“I’ve seen a ton of new buildings that weren’t there before. There are constantly new stores, new neighbors that I don’t recognize,” she said. “It’s hurtful and makes you feel unwelcome.”
As a result of all of the change, rents in her community have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, incomes have remained largely stagnant, putting a burden on longtime residents trying to stay in their homes.
For Rodriguez, a senior at Williamsburg Charter High School in Bushwick, that means north Brooklyn neighborhoods are losing not just their people, but their culture.
“I’ve seen my own dad’s business being closed down in Bushwick,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of family members having to move or find ways to pay rent, like getting more jobs, because they don’t have the money.”
Last summer, Rodriguez signed up for the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. She was placed with Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH), a community organization that connects congregants and neighbors to housing, tenants rights and immigration campaigns.
“I basically fell in love with it,” Rodriguez said. “It was the best thing that happened to me.
“I’ve always cared about social issues, but I never got to really do anything like involve myself,” she added. “This really helped me become extremely involved in something I wanted to do my whole life.”
Rodriguez has not only attended multiple housing and tenants rights rallies, but spoken about her experience growing up in Williamsburg.
As part of a subset group called CUFFH Youth, she meets regularly with the organization to continue learning and advocating. She believes the organization has made a big and positive impact.
“I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life,” Rodriguez said.