone looked out for everyone. Everybody just cared!


The first markers of change we noticed were the older people who had been living in the neighborhood or on the block for years, moving south because the cost of living became too high for them. Then you would see people of different nationalities move into their buildings; but they wouldn’t stay. They would just be there for a few months or a year at the most and it would start all over again. The turnover was so quick. And the rent of some of the brownstones skyrocketed. So many people could no longer afford to rent in the area so they moved.

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“What my mom loves most about the neighborhood is the people…

Although many of them have moved away, the relationships and foundation that was built from the people who lived on our block and in our community is something that we will never ever forget. That’s also the reason why my family has been in that Brownstone on Hart Street since the 70s. The comfortability that we have been afforded by living in this specific area is not something you can just find anywhere, so when you do find it, you hold onto to it for as long as you can.

I hope the sense of family within the community stays the same. The saying that it takes a village might not be true for all, but we have been a witness to it firsthand. Everybody takes care of everybody so no one feels alone. Who wants to live life alone? We all need family, whether it's blood or just in your community.”