Season of Our Discontent: The Squeeze

What worries connect Brooklyn on the eve of the election?

Illustration by Olivia Dillingham

Rent. Loss. Neighborhood. Safety. Assimilation. Isolation. Trump. Shootings. Immigrants. Newcomers. Yuppies. Foreign money. Home. Fear. Resignation. Change.

People are feeling the squeeze.

We asked 150 people across Brooklyn a single question: “What worry keeps you up at night?”

This is some of what they told us.

They also told us something else: that no one cares about them, about their actual worries and fears.

The worries, we learned, transcend neighborhood, generation, class, income, and race.

Welcome to the Season of Our Collective Discontent.


Money

Ismael Oviedo. Photo by Fiona Wang
“My biggest worry is economy. It is very hard to survive now, the business is changing and the rent is increasing.”—Ismael Oviedo, 29, pizza store owner (Bensonhurst)

“I can’t afford rent anymore. [… It costs] 2k, 3k […] and that’s my problem.”—Jorge Rivera, 59 (Bushwick)

“The problem is this is not work. We don’t have rights. […] Police come like I have a bomb in the car and move us.”—Wael El Deab, 28, food truck operator (Williamsburg)

“So let me put it this way — the wealthier the city becomes, the more money that comes in and less loyalty to the communities, the more exclusive the culture becomes.”—Ron (Prospect Heights)

“I worry about money. I worry about making it, saving it, keeping it, paying my bills. Also, if I had more money, would I be more worried? Would I actually want to do more? I want to be a writer right now. I end up writing 150-word paragraphs about bands I may or may not like that much and working five jobs. New York gives me a sense of ‘Oh, there’s so much going on and there’s so much culture, promise, and opportunity’ but at the same time, it’s like, what’s the payoff? I know for a fact that if I lived somewhere else I would have more money.” — Dianca Potts, 29, writer (Bed Stuy)

Life is difficult for me. [...] I don’t have a house. I don’t have a job.” — MD Azmul Haque, 43 (Williamsburg)

Bhushan Thorat. Photo by Caroline Koenigsfeldt
“I always worry if I lose my job, then I will have to go back to my country.” — Bhushan Thorat, 29 (Brooklyn Heights)

“They can sell all the condos they want on Imlay Street, but in 50 years this’ll all be underwater.” — Paul Mattick (Red Hook)

“The world is a fucked up place. It always has been and always will be. I’m just trying to carve my piece of pie out of it.” — Dimitri Kirichansky, coffee shop owner (Prospect Heights)

“I first graduated from BMTC. At first I wanted to go to Hunter, but that didn’t happen. […] It lowered my self-esteem.”—Maria Manzano, 21 (Crown Heights)

“I completed job interviews, but I’m still not getting the job. I answered all the questions. […] but they didn’t reply.”—Partha Majumder, 28 (Sunset Park)

“They want to pay you less and make you work more.”—Gilberto Mata, 45 (Sunset Park)


Neighbors

Peter Moulthrop. Photo by Alisha Steindecker
“I’m a bearded man who sells hats in Williamsburg. […] I’m a bit of a stereotype. People don’t take it seriously. They think it’s a joke.”—Peter Moulthrop, manager of Goorin Bros Hat Shop (Williamsburg)

“It sort of starts to feel like Soho and that’s not what I look to Brooklyn as.”—Alex Wyshosky, office manager & singer (DUMBO)

Noel DuMaurier: “Life used to be art. Now all we have to offer is technology”
Elizabeth DuMaurier: “It sounds like you’re saying there’s no collective vision for progress.”

Culture is being killed” — Two Prospect Heights residents/performing artists on the state of music in Brooklyn:

Audio by Olivia Dillingham
Video by Fiona Wang

“No matter how much I enjoy staying here, it is not my home.”—Nick Zheng, 23 (Sunset Park)


Trump

Jack Strauss. Video by Fiona Wang

“I don’t care who’s gonna be the president. I don’t trust politicians because they never keep they promises anyway. All I care about is my children getting the best education and going to the best colleges.” — Ray Wu, 40 (Bensonhurst)

“I’m worried that my food stamps and Medicare would be taken away when Trump becomes the president, because he is rich and powerful, and he does not care about the poor.” — Rose Mire, 73 (Bensonhurst)

“Very important, a leader must be trusted around the world. I voted for Bernie in the primary but now, I went all the way 180, I’m voting for Donald Trump. Yes, I am voting for Donald Trump for the reason I need safety.” — Zelig Weissman, Orthodox Jewish construction worker (Williamsburg)

Robert. Photo by Sana Ali
I hope Trump wins. Hillary is no good, she lies. […] What do you need her for? I like that he would be President, give you jobs and all that.” — Robert, 52 (Williamsburg)

Family

John Walden. Video by Nadeem Shad
“Sometimes parents don’t let kids go outside because there are shootings on [the] blocks.”—John Walden, 12 (Crown Heights)

Nobody is leaving because they want to. They have to because they have children, big families, they have to move wherever is economical.”—Zelig Weissman, Orthodox Jewish construction worker (Williamsburg)

“Being a mom, it’s really hard knowing you have to leave every day and go to work and leave them by themselves to struggle with the world until you get home, you know it’s really tough. So I worry about them ALL the time, like, and also keeping a roof over their head and making sure they have food to eat, and just going in the right direction.”—a mother in Prospect Heights

Timothy Davis. Photo by Nadeem Shad
“I’m worried about the children, things are different for them growing up now” — Timothy Davis, 38 (Crown Heights)

“I’m worried just about my children, tomorrow isn’t a given, it is a gift. […] I can’t afford to live here anymore. I work for the city, I don’t own it.” — Wendy, 55 (Williamsburg)

“I’ve been here since I was two years old. Here the rent is too expensive and they keep pushing people out. I had a studio on Wilson, paying $1500 and I’m not a married man. I had to go live with my grandson and my daughter. I help her with rent.” — [Translated from Spanish] Jorge Rivera, 59 (Bushwick)

“Public elementary schools have low-testing grades, which are forcing parents to pull kids out of public school and put them into charter schools which are ranking higher than the public schools.”—Robin Henley, 24 (Bed Stuy)

Nick Marrone, 25: “I think some people are scared to think about those kinds of things. They think things are good enough for them and do not do anything.
Scott Fitzpatrick, 23: “They are like, ‘I’m good, so…’”

“You probably want to hear about social concerns, but honestly all I can think of is my daughter-in-law who has just been diagnosed with cancer.”—Rosa (Brooklyn Heights)

The economic way our country is going towards socialism. I’m not worried about the upcoming election, but more the general trends of the population. But I will be dead by the time it happens — so what the heck.”—Jeff Laudon, 62 (Brooklyn Heights)


How our conversation begins…

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