Due Diligence

Orange is the New Black's Jessica Pimentel has seen gentrification first hand and feels priced out of Carroll Gardens

By Julie Inzanti | January 8, 2016 - 9:59AM

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn native Jessica Pimentel  has become known for her role as Maria Ruiz  (the pregnant one from season one) on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.

The actress and heavy metal/hardcore musician recently moved into a garden apartment in Red Hook from Gowanus (after a 700-unit condo went up across the street from her old apartment).

Pimentel took a break from filming season four of her series (for which she won a SAG ensemble award) to talk about her new apartment, her first-hand view of gentrification and more.

1.  What neighborhood do you live in?

Red Hook, Brooklyn.

2. Is this your dream neighborhood or is there someplace else in NYC you’d prefer to settle in?

I lived on the border of Gowanus and Carroll Gardens from July 2010 through July 2015. It was two blocks from the train, four stops to Manhattan with great shopping, restaurants, and convenience stores all around. It was a great place to live, but honestly I have been priced out of that area.

I grew up in Cobble Hill and moved out when I was 18 and lived in Astoria, Williamsburg, East New York, and Bushwick. I was very happy to be back near the Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens area and that area will always feel like home to me, but the fact is, rent there has almost quadrupled in my lifetime and it is overcrowded. Walking down the street on a Saturday afternoon is war and traffic has become unbearable all day long.

3. Do you own or rent?


4. How’d you find it?

I used a combination of apps/sites (Streeteasy, Hotpads, Trulia, Zillow) and word of mouth, and found a place in Red Hook.

5. What’s the one thing you love the most about it?

I never ever thought I’d ever have a backyard. I have my morning coffee and night tea out there. It’s very peaceful and quiet in general.

6. If there’s one thing you could change about your apartment, what would it be?

I wish the rooms were just a little wider, or I wish I had one more room. Downsizing is quite a shock to the system when you realize how much junk you have, although I am happy to donate much of what I have. I’d like the space for a separate office/music area.

7. In three words, describe the first apartment you've ever lived in.

 (I grew up in a) big railroad apartment.

8. Do you prefer old NYC or this NYC?

Each has its pluses and minuses. I really feel the biggest impact in the music community. It seems like there is only a fraction of the venues there once were. Although, I don't miss the danger of old New York, I do miss the grit, attitude, and flavor of old New York. It’s still in some of us but New York is a new animal now that caters more to people who are not from here who don't plan on staying here. It’s becoming this homogenized, gentrified cookie-cutter place. Gentrifiers come into an area and wipe out all the very reasons they were drawn to it; the look, the culture, the feel of the neighborhood gets lost.

9. Tell us about the favorite apartment you’ve ever had.

My favorite apartment I ever had was not in NYC. It was a short-term place in Seattle, Washington while I was doing a play at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. It was the first time I learned what an impact a great view can have. On one side I had the Space Needle. On the other, mountains and the water and a balcony to enjoy both views. It was an open layout with a walk-in closet in the separate bedroom, a monster size bathroom and washer and dryer and dishwasher. Boy was I spoiled!

But my favorite place in NYC was a super-industrial loft I lived in over the Fink bread factory in Williamsburg (at North 1st and Bedford). It had two windows. It was 1,000 degrees in the summer and freezing in the winter (after baking hours) but it was huge! Totally tough in every way including walls that were put up and concrete floors, but because the area was still industrial we were able to have band practice (my room had a stage), dance and play rehearsal and have some crazy parties.

And I got to watch as Williamsburg went from the wild west to chic town.Then the landlord quintupled the rent (we were there with no lease in an industrial space). I think it's a bar and something that makes artisanal products now.

10. And the worst?

A basement apartment share in Astoria where everything flooded every time it rained. I didn’t have a proper room, just a curtained-off hallway with a mattress in it.

11. Name one NYC service you couldn’t live without.

The joke is that New Yorkers don’t drive, right? So no MTA would be a horror.

12. What's your favorite spot in the city?

I have always loved the Brooklyn Promenade. A great place to admire the city and collect your thoughts... plus it's a beautiful historical walk on the way there.

13. Which would you rather: Brooklyn brownstone or a penthouse in a shiny, new condo?

I think it all depends on  the location. I think these condos are going up too fast and furious. Yes, it's nice to have everything shiny and new, but I see a lot of these places have very thin walls and small bedrooms.

I have very weird hours so sleep and quiet are very important. I love the look of old brownstones and for the most part you can change the insides to suit your needs. I am happy that there are still so many standing but I worry that that may not be the case much longer and New York will start looking like every place else.

14. If you could live elsewhere, where would it be?

I don't think I want to, although, I have been splitting time between New York and Stockholm for personal reasons. I don’t see any other place in the U.S. as my primary home base. But of course, given my job as an actress you have to be open to traveling and moving.

15. Any advice for a recent New York transplant?

Be careful with your money. New York has an overwhelmingly huge number of places to go and things to do and money goes fast! I just moved into a new area and have been spending too much because I want to get to know it all.

Walk! I have lived here my whole life and every day I find something new because I tend to walk several miles a day. This city has more secret gems than you could ever imagine.

Learn the subway map. Seriously. There are many times when you'll have to find an alternate route quickly...in a place your phone won’t work.


American Ballet Theatre's Stella Abrera thinks her Hell's Kitchen building's garden is on point and misses "old" NYC

Nom Wah's Wilson Tang on winning the affordable housing lottery, the best LES eateries, and more

Million Dollar Listing's Fredrik Eklund on why he loves his apartment—but is scared to ever open the windows



Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.