Meet the Residents of MacDonough Street

Photo: Francis Agyapong for New York Magazine

My grandfather's parents didn't own a home. So I think owning this house was a big deal to him.

—Christina Williams

Christina WilliamsCurrent Owner

History: Bought by her grandparents in 1936. Christina and her mother moved in around 1997, to care for her aging grandmother, and stayed; Christina’s mother died three years ago.

My grandfather had lived in Harlem, and his family was Caribbean. My grandmother was from Texas. My granddad worked for an insurance firm — these are my mom’s parents. I didn’t really grow up with my dad. My mom was born in this house, and I was born here, too — well, in a hospital nearby, but I lived here when I was little. My mom went to Central Needle Trades High School. After that, she worked in a bookbinding factory. 

Not too long after I was born, we moved onto Jefferson Avenue, which was about five blocks down, and then we lived on Putnam Avenue for 20 years. This block was always special because my grandparents were here. I would visit them maybe once a week, sometimes more. I knew everybody on the block, and everyone knew me.

Even though I say “grandparents,” it was really all about my grandfather. He was a wonderful person, a decent, wonderful human being. Like they don’t make anymore. He’d lost his sight at some point, so I would come over and read for him. He was very religious, so we would mostly do Bible stories. That, or history, or his mail. I was young when that started — I’m gonna say third grade. I would struggle. I would spell out a lot of words. I remember that. My grandfather had an extensive library, and he’d always said when he retired, that he would read. But unfortunately he never got that chance.

He passed away in ’78. And then it was just grandma here. When she wasn’t able to take care of herself any longer, my mom and me moved in, maybe 18 years ago. It felt like home right away. But I have to say, I don’t know a lot of people on the block now. When I came back to live, a lot of time had passed.

Grandma died about 16 years ago, and me and my mother lived together pretty much the same as we did on Putnam Avenue. She was upstairs and I stayed downstairs. We would always have meals together, though not in a formal way.

Before she passed away, about three years ago, I spent a lot of time with my mother. Now I keep to myself for the most part. My mother was very nosy — she knew everything. She was a great source of news! But she would get herself into trouble, gossip too much. I know people got mad at her. It was embarrassing — that was a good lesson for me.

My grandfather’s parents didn’t own a home. They were immigrants and they lived in apartments. So I think owning this house was a big deal to him. It represented him as person — that he had a home of his own to provide for his children. I’ll probably be here forever. I don’t think I could ever sell it. I’d feel like I was giving up on his dream.