Elizabeth Figueroa creates a winter wonderland in hallway of Penn-Wortman Houses in East New York
NEW YORK - For more than 40 years, a Brooklyn woman has brightened her East New York hallway for the holidays in an effort to create a safe and merry space for the community.
When every other hallway at the Penn-Wortman Houses looks the same, the seventh floor corridor feels like a walk through a winter wonderland.
Since she moved here at 19 years old, Elizabeth Figueroa has crafted the elaborate displays for the community to enjoy.
"It started with little thiings on the side of the walls, and then my door - something hanging, and then it just expanded and then it just exploded, became an addiction," she told CBS2's Hannah Kliger.
The walls are plastered with cheerful messages, nativity illustrations, and twinkling lights. An inflatable Grinch stands by the front door. Spray-painted branches and garlands beautify the ceiling, while cookies and milk await Santa's arrival. With the help of her husband, Guillermo Echevarria, the magic happens for many holidays year-round.
"Sometimes she will put this over here, and she says 'no that doesn't look right,' so she takes it down and redo it all over again until she gets it right," Echevarria says of his partner.
Neighbors say its become a hidden gem - a destination for both residents of the building and visitors who find it by word of mouth.
"I have people that come every single year, even if they moved away they still come," Figueroa explained.
"Some of my coworkers, they come up here because I tell them to come and take pictures with their kids," said Loretta, who lives on the same floor.
This year, though, there's a new challenge to overcome: Figueroa says her arthritis has gotten worse over the years and she is worried that she won't be able to put up all these decorations by herself. Still, she's hoping to enlist the efforts of local kids who grew up coming to see the hallway, to make this a community project.
"Now my daughter started doing it, so I'm going to try to get next year the kids to come and do their own," she hopes.
Neighbors, like Lisa Nicastro, say they can't imagine a better way to brighten their spirits as they come and go.
"Everybody coming down and every time they stop, they just want to look around, and want to ask who did it," Nicastro says.
So Figueroa is working on keeping the seventh floor legacy alive, and is willing to get creative to do it.
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