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Friday, July 21, 2006

"Tryin' to make a dollar out of thirty-two cents."

In purchasing the shares entitling me to lease my apartment, financial debilitation is not my only concern. I asked the seller's attorney for permission to review the coop minutes for the last three years. She referred me to the anthropologist who sold his interest in the building's unsold shares after his decade of using them for rent income.

Six months after selling (and not to me, I might add), he still attends the coop meetings. His Park Square Associates are still the managing agent for the building, although Arthur, sole principal of the newly formed LLCs created to buy the unsold 86% of the building's coop shares, is president of his own perfectly good managing agent company, ABC Realty.

A great luxury renovation is to commence upon the facade and hallways of this six story walk-up. Who will be in charge? Will it be someone sensitive to cosmetics or to the long-term residential aspect of the building?

And speaking of quiet enjoyment, one of the traditions of this landmark lower east side six-story tenement neighborhood and of this building in particular is its ever potential structural demolition via sound-waves from the floor to ceiling speakers connected to the dj system in the cellar.

It is notable to consider the success of sonic defense weaponry in warding off pirates on the high seas. Apparently a well-aimed sound blast can trip a heart attack.

Could there not also be a frequency, which only floor-to-ceiling speakers ensconsed against the cellar walls are capable of amplifying, that compromises a building's support foundation?

Every solid object has a rattle note.

Are low frequency sound waves what produce the layer of white dust here, or is it the pneumatic renovation drills?

This building celebrates its centeniary, but the land beneath it has a much longer past and I have some maps that will help decipher it.

As for the great WPA movie personifying a tenement building -- giving it a life of its own, so to speak -- I recommend, at every opportunity, seeing Sylvia Sydney play an activist who does her best to care for her increasingly demented younger brother, played by Sidney Lumet, in "One Third of a Nation."
One of the benefits from reading the writing of Hannah Arendt is her unleashing of the English language as instructive. As I found myself saying with my limited reading of the works of Freud, I would call her writing Great Literature.

And I'm, of course, currently in the enviable position of feeling pressure from human forces external to me, which excites the hell out of me if, if, if, I CAN WRITE ABOUT IT.

For previous chapters in my East Village Residency I refer you to the controversial song cycle with monologues and mini-play entitled, "Pro-Choice on Mental Health." For an update on the contact address listed on that album, 321 East 12th Street, Apartment #8, look no further. Here's the story thusfar.

The Rhodes Scholar anthropologist investors for Oscar Gruss were the first to buy my home's unsold securities, in 1995. These Gruss wonderkids are the two Michaels who put the Lenin statue on top of Red Sqaure (It's a Beetlejuice-designer building on Houston Street). Although Michael Rosen is the more published Pace University Professor, the memories burned in my mind are with my encounters with the furtive Michael Shaoul in 1995 after he sent me a lease renewal nearly doubling the rent I was paying.

Watching my friends move out (Under unregulated leases they were being subjected to eviction and unconsciounable rent increases from a generically named managing agent, "Park Sqaure Associates.") I said, sell it to me, but they would only rent, never sell, which they did for 10 years. After coming to terms on the lease, in fact, most fairly, I remained for the eventful decade that brings us up to the present.

They really were pretty fair, although there had to come a time when they cut off personal communication.

During our meetings, Michael Shaoul was not at all devoid of appreciation for my artistic side with my monthly piano set at SideWalk, and my theatre work at La Mama, then of my liaison work with the City organizing the East Village Singer/Songwriters' yearly outdoor concert in Tompkins Square Park (This year it is Saturday, August 12th.)

My rent under Bernadette Mineo's lease in 1989 was $789. In 17 years it went up to $1,625, which I currently pay, Month-to-Month, so I am a testiment to the possibilities of a free market tenant/landlord relationship. Yes, the identical shares (numbering between 1440 and 1470) assigned to apartments currently under rent regulation therein are, well, let's see the schedule. $197, 631, 526, 741, 305, 132, 628. hmmm... and the monthly maintenance assigned to those shares is between 836 and 884. So at least my rent payment is covering the maintenance paid by the purchaser of unsold shares plus $753 a month, said 753 going where? It is paid to the MANAGING AGENT, the same people who under an LLC are the holders of the unsold shares.

