Francis, Maria, and Diana

Frances Perez: Hi, so it’s recording, right? Hi, this is Frances Perez and I reside at Amsterdam Houses, along with Maria Mercedes Perez, also, my mom. And we have here . . .

     Diana Marantadis: . . . Diana Marantadis.

     Frances Perez: And where do you reside, Diana?

     Diana Marantadis: 240 West 65th Street.

     Frances Perez: Okay, so . . . the first question we have here is: “What has changed the most since you have lived in Amsterdam Houses? And what has stayed the same? This is Diana.

     Diana Marantadis: Hello, this is Diana. In the beginning, I was there, I went over there, it was very beautiful. And the floors, everything was clean. We have, respect each other. But since my neighbor died, I have next-door, face me, a lot of noise; fights, filthy. And a lot of things. And I think, they make a lot of noise. I’m so afraid, sometimes, the way they fight because I don’t know what’s wrong with these people. They have no respect. They don’t clean . . . they go outside, with the rice, with the pots. Instead to put in the plastic bag, they go and, with the cooking pot and to the (inaudible), they just throw it out.

     Or sometimes, they throw, they fix and they start to run to my way . . . the other can think that I did it, but they know me very well because I lived in the building for a long time, and the rest of the neighbors, they know me. But nothing I can do about it. My house, I mean, my apartment started to have so many roaches, I never saw in my life.

     And so, disgusting. I tried to clean it and I spray everything, but I have no communication with these people. I’m sorry to say that.

     Frances Perez: So, a lot of things have changed – people moving out, moving in. And they don’t take care of the environment the way they should.

     Diana Marantadis: Exactly. And they have no respect for nothing. Lately, after 11 years ago, they started that, and I have a nightmare with these people I have next to me.

     Frances Perez: And you, Maria?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Maria Mercedes Perez. The good neighbors that we had all the time, and the few that have changed, is the way the housing is doing for us now – that we have to call downtown. But before, we have everything in the same place, like the . . . how you call them? The . . .

     Frances Perez: Say it in Spanish. Caretakers.

     Maria Mercedes Perez: The caretakers of the house. Maintenance, too. Many things have changed, a lot of them. It’s completely different, okay? That’s it.

     Frances Perez: Okay, so now we have: “What does this community mean to you?”

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Well, it means everything for me because I’ve been living here forever. Since 1957. So, it’s, forever I’ve been living . . . for me, it’s almost forever because I’m 93 years old, so . . .

     Frances Perez: And for you, Diana. What does the community mean to you?

     Diana Marantadis: Well, before the community was beautiful, you know? But now, since these people, they changed. Sometimes they’re walking in and out and we don’t even know who they are. We’re scared, sometimes. But I don’t know what to say. I’m very surprised, how this building come down.

     Frances Perez: The next question: “How many generations of family have lived in your home?” Like, for instance, with me, my mom – generations of family. Her daughter, my brother lived there too, many years. So it’s just really us, that have lived. This is Frances Perez talking, Maria Mercedes’ daughter.

     So, I’ve lived there all my life, as well as my brother has lived there for quite some time. And he has his own place, so I would say – us, two generations have lived there.

     Diana Marantadis: I living over there, since the building come, 1974. Me and my husband, and I have my daughter two years old. I was bringing my daughter downstairs to the center, to school; I was working and my husband, in the beginning . . . yeah, it was very good, but not anymore.

     My husband died now. I live alone with a little dog. My daughter got married and I forced her to leave; she didn’t want to leave me, because I become handicapped. But I told her, she got to do, she got to do her life too, because it’s not fair to her.

     She didn’t ask, this world, to brought here; I brought it, but it’s happened to be sick, and I don’t want, I want her to have her life. I appreciate when she help me, but I don’t want to do it; I don’t want her to be with me all the time, and we fight, when she wanted me to go with her. But I do not go with her because now I want her to stay with her husband, to be happy. That’s all.

     Frances Perez: “What is the favorite room or space in your home?”

     Diana Marantadis: Ah – my recliner and the TV. (laughs)

     Frances Perez: What is your, Maria Mercedes, what is your favorite room or space in your home?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: My rocking chair. (laughs) My TV. (laughs)

     Frances Perez: And for me, Frances – my couch. I could be a real good couch potato and I love my room, with my TV. I also love the kitchen, when I’m cooking something. Okay.

