Housing Hell

9 Sep

I have come to officially hate New York. I know that I said this back in June, but our living situation has gotten far worse.

Shortly before we left for vacation, rumors of our building going condo were confirmed. We were given a “red herring” offer to buy our place, as-is, no renovations. While we were away, they started renovating empty units in our building. We live in between two empty units, 6J and 4J. While renovating the bathroom in 4J, the removed the ceiling and discovered a broken beam under our bathtub. Those of you who have been in our bathroom before know that our tub has been sinking more than 1/4 of an inch every year and that the floor is extremely crooked. Well now we know why, there was pretty much nothing supporting our tub. The contractors in 4J came up to our apartment and without my permission, removed my tub, toilet, sink, floor — you name it. A week later, they finished the bathroom by installing a crap tub that is 4 inches shorter than the previous tub and putting in the same crap toilet, sink, medicine cabinet etc.. The new floor however, looks lovely.

Bathroom Bathroom

During the demolition process, my apartment was covered with dust and debris that may or may not contain asbestos. 3 weeks later, I am still trying to clean it out of the crevices and laundering everything that I own.

The construction continues upstairs and with every bang on the floor above, dust, plaster and paint chips rain down from our ceiling — which means that it coveres my sofa, floor, bed and Matilda’s bed in dust which certainly contains lead. They removed the ceiling from the apartment downstairs and there are now huge cracks in the floor that are large enough for me to see into the apartment below. More dust comes up through the cracks. I have called the city to complain about the lead dust and hopefully I can have the dust tested soon. In the meantime.. I vacuum.

In the 2 weeks that I have been home, I have been crying morning, noon and night in frustration. I’ve been a complete wreck and I am not able to sleep, eat or work. I was told by my doctor that I have a placenta previa (low lying placenta) but I can’t even concentrate on my prenatal care. Matilda and I have been tested for lead exposure. I have had a constant burning sensation in my lungs and on one morning, I coughed up blood.

I cannot belive what we have endured during our years living here. Even when it was “good” we still had a ceiling that caved in, a kitchen cabinet fall off the wall, bedbugs, mice, roaches, rot. My apartment has a horrible odor of mold and decay. Many people envy our cheap, rent stabilized rent, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

The condo that we purchased 22+ months ago is still not complete. At this point, it looks like we will be cancelling our contract with them. I am so angry with the developer that even if we could move into that condo tomorrow and escape the unsafe conditions we are living in, I wouldn’t. I just hate them and everything about them.

I am so filled with anger and frustration that I can’t even enjoy the good things about the city anymore. We went out to enjoy a walk downtown in the great weather last night, but all I could smell was the urine stench on the street. The subway is full of psychos and the cab drivers are rude as hell.

I read a great article in last week’s New York Magazine that talked about New Yorkers who had relocated to Buffalo, but overall the article had some really great comments on city life that I would like to share:

New York is all about what could be,” says David Cloyd, a 34-year-old musician who moved to the city from Austin ten years ago. “You know: The potential. The possibilities.” He’s echoing, of course, the aspirational mantra that’s lured a million hopeful dreamers to New York before him. And in exchange for this promise of limitless possibility, this tantalizing what-could-be, New York requires of these dreamers that they pursue two simultaneous lives: the romantic, invigorating, spectacular life you imagine for yourself, and the expensive, often dispiriting, intermittently grueling day-to-day life you have to lead in order to keep that dream life alive. This is exhilarating. This is exhausting. This is what New York is all about.

Some people will read this as a story of defeat. They will look at Herbeck and Cloyd and think, They came; they couldn’t cut it; good riddance. That’s also a familiar New York narrative, one that’s especially comforting to those of us who stay and stick it out. Because, sure, stained glass and spare bedrooms are nice and all, but no one moves to New York because they think they’re going to get a great bargain on an apartment. You move here because you want to live in New York City.

But I am here to tell you that this is not a story of defeat. Rather, it’s a story about choices. It’s a story about reaching that pivotal moment when the dream life you imagined for yourself in New York no longer seems attainable or attractive, or simply no longer seems worth the wearying chase.

Living in New York may be more expensive than ever, but let’s face it, it’s always been hard. That, oddly, is part of its appeal. You test yourself against the stresses of the city. If it’s not the expense, it’s the overcrowding. If not the overcrowding, then the crime. If not the crime, then the tension, or the roaches, or the smells, or the guy screaming obscenities at you for no reason on the stifling subway platform while you wait for a train that’s jam-packed and twenty minutes late.

But the problem is, you can’t simply leave New York—you have to quit New York. You have to admit to yourself and the world that you’re packing it in, calling it a day, turning out the lights. You have to walk away from, as Joan Didion put it, “the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.” (It should be noted she wrote that in an essay about her decision to leave New York.)

And finally, the best quote of all

“I don’t miss my old life in New York. I only miss the life in New York I know I never would have had.”

So I guess that sums it up for me. If all goes well, Pablo, Matilda and I will survive living in this construction zone, we be able to get our money back from the condo in November, and we will close on a small house in Westchester this spring. Wish us luck.

PS. Here is something I found shocking. Here are listings for the apartments above and below mine. One is in contract. How can people spend $600k to live in my building??? Are they nuts? Don’t they know that the building is falling apart?



4 Responses to “Housing Hell”

  1. Camille September 10, 2008 at 7:03 pm #

    We feel for you. We really do. We went through the same love-hate momments during our three years in NY and, as you know, decided to move back to the west coast. It was a tough decision. Take care of yourself… We’ll be thinking of you.

  2. Lily September 11, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    I am so sorry you have to go through all that!

    Can’t you guys move out to your parent’s (or some place else) for a little while? All the dust and shit that’s flying around is very harmful for you and Matilda, plus you don’t need all that stress.

    That article shocked me. As much as i love NYC, those are my exact feelings about it. I dream of a life in NYC where i can have it ALL, but that NYC is only in my head. It’s a NYC where all my friends live, where it is always early fall, where i don’t have to rush always and everywhere, a city with half the amount of buildings and 100 times more trees, plants and parks…

    If i had written that article i would have added to that last sentence “…i miss my friends and the life i know i never…”

  3. Deeps September 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    Bew…sad to hear that you’re upset. And dusty.

    Life in the ‘burbs is lovely, especially if you don’t have a long commute into NYC.

    And in 13 years, Matilda can start sneaking into the Limelight, starting the love/hate cycle all over again!

  4. stefani September 14, 2008 at 5:15 am #

    ugh, I’m so sorry to read what you’re going through, especially with the babies. If you ever need to escape to sunny Florida, we’re here for you!

    I hope all goes better for you soon. Take care of yourself!


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