The Stonewall Inn has officially been designated as the first national monument dedicated to the history of LGBTQ Americans. What began as yet another police raid on a queer safe space turned into a three-day protest sparking the gay rights movement. And who led the protests? Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan heritage. Rivera began dressing in drag in 1961 and lived on the streets. It was at The Stonewall Inn that she and so many other LGBTQ Americans in New York in the 1960s sought refuge.
Bar patrons fought back against the police offiers who threatened to raid the bar and arrest everyone present. When Rivera saw the commotion, she knew this was the time for a revolution. In her own words, she threw the second molotov cocktail that lit the fire, literally and figuratively, of the gay rights movement nationwide
“I’m not missing a a minute of this,” Rivera told her lover that night, according to “The New York Times.” “It’s a revolution.”
History and a recent movie have tried whitewashing the contributions of LGBTQ people of color made at the start of the gay rights movement. In fact, there were calls for a boycott of “Stonewall,” the movie that claimed to be a portrayal of the Stonewall riots, but erased key black and Latino trans activists who started the fight. Today, all the people involved, including Sylvia Rivera, are remembered as starting the movement almost 50 years ago that continues today. That’s LGBTQ history. That’s our history.
Television shows like Friends and Sex and the City lead you to believe that every NYC apartment is spacious and affordable, equipped with plenty of space on an affordable price tag. Unfortunately, the reality is a bit harsher. Between landlords’ strict rental qualifications, exorbitant broker fees, and sky-high rental prices, your apartment options are pretty narrow in the end. Usually, by the time you find an apartment that’s within your budget range, you’re left with a group of apartments that are affectionately called “cozy” (i.e. shoe-boxes). But not to despair! There are plenty of shoe-box apartments in New York City that are both highly livable and adorable.
Still, if you’re one of the thousands of people that move to New York City each year from small towns, the reality of small-apartment life in the big city can nonetheless be jarring. The things you’ve taken for granted in your rural-America homes can now seem like downright luxuries. So, in order to soften the blow, we’ve compiled a list of all of the things you shouldn’t expect to see in a small New York City apartment. Take a look below for a friendly reality-check! It might make all the difference.
1. A Dishwasher
You’d be hard-pressed to find a small apartment anywhere in New York City in which the kitchen was equipped with a dishwasher. If you’re planning to live in the Big Apple on a budget, you better get used to cleaning those dirty dishes the old fashioned way: with a bit of elbow grease.
2. A Closet
Some newbies are shocked when they start apartment-hunting in the City That Never Sleeps and they discover that a chunk of smaller apartments don’t even have closets. On the bright side, if you do opt for a closet-less apartment, you can use it as an opportunity to use your clothes as decor. Just make sure your clothes are worthy of being displayed…
3. Counter Space
If you’re a cooking enthusiast and you’re looking to rent a small apartment in New York City, be warned: it is a rarity to find a kitchen with plenty of counter space. A lot of small NYC kitchens have two tiny slabs of counter space on either side of the sink. It’s a pain in the butt, and many people avoid cooking and relying on feeding themselves through takeout and TV dinners. Welcome to the New York way of life!
There are a ton of smaller apartment buildings in New York City that don’t have elevators. At all. This is especially unfortunate for handicapped apartment-hunters who are forced to constrain their search to buildings with the proper accommodations. It’s unfair, to say the least.
5. Outdoor Space
Yes, we’ve all dreamed of having our very own apartment with an adorable veranda where we can entertain friends and look at the stars, but the reality is a bit bleaker than that. If your budget is restricting you to a tiny NYC apartment, you’re likely not going to have a cute little balcony. You’ll be lucky if you can swing a window or two!
If you’re used to winding down at the end of the day by soaking in the tub, the apartment prospects in the Empire City might be a bit jarring for you. Many (if not most) small bathrooms in New York City offer shower-only options.
7. Plenty of Outlets
If you’re renting a super-small apartment in NYC, chances are, the building is old. And old buildings are notoriously short on outlets. You’ll likely be forced to buy extension chords and power strips.