     Favorite object – we already discussed. “Name and talk about your favorite person at home or in the community.” Maria Mercedes?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: My favorite is my daughter that live with me, forever. And the community . . .

     Frances Perez: Okay, and so your favorite person is me. Why?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Because she’s my daughter; she’s everything for me.

     Frances Perez: I do everything for her.

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Yes. She does all the time. For me, telling me what I . . .

     Diana Marantadis: Tell them what she does . . .

     Maria Mercedes Perez: She dress me and she cook for me. She does everything for me. Take me to appointments and everything. Even to the beauty parlor, when I go, she goes with me. She takes me there.

     Frances Perez: And Diana, name your favorite person at home, or in the community? Do you have one? No? (laughs) Okay, no comment?

     Diana Marantadis: Only thing, my favorite, because she helped me. It’s one, her name, Kathy. And she, if I call her, she help me a lot.

     Frances Perez: That’s good.

     Diana Marantadis: Kathy. Because she’s, she don’t understand no Greek, but she understands me when I speak to her. She’s a very good person. She’s . . . I’m not the only one, she helps me. She helps the whole building. It don’t make no difference who they are. If anybody needs help, she is there. That’s . . . she’s our angel in 240 West.

     Frances Perez: That’s important. That’s very good. Okay, this next question says, “What do you hear when you wake up in the morning? How have the sounds of your neighborhood changed over the years?” Maria Mercedes?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: It hasn’t changed at all. It’s been nice and quiet all the time.

     Frances Perez: When you wake up first thing in the morning?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Yes.

     Frances Perez: Okay. And what about you, Diana?

     Diana Marantadis: For me, I don’t know what to tell you.

     Frances Perez: (laughs)  

     Diana Marantadis: I wake up with fear because these people where I live, they knock the doors so heavy, the door so heavy; sometimes I’m getting a heart attack, and I worry . . . the only thing, I forgot to explain to you guys. I live on the Third Floor, but where I live, it’s like . . .

     Frances Perez: It’s okay.

     Diana Marantadis: . . . connected with the Center.

     Frances Perez: Okay.

     Diana Marantadis: So, the building is so big – it’s 175 families and 27[?] floors. But the people they have now, they throw everything from their window.

     Frances Perez: Oh!

     Diana Marantadis: And they come in, all the way to the roof; you can hear bottles. You can’t even . . . they throw anything, everything, filthy. You can’t even open, sometimes, the window to take fresh air. It’s disgusted. I tell the whole truth and I don’t care, they can come and check it out.

     Frances Perez: Okay. This is Frances Perez; I’m Maria Mercedes’ daughter. And for me, what I hear in the morning now, I mean, we have a lot of construction. And like Diana said, because they’re doing a lot of construction, there’s a lot of garbage being thrown out. And it lands on that platform that we have surrounded . . . Amsterdam Houses is surrounded now by, what do they call it? It’s . . . the scaffolding, because of the construction.

     So, instead of helping to improve, there’s people that throw plenty of garbage out the window, anyway. But years back, they have changed. Years back, I would hear – when I was a child – I’d hear the kids playing. A lot of kids calling, “Mom!” out the window. Including myself. You know, as we played ball, we used to throw the ball against the wall.

     We played stickball. You could hear a lot of kids; that’s all I ever heard when I was growing up. But now, things have changed and the neighborhood has changed a lot. People come and go, and it was a nice neighborhood. I still love it, because I live there. But it has changed quite a bit, in the sense that people don’t seem to care sometimes about where they live and their surroundings.

     And this could be a wonderful community, and it’s a shame that a lot of people just don’t care about it. And I’ve been here all my life. I’m 56 years old; I was born in the projects and I’m still here, and taking care of my mom. And I really, I love it, regardless of all the changes. I heard that, now we hear the coffee guy, coffee cart in the morning. People ordering coffee. People calling their dogs, in the middle of the night sometimes. (laughs)

     I love it, and I wouldn’t leave it for anything, so . . . all right, let’s see what’s next. Here we go with the meals.
“Tell us about the meal you have made or someone has made most often in your home.”

     Again, this is Frances Perez. I’ve made something called empanadas. It’s like a meat patty. So I make the ground beef. I prepare it; beef and pork together. I season it. And I put it inside this flour tortilla that’s made to be . . . and then you fry it. And I enjoy that very much. I’ve learned a lot from my mom. She has trouble, now, cooking – so I’ve taken over. And I enjoy it. All these things I used to see her do, I’m doing them now. Rice and beans. And to me, it seems so complicated, but it’s not. It really isn’t. I like to make meatloaf. But my favorite is the empanadas, preparing the ground meat.  I love lasagna.

