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A Tale of Two Cities: Bronx Family Lives Out American Dream Despite Odds

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Home-ownership is the American Dream. In the third installment of our series "A Tale of Two Cities," NY1's Erin Clarke introduces us to a family successfully living out that dream in a part of the borough with a troubled past—a place where many still don't believe it's possible.

Luis Rodriguez grew up in the Bronx of the 70s—when it was burning.

"It was tough times. There was, you know the streets were always, there was always fighting. [[butt]] We had abandoned buildings. We had everything, empty lots," says Rodriguez.

Despite that, he chose to stay, buying this house on 159th Street in Melrose.

Luis, his wife, Carmen, and their four children live here.

They're a family who is part of the new Bronx—a borough going through a revitalization with the help of development and investment, especially in places like the South Bronx.

"I like the Bronx and I like how everything is looking," says Carmen Rodriguez.

"I don't see why there's a lot of negativity in the Bronx, because um, honestly, like, every time I'm outside, sometimes I'm outside late and nothing at all happens to me. I come home safe," says Luis' son, Brandon.

But don't be fooled, life isn't a cake walk for the Rodriguezes.

Before they moved into the house seven years ago Luis, Carmen and baby Brandon lived in a tiny apartment.

"In our bedroom, there was only a queen sized bed and Brandon's crib. That's it. And once you stepped inside, you had to step on top of the bed—there was no more space."

They upgraded, but a one bedroom wasn't enough for the growing family.
So when the opportunity for this home presented itself, the Rodriguezes did everything in their power to get it.

"I work as a doorman, so I took a second job for the summer as a doorman as well. So I used to work four to twelve, so on the other job, I used to work from like, maybe, six til maybe three. I didn't have a day off," Luis Rodriquez says.

Carmen wasn't working at the time, but the couple managed to pull together $10,000 to purchase the $450,000 three-floor home.

Now Carmen has a job as a medical receptionist, making $14 an hour.

Luis is back to working one job at $22 an hour and they're on top of their $2,300 a month mortgage, but they need help.

"We also have a second apartment in the house, which is we rent," Carmen Rodriguez says. "You have to have a income coming in that it has nothing to do with your job. Why? Because it happened—I lost my job once before and that at least covers what is not coming in."

With a lot of hard work and sacrifice, the Rodriguezes are making it happen.

None of the kids work to help out.

Mom and Dad won't allow it.

"They're full time students. They work very hard, so I don't push them too much about the job situation," Carmen Rodriguez says.

Education, Carmen says, is most important.

She's even taking phlebotomy classes now—another expense, but one this family knows is well worth it to ultimately live the American Dream. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP