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Debra Lamb, 57Current Owner, Education Administrator
Lives with: Her husband and daughter
Moved from: Bed-Stuy
My father grew up around the corner. My mother grew up around the corner. My parents are still living here, on Stuyvesant Avenue, which is where I grew up — five blocks away. After my father retired from being a principal, I believe in ’89, he decided to go into real estate. He’s owned many houses in the area. Currently, I think it’s down to six. He would buy, renovate, and sell, for the most part. They were investments, so he had tenants. My father bought this house off of the city auction in 1986. This was an abandoned house. It had been cinder-blocked shut. I remember breaking through in order to come in with a flashlight and saying, “Oh my God.” But I saw that it had good bones and character, and so we brought it back to life.
There have been enormous changes to the neighborhood in recent years. Houses that were once abandoned are now being renovated, and, of course, it’s becoming more diverse. We regularly hear from developers and people interested in buying our home. It is expected because of the interest in this community now. I’m okay with that. People have traditionally used homes as investments, including my father. Everyone wants stability, of course. But at the same time, this community is changing and growing.
Alexis Lamb, 21Current Tenant, Student at Hunter College
Lives with: Her parents
Moved from: Born on the block
This is the house I grew up in. Everybody knows me as Debra’s daughter, Alvin’s daughter. They’ve known me since I was a baby.
I like the area. I hate the fact that it’s kind of far from all of my friends because most of them live in Manhattan. Most of my close friends are from high school, and I went to school in Soho. Maybe five years ago my friends never wanted to come down here. They were like, “Oh, no, something bad is going to happen.” I’m just like, “It’s not like you’re going to die. I’m still here, I’m alive.” Then when they come down here, they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s not what I expected.”
I remember playing skully down the block. Kids used to come by my house all the time ringing the doorbell: “Hey, is Alexis home?” Because my dad would make sure I had all these things to play with, like a pogo stick and my bike and tons of Play-Doh and Legos. My best friend used to live across the street, and he’s in L.A. now. Now it’s more just older people here. There’s not much to do.
It’s totally becoming gentrified now, which is weird, but it’s comfortable. There’s a lot more diversity on this block now. I guess that makes it better? I see a lot of people interacting more. People are just sitting on their stoop, chilling, working on their plants, and it feels more like Park Slope, except for the fact that this is a lot more diverse than Park Slope. When I was younger, I just remember it being a lot more standoffish. I’ll walk my niece out sometimes now, and they’ll try to engage in a conversation. Most of the time when I was growing up, they’d just walk straight by, so I learned growing up: Okay, I’m going to walk straight by you.
It’s good because it’s easier just to hang out around here. I feel safer just walking around the neighborhood by myself. There’s more police. But then again, everything’s starting to become more expensive. There are a lot more stores that are more expensive than it should be for a low-income neighborhood. Like, I can go to this deli on Decatur that I’ve been going to for years and buy a half-gallon of milk for $2 something. But if I wanted to go to another store farther into Stuyvesant Heights, they’re selling soy milk now and almond milk, but it’s crazy expensive. If I wanted to buy a house here, it would be impossible. The parts that aren’t too expensive aren’t parts that I really want to live in. The city is looking pretty bleak right now for people moving in. I want to get out there and explore. Just to get away from Brooklyn for a bit, I just feel so … not trapped. But I know everyone and I know everything.
I wouldn’t want [my parents] to sell this house. I could go through this house blindfolded. So losing this house, I feel like I’d lose a part of myself. I remember playing with my little toy cars over there. Or climbing up the stairs and sliding down the banister. Or if there’s something broken in the house, I know exactly what year I broke it and why I broke it and how I got in trouble for it. I think they’re going to pass it on to one of us. Hopefully, that’ll be me. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know if I want to leave this neighborhood. I do want to leave, but I want to come back. Because I went to day care right up the street and I remember playing with my dad in the park over there and I want to show my kid “Oh, this is where I used to play. Go experience what I used to experience.”