Last Tuesday we received a letter from some broker who informed us he was the exclusive broker representing the divorce of my landlord and his wife. My landlord, Mark had given us a heads up the week before, but it didn’t do much to ease the ache in my gut finding out my life was about to change again. It was exactly the same way I felt when I realized I was going to get fired last spring.
When we moved into our building seven years ago I took note that it was a less than six unit building, with a store on the ground floor. It had recently been converted to residential use, and everything was brand new and beautiful. But I was aware that the rent regulation laws do not cover a building like this, and the landlord could increase the rent to whatever he chose when our lease was up.
Mark is a wonderful guy, and he assured us he was more interested in having reliable tenants than in making money.
True to his word, he only raised the rent once in the past seven years.
We love this apartment; it is very spacious (1100 square feet) and has a nice layout, 2 bedrooms in the rear, L-shaped kitchen, and 12-foot ceilings in a large airy living room, lots of light.
The downside is that it’s on the top floor, and since it is the tallest building on the block there are no abutting structures on either side of us (we are on the top floor) it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. No insulation on the sides.
The roof has leaked since we moved in, nothing major but it is annoying to watch water drip down during big rainstorms and the peeling sheetrock and dropping plaster chips when it dries. Mark has had it fixed at various times but I think he needs a whole new roof.
During hurricane Irene we were in the U.K. and missed the storm, but they guy who was staying here and watching the cat said water was coming in through the exposed brick walls and he had to remove all our wall hangings to protect them.
There is also a fireplace in the living room; it doesn’t function except as a conduit for cold air and falling bricks during the winter. But it is nice to look at.
I’ll miss the spaciousness, and the privacy; we can each retreat to a separate part of the house and be alone if we need to.
I won’t miss the neighborhood much, though.
Broadway downstairs is a drab, dreary strip of stores and cut rate dental centers the kind that prey on the poor. And now we have homeless white kids camping out in front of empty storefronts, after all this is Williamsburg. A neighborhood hasn’t arrived until you get white crunchy kids with their attendant dogs; there was even a girl with a cat in front of Burger King the other day.
I won’t miss the Flushing Avenue train station, it is always crowded with people who want to shout at the token clerk, ask for a swipe or try to sell you a swipe, and in the winter there are so many homeless people camped out by the turnstiles it smells like one giant unwashed crotch.
I won’t even go into the amount of garbage on the street.
The make-believe taxis are annoying too, guys (and some women) with cars stand on the corner across from Woodhull Hospital and chant “TAXI, TAXI,” all day long, sometimes in the summer if I have the window open I feel like I’m living on the corner of Clinton and Houston Streets in the 80’s again. Except they are hawking taxi rides instead of drugs here. They fight a lot amongst themselves as well.
I’m gonna miss the fabulous view of the J and M train tracks right outside the living room window, but I won’t miss the din of the express clattering by every 4 minutes in the morning and afternoon. I’ve spent seven years wondering what it was that Nucky Thompson or Tony Soprano said as the train roared by.
I’ll miss the Amish farmers from the Greenmarket on Cook Street, and buying Güttig mineral water from the food Bazaar on Manhattan Avenue. I’ll miss the Turkish cousins who own the S and Y Organic foods store on the first floor. They are really sweet guys who were nice enough to accept packages for us since they’ve been downstairs.
This morning I went downstairs to go to the Greenmarket, it’s only open Saturdays; and I noticed someone had tried to rip our mailbox from the wall during the night. The front door closing improperly has been an issue for a while, sometimes it closes, and sometimes it doesn’t. Anyhow, someone got in and did some damage last night, popping open two mailboxes and ripping the molding from the wall.
When I went outside it got worse, the roll down gate in front of S and Y was up and the front glass door was shattered, I looked inside to see the store had been ransacked. A police car was parked out front guarding the empty store. I feel bad for those guys, and I hope they don’t get held up one of these days.
So yes, this is still a dangerous neighborhood, there are plenty of angry and crazy people wandering around in front of the building. When we first moved in we had a housewarming party, and a friend’s car was broken into in broad daylight right downstairs, they took his radio, and broke the window to get it.
Our front door always sports some form of graffiti or another, the landlord paints the door, and they come back and tag it again as soon as the paint is dry.
Danusia was punched in the head a few years ago as she was entering the building, it was just that, some girl walking by decided she didn’t like white people and struck her and calmly walked away.
I worry for Danusia, she often comes home alone very late and despite the fact there’s there’s an all night deli next to the health food store I still don’t think it’s 100% safe.
The new “Broker” informed us that as of November 1st our rent would be going up $800 per month. We can’t afford that and we will be moving out. Mark said to talk to him, we might work something out based on the fact that we are great tenants and never missed a payment or were late, but the overall taste of greed I got from the letter has left a very bad taste in my mouth.
There was an article in the paper recently about how Brooklyn is the new Manhattan (at least the areas near Manhattan) and people are being forced out to make way for those who can afford to pay exorbitant rents.
A few years ago I rode my bike down Broadway one Sunday morning to buy fresh rolls from one of those trendy new restaurants I’d read about. It had outdoor seating and there was a young guy in shorts and flip-flops sitting at one of the little outdoor tables smoking a cigarette. He had a small child in a stroller next to him, and was giving the baby bits of bread he was breaking off from a roll as the cigarette dangled from his lips. Everything about him indicated self-indulgent hipster.
He gazed lovingly at his baby through a haze of cigarette smoke; sprawled in his steel and plastic chair, and his face said it all.
“Living the dream” was written all over it. I’m still looking for mine, hopefully away from people like that guy. I’d bet he could afford the new rent.