9. A Bedroom
Yep, you read that correctly. There may be space to put a bed, but there probably won’t be a dedicated room for a bed. Studio apartments are much cheaper and cost-effective housing solution for bargain-hunters.
10. A Dining Area
If you’re planning on renting a small apartment in New York City, say goodbye to the dream of hosting grown-up dinner parties for your cosmopolitan friends. Small apartments in the city have little-to-no room for dining. In fact, most tiny-apartment-dwellers probably eat on their couch (or, more realistically, their futon).
11. A Washer and Dryer
If you currently live in New York City, you know that having a washer and dryer in unit is pretty much a pipe dream. Heck, having a washer and dryer in the apartment building is even a luxury! Many people are forced to slog to the lavanderia to do their laundry with everyone else. What can we say? It’s a jungle out there.
Four years ago, Lesly Herrera Castillo and Joselyn Mendoza both had a vision to create a worker-owned makeup and hair salon for the trans Latino community in Jackson Heights, New York. It was ambitious and for them, it was necessary. For years, the duo faced racial and gender discrimination from employers. Their own community, Jackson Heights, was also becoming a problem as the area became the site of multiple anti-trans hate crimes in recent years. So they came together with a plan to open Mirror Beauty Cooperative in 2015.
The beauty shop would create numerous jobs for the local trans community but more importantly assist undocumented individuals who were denied opportunities due to their legal status. So Castillo and Mendoza made the important decision to register the business as a cooperative cooperation (co-op). This was done so the salon would basically be “worker-run” and there would be no need for things like social security numbers, an obstacle many undocumented workers face when applying to jobs. Instead, the salon will use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).
“The significance of the cooperative for me is that it’s an opportunity to create more jobs and make a space that’s free of discrimination,” Mendoza told the HuffPost. “As trans women, we don’t often have access to a healthy economy, and this allows us to change that and obtain other services like health care.”
While their idea started four years ago, the duo hasn’t yet obtained a physical space to open up the salon. But they hope with enough support this vision can become a reality.
While both Castillo and Mendoza haven’t opened up a physical salon space, they are both continuing to work in other salons as they continue to save and plan for the Mirror Beauty Cooperative. This past May they began to reach out to more people to help fund their goal through aGoFundMe Campaign. The results of the campaign fund have been less than 1 percent of their $150,000 goal. The duo has also faced other socioeconomic setbacks like lack of traditional education and the economic instability due to their immigrant background.
“Latina trans women always have multiple obstacles in the way,” Mendoza said. “I think if a collective of white trans women were to start a project like this, their incubation process would be faster than ours because of their historical access to privilege.”
But Herrera notes that the white trans community is still an ally to them even though they are on different economic levels. “We can always depend on the white trans community” to offer support “because they know they’re on a better [economic] level.”
For the trans, gender-queer and nonbinary community, job discrimination has been a reoccurring issue. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 16 percent of gender-queer and nonbinary respondents who had held jobs reported having been fired for their gender identity or expression. But for trans women and trans people of color, they were the most likely to have gone through this.
While the salon is still in progress, Castillo and Mendoza have become a presence in their own neighborhood uplifting and bringing attention to the trans Latino community.
As of now, the duo has a secret backup plan in case they don’t meet their fundraising goals by the end of the year. They hope that the campaign does one thing though, create and share their broader call for building community with people.
That has already started to take place as Castillo, Hernandez and their new partner, Jonahi Rosa have all become presences in Jackson Heights advocating for the trans community. The trio even participated in the Queens Pride Parade as co-grand marshals. This has also included various charity events for local LGTBQ+ youth.
They all feel that the salon has the potential to bring people together and spread awareness about issues that affect their lives every day. From the start, the trio has always wanted to not only create a space for the trans community but give them an opportunity.
“We want to work, [and] we want to give agency to our community,” Rosa said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for our community to come together and make something for our future.”