Emily Martinez, far left, with her daughter and boyfriend.

Faces of Hunts Point: Essential workers

Emily Martinez returned to work in March when much of New York City was still shut down. She’s a practice manager at Mt. Sinai hospital—an essential worker.

She said the city felt different, felt weird. The streets were empty, and she started to miss the noisy teenagers who were once on the train.

“It’s New York,” she said, “People are usually out and about.”

Everyone was at home, including Martinez’s family and roommates.

Martinez has shared a two-bedroom apartment in Hunts Point with friend Raquel Lodestro and their respective boyfriends and children for the last four years.

Martinez, her 13-year-old daughter and her boyfriend sleep in one bedroom. Lodestro, her 10-year-old son and her then-boyfriend slept in the other. 

The kids were working on school remotely from home. Martinez’s boyfriend and Lodestro had both lost work and spent more time at the apartment too.

But Martinez had to work. Her family joked that her commute was a mission into zombie-infested territory.

The trips scared her. She was worried about spreading the virus to the apartment. She even changed her clothes just before leaving work, and diligently dropped them in a hamper and washed her hands when she got home.

But it was Lodestro who caught the virus in April, or so they believe. They were turned away from testing sites and were never able to confirm their suspicions, but the heavy feeling and pain in her legs made them believe it was more than just the flu.

Lodestro suspects she got it from someone at the supermarket since she hadn’t been working at the time. She quarantined in her bedroom for 10 days. The rest of the group rearranged the apartment—Martinez and the kids in one bedroom. The men took the couch and an air mattress in the living room.

They didn’t have the money for another setup.

They wore goggles, gloves and masks, and brought Lodestro meals with plastic dishes and cutlery they could throw away. They Facetimed her from the other room so they could eat together, but isolated.

Lodestro didn’t have severe symptoms and life went back to normal.

Martinez describes 2020 as the year of gratitude and resilience.

She’s thankful for “the good people in [her] orbit”—her family, coworkers, boyfriend and roommates.

And as the daughter of Honduran immigrants, Martinez said she knows how to make do. She described herself as quick on her feet.

“Emily, this is showing you resilience,” she recalled thinking in difficult moments. “Back against the wall, it’s time to get creative.”