     Okay, Maria, what about you? What is your, tell us about the meal you’ve seen made, someone made; or that you’ve made most often.

     Diana Marantadis: Spaghetti.

     Frances Perez: She makes pastelles every Christmas. Now – oh, and we make a drink called “Coquito.” It’s with Overproof Rum and coconut milk, and other ingredients. And it is delicious and this is always done around the holidays. And with time, my mom is not able to make them as often as we used to – but every now and then we still have them, and that’s like a traditional meal that we have. Diana, so you . . .

     Diana Marantadis: Oh, yes. I remember, I used to have a neighbor, she was as Cuban lady, old lady but she was next to me. But she was a very beautiful person. Her name was Mercedes, and she used to cook Spanish food that she used to bring to me, and I used to make Greek dishes and I used to bring to her over there. I really, I enjoyed the culture, like she was making the boliche[?], and with the rice and beans and everything. And the chicken. And I used to make the Greek food for her; she was very fine with me because she never had Greek food because I used to cook good.

     My mother teach me, anyway and we always cook for my husband and my daughter. And I have the lady with me, and always, we served foods. And also, next door where I used to have, I used to have a black couple; they was good neighbors and also, her children, her grandchildren children, they would play with my daughter. And have a nice relationship.

     Frances Perez: That’s good.

     Diana Marantadis: And it was happy, what it was. And the whole floor was so good because we had another, another family in the same floor on A-3. And they have children over there. They always played with my daughter and also, on B line, 3-B, I had another one; Spanish couple. They were from Puerto Rico, San Juan – her name, Milagro. She had children, and they played with my daughter, and this and that.

     But after they had another child, they moved to the (inaudible) and they was very good people. I still have these people to see me and we talk.

     Frances Perez: That’s good.

     Diana Marantadis: Very good people, and also, my neighbor; her name, Blanca Munez. She’s, any time I fell down, I fell down in the house, and she has my phone number and I have her phone number. And I call her and I have, what do you call?

     Frances Perez: Oh, the bracelet, the Emergency Medical Bracelet?

     Diana Marantadis: The medical bracelet. And she come and open the door to the people, to come inside, to help me up. Because lately I was, I have some accidents but so far I’m, I’m okay.

     Frances Perez: That’s good. That’s good. Let’s see . . . okay this question, this is Frances and this next question is “What activities did you do in the neighborhood before Lincoln Center? Have your habits changed and how?”

     Diana Marantadis: Are you talking to me now?

     Frances Perez: I’m talking to everybody. (laughs) Here’s Diana.

     Diana Marantadis: Yes, I was working and my husband was working and I have only one daughter. And we put through to the school, after the kindergarten, to the, how you say that? How do you say that . . .

     Frances Perez: The center?

     Diana Marantadis: No, the school there, for the kindergarten.

     Frances Perez: Oh, pre-school or kindergarten?

     Diana Marantadis: No, the people . . . yeah, they have the children. And it’s working, picking up my daughter. Sometimes my mother used to take care of her or . . . and then, I started working and I started to work, in the middle of the second shift, my husband . . . he used to work. But that’s all, I lost my husband.

     Frances Perez: Right. What about you, Mom? Maria Mercedes, what activities did you do in the neighborhood before Lincoln Center? And have your habits changed afterwards? Or how?

     Speaker: What activities? I did nothing. I didn’t even work, because I took care of my children. That’s all.

     Frances Perez: She worked in . . . this is Frances Perez, her daughter. She worked in St. Paul’s as a teacher’s aide for a couple of years. And before Lincoln Center, well, we always, she always used to bring me outside to play with other kids from the neighborhood. We used to sit in the . . . well, before Lincoln Center, yeah, that was after.

     Before Lincoln Center, I wasn’t born. (laughs) Actually, so my mom really, like she said, she would just take care of my brother who was born first; and then, her habits changed afterwards. As a teacher’s aide and . . . nothing, that’s it.

I don’t know what else to say. Because before Lincoln Center, I wasn’t around, so . . . and for her, she would stay home. She was a stay-at-home mom, stay-at-home wife, taking care of the children. Keeping the house, apartment.

     She moved here when my brother was about two weeks old. And she was here when supposedly Eisenhower put down the first stone in Lincoln Center – which, she tells me about that story. She never went to see it; she wasn’t interested. But once Lincoln Center came about, well, sometimes we’d go and see some of the concerts, the free concerts they have. As the neighborhood changes, you develop different habits. You know, lots of changes. That’s all I can say.

     All right, next question: “What was your first impression of Lincoln Center? What did you hope for and what did you fear about what it would mean for the neighborhood?” So like, when you saw that Lincoln Center was being constructed, what did you think was going to happen, how it would affect . . . hold on, this is Maria Perez.

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Too many people around. All the time. Sometimes I went to see the concerts, sometime, but not always.

     Frances Perez: So your fear was – overcrowding. Okay. What about you, Diana?

     Diana Marantadis: I like the Center because after I, really, I was forced to retire; I used to go for the music, the summertime. I sit down in the park over there. But now it’s very difficult to go, for me.

     Frances Perez: I vaguely remember, I do remember like, when they were constructing it. But as a child, to me it was just another building going up, so I have no, I can’t really say anything about it. (laughs) But my mom, Maria Mercedes, she felt that it was going to overcrowd the neighborhood and . . . I don’t know, things would change.

     Let me see – the next one is, next question: “What has changed the most since you have lived in Amsterdam Houses? And what has stayed the same?”  What has changed the most in the projects – Maria Mercedes?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: All the good things we used to have, bodegas and things. You walk around to buy groceries – all gone. Everything gone. They build so many buildings around us, we don’t see nothing but walls. All cement, all the time.

     Frances Perez: This is Frances Perez. What has changed the most is – the security. I understand, as a child, each building – we had one police officer who used to check the buildings periodically. Larry.

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Larry.

     Frances Perez: Okay, we’re going back, as a child. He was a guard and you know, things were more calmer then. Now the safety has gone out of hand and people, they try, Amsterdam Houses, they try to create safety for us, with better doors and all that. But there’s people that really just don’t care. They want to get in, do whatever they have to do, and they will break whatever they have to, to get in. And it’s sad. It’s very sad because this could be a wonderful community, if people cared.

     There’s people who do not care and they cause . . . right, they’ve even installed cameras in the elevators in the buildings, for our safety. But you know, there’s still lots of things that are not very nice, going on. And what do you think, Diana, about this question? What has changed the most since you’ve lived in Amsterdam Houses? And what has stayed the same?

     Diana Marantadis: Well, everything changed. Everything changed, now. Even, we have one supermarket on 62nd Street. There’s no competition and they sell garbage, sometimes. So, nothing to go around and shop. You have to go and look in different places because the price is very high. It’s very high and everything. Because usually, they used to have little stores like Mercedes said, but they don’t have nothing anymore. It’s very difficult now because, especially with the people, they as old and they can’t get what they’re supposed to. They have to, they do have to depend to somebody. And that’s no good.

     Frances Perez: That’s true. Very true. Thank you. Let’s see, next question: “What does the community mean to you?” What does the community mean to you, Maria Mercedes?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: I don’t know.

     Frances Perez: That’s a tough question. Well, the community, it’s important to me. It’s my home. This is Frances Perez. The community is important to me. It’s my home. It’s where I grew up. I’m a part of it. I just know everything; I know what places to avoid and where I can walk freely and comfortably. (laughs) Diana? What does the community mean to you?

     Diana Marantadis: No comment.

     Frances Perez: Too much to say. It was good.

     Diana Marantadis: Two schools. We have LaGuardia High School; we have, what do you call, the . . . yes, and those children, the times they come out. They are walking like zombies; they don’t respect you. They (inaudible) to your feet. I don’t know, I don’t know; I’m surprised how they have to chase them just to go, to move.

     Frances Perez: Yes, to go home.

     Diana Marantadis: To go home.

     Frances Perez: The students.

     Diana Marantadis: Yeah, the men, they have to chase them to go home. This, down around in the front of the place, you can’t move there. They have no respect. Especially, this year, older person . . . with a scooter or a cane or something. They don’t care.

     Frances Perez: This is Frances. The community, to me, it’s my home. I love it. But there are, it’s . . . and I’d like to see it improve. There’s been a lot of high rises and fancy buildings all around us. It’s very crowded now, but I love where I live. It’s close to everything; it’s convenient. Just, the safety issue and that’s about it right now.

     “Why is public housing important to you?” (speaks in Spanish), Maria Mercedes. Why is public housing important to you?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: For me, it’s like more safe than any other place.

