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This is Billy

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Billy is originally from Rhode Island and came to New York City 58 years ago because he loved New York and wanted the excitement of the city life.  He has been retired for 15 years.  He worked in the field of homeopathic medicine promoting natural remedies for ten years.  Before that, he worked for non-profit organizations - food pantries and soup kitchens -for the poor and the homeless.

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Billy said that the threat of eviction was so upsetting that it triggered a heart attack and ultimately, open heart surgery.  He spoke at length about the out of pocket medical expenses he incurred as a result.

Clearly, Billy is an old-time New Yorker.  He liked the old New York City when it was grimy and rough.  He said back then, he knew all his neighbors. Now, he only knows one or two.  He said he has lived on the Upper West Side  long before it was gentrified, back in the day when everyone smoked in their homes and no one complained.

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It was a cold and windy January day in New York City and with the encouragement of my wife, I took my camera and went for a walk on the Upper West Side.

After an hour and a half of walking around and two refusals to be interviewed, I decided to pack it in.  And then, as I was crossing 63rd Street on Amsterdam Avenue, I saw a man walking his bicycle towards me.  I smiled and he smiled back.  I told him what I was doing- photographing and blogging, and would he have a few minutes to talk.  Did he ever!

Billy is 73 years old and married.  His wife, aged 80, is originally from Germany.  Billy stated that she has lived in New York City for 63 years so she is a true New Yorker.  They have a daughter who lives in Los Angles and two grandchildren that he boastfully said are both taller than him.  He said it is amazing how fast they grow up.  They are both in college.

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Billy and his wife have lived in the same apartment on West 78th Street for 58 years.  It is a rent-stabilized apartment and Billy has been very upset. He has been having problems with his landlord.  He received several eviction notices as other tenants have complained about the smell of smoke coming from his apartment.  He was vague about whether he smokes in the apartment or not.  He clearly neglected that part of the story.  He contacted the Mayor's office several times which he stated was supportive of his right to remain in his apartment.

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Billy rides his bicycle every day no matter what the weather.  He uses his bike to go to the recycle center to turn in the bottles and cans he collects.  He still had the cans with him in a black plastic bag because he forgot it was Sunday and the center was closed.  But, he still enjoyed the chance to get out and get a smoke as if this was the New York City of old.