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Rachel 'El Bloombito' Figueroa-Levin: Un babyador en a cuatro floor walk up es muy exhaustido

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Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a stay-at-home mom, Inwood loyalist, founder of the Inwood neighborhood blog, In The Wood NYC (www.IntheWoodnyc.com) and the creator of @ElBloombito, an overnight Twitter sensation born during Hurricane Irene to poke fun at Mayor Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking attempts during news conferences. El Bloombito attracted 21,000 Twitter followers and spawned a book deal in less than a week.

The daughter of an Eastern European Jewish mother and Puerto Rican father, Figueroa-Levin knows her Spanglish and continues to delight the Twitterverse with snarky El Bloombito-isms such as: “Los subways y los busses que running muy slow este weekend. That's whyo no estoy around. Stucko on el tren.” Excerpts from her recent interview with BrickUnderground follow.

I’m sure your newfound fame is a bit weird, but aside from that, what is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you living in NYC?

The strangest thing that has ever happened to me in NYC is meeting my husband on the subway.

I got on the 1 train on the Staten Island Ferry stop and was heading uptown to meet a date. My (eventual) husband got on at 23rd St. and we sort of kept looking at each other. I was having a conversation with another total stranger because I was reading the newspaper over his shoulder; I am one of those people. My seat mate was reading the sports section and turned out to be a Yankee fan which is terrible. Go Mets!

While I was verbally sparring with the guy, my husband, who was sitting across from us, motioned, asking me if I had a pen. It was apparent he was going to ask for my number so before I handed him the pen I asked him if he was Jewish. I had to be quick as I only had three stops to go.

Two weeks later I moved in with him on the Upper West Side.

Wow! You are quick!

Yes! He had given me his number on back of business card so I knew he was a Jew and had job. Win-win! We eloped a year later at Centre Street and had a Jewish ceremony a year later at the Staten Island Zoo.  

So why did you move to Inwood? 

My husband had a studio so we were looking for a bigger place. We checked out tons of neighborhoods---Roosevelt Island, Downtown Manhattan, and even Bay Ridge. But my grandfather grew up in Inwood and we loved it there.

The green space is amazing. We live between two parks. 

Our first Inwood rental ($1500/mo), a two-bedroom we found through a broker, was east of Broadway. But we broke the lease because the landlord was a real slumlord. There was never heat or hot water and I took to calling 311 daily.

Finally we got the 750 square foot two-bedroom we are currently living in through an agent. I thought having a fourth floor walkup was so awesome and European until I got pregnant. Now that I have a child, it is even less awesome.

My husband tweeted about this very topic the other day: 

"Exercise regimen: live on 4th floor walk-up. Have dog. Walk dog. Have baby. Use baby carrier. Walk both. Gradually increase weight of baby."

We are currently packing to move. 

I saw on Twitter that you may be buying an apartment. 

A. With the way our neighborhood is going, if we don’t buy soon we won't be able to afford living here and we don’t want to get priced out.  

When I was pregnant I took my dog, Cecil, to Isham Park. One of the other dog owners mentioned to me he was moving upstate and selling his apartment. The first time my husband and I looked at it I was eight months pregnant and was reticent about making any big moves.   It sat on the market for six months and the seller even switched brokers. 

When my daughter was five months old the seller re-contacted us to relay the price had gone down $20K which is a great price for two bedroom, 1100 sq. ft with an elevator, community roof deck and concierge. (My mother likes saying that word to people.)

Fancy schmancy! Aside from this apartment, if you could own anything, what would your dream home be? 

Have you heard of the giant townhouse with the swimming pool in living room in Chelsea?  That with a backyard in Inwood. I saw a picture of it and wanted to win the lottery. 

What’s your favorite neighborhood and why?

Inwood. That’s why I live here! Even if I had to live in a closet I would to live in the area I love best.

It is experiencing a renewal. Crime is going down—it is safer than 10 years ago. There are lots of new families so it is full of babies. There are many cultural events and has a small town feel.  

Do you think it’ll be the next Park Slope?

The next Astoria. 

As a new mom, how is it raising a child in the city? Drawbacks? Advantages? What are some of your favorite child-friendly places? 

I see no drawbacks. We have parks and playgrounds. I don’t have to mow a lawn! I can get all the benefits of outdoor space without the maintenance. I can walk into any restaurant and they have a high chair.  

The Piper’s Kilt is a bar on Broadway and they have high chairs that hook onto table! When my daughter was nine days old I took her to another bar called Irish Eyes for a neighborhood Twitter meetup. There are no sideways glances even when I bring the baby into a dive bar. 

Tell me a bit about your blog about Inwood, In the Wood NYC.

I started it because a friend had a blog called Manhattan’s Peak but she had twins and life intervened so she gradually stopped blogging. She encouraged me to start up an Inwood blog. I mostly write about happenings and events in the area and occasionally do restaurant reviews. 

You are getting much notice for your comedic postings via Twitter. What is the funniest thing about NYC? 

The funniest thing about NYC is the people. You never know what you are going to get. They can appear normal and average and 30 seconds into the conversation you realize they are fucking nuts. Or you can meet the most cracked out-looking person and it turns out they have a Ph.D and are a stockbroker. Never judge the book by its cover in NYC. 

You have an alter ego too. Mild-mannered Jewish mom turns into cyber-personality, El Bloombito. How did El Bloombito come about?  

I started El Bloombito Saturday night—the night Hurricane Irene began. I, like everyone else that lives in NYC who is on Twitter, was watching the Mayor on the news. When he began speaking Spanish, it was like a simultaneous Twitter-wide LOL.

I said on my personal twitter (@jewyorican) which mostly only friends follow, that I’m going to call him El Bloombito. I took it further---I tend to take things too far---and started El Bloombito to entertain my few friends on Twitter.

I had 5,000 followers by the next day. In one week I had 21,000.

That week the NY Observer interviewed me and the next day I had 500 messages, four of which were from book agents. I now have a book agent who I chose because she lives in Inwood. She spoke my same snarky language. I’m going to write a book in Spanglish. 

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