I had been feeling strange since last week. Couldn’t explain why; it wasn’t anxiety as in ‘anxiety attacks.” Just a feeling that something wasn’t right. Then I came home Thursday night to my 600 square feet of prime Manhattan real estate. Like most New Yorkers I have many locks on my apartment door. I only lock two of them; one is a decoy.
My super used to feel that he could walk into my apartment whenever he felt like without calling in advance or leaving me a note explaining the reason for his visits. When I would try to explain to him that this is highly illegal, except in an emergency, when he is always welcome, he would pretend to be deaf. I finally complained to the Board of Directors, and building management. Hated to do that, but hated having my rights violated even more.
At the time I didn’t have a decoy lock, but something would always look a little different when I came home. A window shade would be askew; a candle wouldn’t be in the place I left it. As I live alone, and like keeping things in the places I decide that they look best, I would always know.
But I decided that having a decoy lock would ensure that I knew. Having just gotten off the subway Thursday night I wasn’t in the greatest of moods to begin with. Finding this lock, locked, made my mood worse. Nothing was out of order; I couldn’t understand why he had been in here.
I decided not to ask him nor bring it up with building management or the Board of Directors as I might want to rent my apartment out next year and people who sublet are subject to the same strict rules that people who are trying to buy are subject to.
In a coop, anybody can be turned down by the Board for any non-discriminatory reason, and discrimination is hard to prove unless it’s racial or sometimes religious. I must admit my entire interview was over in ten minutes, and they kind of let me know on the spot that I had been accepted. Being accepted by a strict coop board is one of the greatest guilty pleasures a New Yorker can experience; being accepted virtually on the spot is ten times that thrill. Hey I know it’s a cheap thrill, but…
It’s really a very expensive thrill. Though my apartment is small, it’s totally renovated, has a bath and a half, and the kitchen does look cute. You don’t realize how impractical it is until you actually try working in it. I can sell it for three to four times what I paid for it in 1997. While that’s still way under the average price of a coop in Manhattan (between 1.2 mil and 1.3 mil, depending on what realtor gives the statistics) it’s still a hefty amount and would buy me a very nice condo in Santa Monica CA.
I have explained previously that the difference between a coop and condo is simple; instead of owning the apartment itself; in a coop you own shares in a corporation. The building is responsible for everything behind the walls and under the floorboards; the coop “owner,” is responsible for everything else. Though if your floorboards are warped (as mine were) from other peoples floods, the building is responsible for replacing it. Though there are exceptions to that rule.
The number of shares a person owns is determined (in my building) by the number of rooms, and location. Most buildings use a square foot model, which would be much fairer to me as I live in two and half rooms, yet pay almost as much in maintaince as my neighbor does who has views of the Hudson and 300 more feet. Yes, her apartment is one third larger than mine with better views yet she pays only about one sixth more a month. Maintaince charges are like common fees but are much heftier. While I don’t have a mortgage my building has several, so I do get their tax breaks plus an exemption all coop and condo owners in New York get each year because we pay more taxes than home owners. Why that isn’t changed is a mystery of life. Of course my building takes the exemption money as an assessment (or additional charge that goes usually for capital improvements.)
I was unnerved enough Thursday night; I didn’t need to know that the frigging super had been in the apartment. I decided not to ask why as I want to remain on everybody’s good sides, if that’s still a possiblity.
Almost all the old doormen were fired or retired this past year. Coop directors are elected yearly. This year a new resident who owns one of the penthouses was elected. As she owns the most amount of shares, it was pretty easy for her to be elected. The amount of shares you own determine how your vote is counted. More shares, of course, equals more votes. Her penthouse had many floods which the building is responsible for fixing. While they’re fixing it, they might as well add on some more things, shouldn’t they? Yes, we’re paying for her apartment to be renovated.
At the annual Board of Directors election meeting, we were told, outright, that we couldn’t be trusted to know what is happening in our own building as we would tell the doormen. That isn’t true, at least in my case. Fernando is the only doorman I have regular contact with and I have spent the past seven and a half years immersed in his personal story: he’s a Born Again who still managed to have seven children with three women.
My contact with the other doormen is strictly to say “hi, how are you?” That’s a shame but given the Board’s extremely negative approach to running a coop, and the Super’s extraodinary powers, I dare not become friendlier with them. At the board meeting I was dying to ask why the super seems to run the Board of Directors. I refrained from that as it was such a hostile meeting. They did tell us we could go downtown to the management firm’s office and read the monthly Board of Director minutes. As they only put in what they want people to know, why bother.
I woke up early on Friday morning and remembered a few Google searchs that had shown up on my site-meter. “Fired doormen,” “my street,” and other variations of that. Actually this made me feel better as I understood that there was a reason for my vague sense of unease. I have a “rep” of being too friendly to the doormen. Until I moved into this building I never thought of that as a bad attribute. I also signed petitions and did other “horrible” things to have one of the doormen reinstated.
Living in a coop is like living in a country without many civil rights. I find it ironic how people think New Yorkers are so liberal when we’re willing to give up basic rights just to have a place to live. What’s even more ironic is that when this building went coop, it elected to allow people to remain even if they didn’t want to buy their apartments. They remain under New York City’s rent control and rent stablization laws. They get all the improvements, are entitled to more services than we are such as having refrigators replaced if they break, paint jobs, and the like. Of course they don’t have the fabulous investment equity we do, but many of them can afford to own second homes because they pay relatively little in rent for a large old fashioned New York apartment.
Lately I have been seriously thinking about leaving New York. I will probably never know why the super was in here Thursday night as he has a history of lying. When confronted with the lies, he “ums.” A few women took restraining orders out against him as he goes only into single women’s apartments when we’re out, or without notice. Again I won’t do that, as I do want try living somehere else before selling. He respects all men including the drunk upstairs for whom he has lied for on numerous ocassions, and married women. In the year 2005, that’s sickening.
Know that I sound like a wimp. I’m not. Our last super was fired because he would go into women’s apartments, while they were home–middle of the night, and touch underwear and other things. Knew that he had problems from the first day I met him. He wouldn’t go into my apartment as I was “board approved,” and we were too high up the chain. Of course we’re supposed to pretend that this never happened.
I’m tired of complaining. I complained loudly and often when he would come in, without notice, in 2002. People who complain get less services; people who complain become branded. I have seen that happen to people in my building. When the board was friendler they would admit that the super’s a horrible people person but good with floods. We have constant floods as we have so many pipes they have a special pipe schematic!
I was shocked at the hostility shown by some of The Board of Directors toward the shareholders. The only thing that could help would be a law suit, and as I own stock in the building (my shares, legally I’m called a shareholder,) I would be suing myself. It would be costly and I could lose.
I’m glad he came in. In my mind the deal is sealed. I have somethings to finish in New York and then, adios, au revoir, whatever. It’s a shame and saddens me as I love New York. But I don’t like it anymore. The cost of living in every respect is too high.