In a coop conversion, the Landlord sells his building to a corporation, then, under his own corporate name, may buy UNSOLD shares in the corporation. If he vows "non-eviction" he may buy as much as 85% of the building, thereby getting that 1903 built tenement building out of government monitored rent regulation.

Since the landlord became the holder of UNSOLD shares, the appelate term court in Manhattan contorted the conclusion that he is a PURCHASER under his "plan," and therefore no longer bound to his non-eviction promise to his post conversion tenants.
(The appelate term applied NOT the language of the General Business Law governing coop securites, but rather the legislative INTENT producing it...)

The words applied to such a transaction look like this: With a closing date of October 29th, 1989, 315 East 12th Street Associates sold its building to 315-321 Apartment Corp., a corporation in which they momentarily sell 15% and hold unsold 85%of the shares. They will eventually hold 86% after they foreclose on the purchasers who were over-optomistic about paying the monthly debt service and maintenance, taking back AS UNSOLD those purchased shares that helped qualify for the conversion.

This foreclosure, of course, refers back to the Keith Feibush story in "Pro-Choice on Mental Health."

I saw Law Review articles on illusory coops suggesting that 10 years of pure rental activity raises the inference: Cooperative Apartment Plan Abandondoned.

At the 10 year mark, Oscar Gruss/Park Square Associates/PSA 321 East 12th Street LLC sold its unsold shares to Arthur Cornfeld/East 12th Street, LLC/ABC Properties/ABC Realty. The tenement's going luxury. It's time for me to buy or vacate. The market's getting shaky, look at those interest rates, look at that glut of new apartments and conversions. Forget about yesterday. TODAY, the gatekeeper standing in the doorway between me and my home is selling.

My current calculation for my lowest monthly debt service and maintenance nut for the next 30 years after a $75,000 downpayment is $4,200.

How did I come to live on East 12th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue on the isle of Manhattan? What am I doing here? Why does the value of the US dollar and money in general continue a precipitous decline without anyone noticing?

Let's consider all that in the next installment.

My albums, including "Pro-Choice on Mental Health," are available through itunes, CD Baby,, and Amazon.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

People call me with bizarre problems, because I work as an attorney, an associate at a law firm specializing in personal injury, particularly those arising out of motor vehicle accidents. What a bizarre accident I just heard about. Driver and passenger in a car were having an argument when its passenger pulled the emergency brake (lovers' quarrel, accusations of betrayal and infidelity?), this on the West Side Highway near dawn, while the car behind them was doing 80.

All miraculously sustained minimal injuries in this short stop rear-end highway smash-up. Amen.

I listened, I shared my experience, but when push comes to shove, what are my skills? Jerry, successfully settling at trial today, reminded me he can make people look bad under cross examination. He's a former legal aid trial attorney who has discounted testimony from the toughest witnesses the prosecution could offer. I suppose he has a gift that threatens, that results in the profitable outcome once he reaches the standoff, the front lines of the battle.

That ability to threaten victory under pressure sustains the office where I work, paying the salary for me and his seven other employees, even as we sustain him, sending him forward to that crisis point.

My results tend to be considerably less threatening, unless I threaten people with my thinking about them.

What can I do that no one else can?

Let's see, I can absorb and tolerate worry and aggravation as I "happ'ly wait for my next happy moment."

What are my goals? James Chladek, during my 15 minute New Yorker interview last night, asked, where do I see myself in five years? I said, I see myself living in Manhattan, with my shows running with lives of their own, and a country place to work and raise a growing family with my loved one.

Well, facing eviction or financial debilitation, I acknowledge that, in fear of ridicule, I have ridiculed just about everything I could have held sacred in my life,

Even the term "loved one" used above carries with it the funeral director's dearly departed connotation...

My life, my priorities, my loves... my belief is, they, me, everyone, we all withstand ridicule.

I was bullied as a child. I never reached the stand-off. I ran home, then resented my parents when they lost faith in my ability to take care of myself.

Wounded, I act wounded, attracting the similarly wounded and sometimes appearing to reject what I perceive to be their wounded offer of assistance. I'm afraid.

I read on a church's outdoor marquee during last week's Jitney ride, and I paraphrase with my usual gift of faulty memory: "Jump. Sometimes you have to build your parachute on the way down."

Then the song reprise begins. "We're in this love together."

We are all in this universe together.