Sunday, August 13, 2006
You know all those stories about gentrification forcing people out?
How the big money comes in, how the families, artists, and writers who have made a neighborhood into somewhere the big money wants to live are pushed out by "progress?"
I am now one of those writers. My condo goes on the market tomorrow. I just left a condo association meeting where I learned I'll need to fork over a few thousand for a new roof. Even though we just got a new roof in 2003, even though an architect said the new roofing materials were fine but the execution was flawed and needs proper finishing. "Only $1,200," he said. "They didn't do the flashing and sealing right, and that part in the back needs rebuilding."
The others in my building--four of which recently paid triple what I paid, but that's no big deal because they surely make more than six times my puny income--just want a new roof. And "Just tear it up and replace it" isn't going to go away. That will be the solution to everything in this hundred-year-old Victorian. All the DIY-ers have moved on. Waiters, concierges, dancers, actors, small business owners, and graduate students have been replaced by suspicious accountants and paranoid internet professionals. "Why did you guys say you had a new roof?" "Uh, because we did." "And then it started leaking right after I bought?" "Well, yeah."
I'll have to borrow money. And then it will happen again. And again, each time someone sees a crack in a wall. And since I don't expect that Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik is going to hit the bestseller charts, I'd be going further and further into debt with no hope for a windfall. It certainly negates the cheap property taxes and monthly maintenance of the place.
I put so much into this place, into both the entire building and my individual unit. On Day One, Michael Kraiger and I were in here with my heat gun and Jon Babcock's circular saw. Yancey took a few minutes out of his illustration work to tear up the carpet, then Kraiger and I went at the old vinyl tiles with the heat gun. Then we set the saw depth at just under half an inch and scored the plywood. Pried it all up with a wrecking bar and then called the sanders. The lovely heart pine floor in the photo above was the result.
Turbo (my amazing ex, the only proof I have that not all my taste in men is bad) put even more into my place. But sweat equity doesn't count. Only money counts.
There are worse things than losing one's home. Heck, I've probably experienced three of the top ten worst things to lose in the last year alone. But it's just walls and doors and transoms and floors. Loss on this level sucks, but barely rates on the charts of worst things to lose. It's worse than losing socks or a wallet, but it's not my health, my sanity, or my jobs. I'll live.
I always felt guilty when I lived on Avenue B because my presence was assisting in the pioneering of Alphabet City for "The Man." I was broke, sure, but I was a white person who bought a condo in a neighborhood of minorities living in rentals. I watched as the neighborhood was gentrified, as the families were forced off the island of Manhattan, the squatters pushed out, and the artists and musicians all fled to Brooklyn.
Maybe it's karma. The gentrifier becomes the ousted.
Update: Jessica Del Forno is sending me the forms and we've agreed on a price and a commission. When I have time, I'll put up photos at a URL I own, hamiltonparkcondo.com. It's heartbreaking, but it's the only sensible course of action.