     Frances Perez: And for me, Frances Perez, it’s important to me because the, it’s, they are considerate with terms of rent control. It’s tough to live out there, all those other buildings around us are very expensive. The rent is like, sky-high. And at least with public housing, they give you, they go by your income and they make it a little less expensive than in other places that are outrageous.

     So, public housing is much more decent in terms of the rent. So that’s why that’s important for me. The next question is: “What do you need to improve this community?” (speaks in Spanish), Maria Mercedes?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: We need more policeman around. Also, we do have a little bit more – but more. And more maintenance men, because the elevators sometimes, they get stuck and we have to wait a long time before they come and fix it. And they fix it, but right away get bad again.

     Frances Perez: Diana? What do you need to improve this community?

     Diana Marantadis: What do we need? We need more people to . . . more clean people. You know, they are filthy. I don’t know what these people, where they come from. I don’t know what kind of education they come. Sometimes I wonder, where they come from. Because I never saw people in my life, like that. I came from another country too, an island – but these disgusting things, what I see, lately.

     Frances Perez: Right, right.

     Diana Marantadis: You know, you sit down, downstairs, maybe – maybe you can get a (inaudible) — they throw a lot of things out of the window.

     Frances Perez: It’s true. This is Frances. Now, what can we do to improve the community? Well, they need to scan better, or interview people more before they allow them to move in because, nobody’s perfect. But there’s people that really, like I said before, they don’t take care of the neighborhood. They don’t take care of the apartment.

     They are filthy. The elevators are filthy and they don’t try to keep this neighborhood clean. And then, I don’t want to say what exactly I’ve seen – but like, dog feces; nobody cleans up after their dog. And then, everybody gets blamed for it. Urine in the elevators. And they have cameras now, but it doesn’t seem to be helping.

     And we have . . . so they need to improve on, I guess, the tenants that they allow to live here. Like, before they let them move in, they need to scan, they need to interview them a lot better before they let them in; or monitor more how tenants and what they’re doing. So they’re going to need more personnel; and of course, everything is money and I know there’s never enough money to do everything.

     But I would hope that one day, this will change. And I think that’s it. Looking at the questions, and I think that. It sounds like we went through – “What brings you joy?” Ah, okay, here’s another question. Okay, we have one more question. This one: “What brings you joy?” (laughs) Maria Mercedes, what brings you joy?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: What brings me joy? I don’t remember.

     Frances Perez: What makes you happy?

     Diana Marantadis: Good people.

     Maria Mercedes Perez: When I’m eating. When I eat something I like, I’m happy. When I listen to music that I like, I’m happy. Very happy.

     Frances Perez: What about you, Diana, what brings you joy?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: When Mirka cleans our floor; it’s always shiny and clean.

     Frances Perez: Cleanliness. Food. Music. That brings you joy? Mirka. Mirka is the lady that cleans our building and she’s wonderful. How about you, Diana?

     Diana Marantadis: No comments, because she does it. But I have the pigs next to me, so they got (inaudible).

     Frances Perez: Okay, yeah. What brings me joy? My family. My home, my couch, my TV. Music. My dog. Life brings me joy. I think that’s it. Thank you.

     Speaker: It was great. Did everybody say their name?

     Frances Perez: I made sure I said their names beforehand.

     Speaker: And maybe, just how long you lived in Amsterdam Houses?

     Frances Perez: Frances Perez – I’ve lived here all my life; I’m 56 years old, so I was born in the projects. I’ve lived in the same apartment for like, 42 years. Maria Mercedes?

     Maria Mercedes Perez: I’ve been living here 61 years, already, in the projects. I’m 93.

     Frances Perez: And you, Diana?

     Diana Marantadis: Well, I’m living in this neighborhood at the time the building was built; this building, the high rise, they did it, the Amsterdam Addition, they built in 1974. The first time I came in with my baby and my husband, it was brand new. And I long time, and I see a lot of things change. And you know, it makes me sad, how fine this place, how nice it was. And now, what it becoming. I don’t know, I have no more words to explain to myself, to your people – because sometimes they don’t want to believe you. (laughs)

     They don’t come to live with you.

     Speaker: Right, they don’t see . . . okay, thank you.

     Frances Perez: Thank you, ladies, for taking the time to do this. I found it very interesting and I can’t wait to see how you interpret all these stories. Thank you.

     Maria Mercedes Perez: Thank you.

     Diana Marantadis: Thank you.

     Speaker: Okay.



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