Sunday, May 31, 2009


The cup in the picture says: World's Greatest Landlord and that's me!

Aren't we lucky to own a building in the heart of Manhattan! If my mother hadn't lent us the money, I don't know how we would have managed. But with her help, we bought it, paid off a first and second mortgage, and have ourselves a home.

It's old. Five floors. Built in 1905. Some of the original gas fixtures are still in the ceiling. The building is hard to heat. Our home on the top two floors is quite cold iu the winter. But it's nice to have a home in the center of the city.

Its a commercial area. When Con Edison is digging in the street -- noise, traffic jams -- that's a problem for all the businesses surrounding us.

When the furnace stops working, I say--"I need help!" And my do-it-all guy, JC, grabs some tools and heads for the basement.

When there are water problems -- the main on the corner breaks down -- water floods into the basement. Heavy rainstorms -- gutters on the roof get clogged -- the ceiling leaks. Got to race up to the roof, clear the gutters while it's raining.

Rust on the metal front steps -- serious symptom -- time to repaint them and the fire escape -- a lot of money involved in rust proofing, checking the bolts on a five storey fire escape, repainting it and the front stairs.

Still, we feel lucky. We have learned how to handle most of the emergencies. We've got tools. And over the years have gotten a list of people who fix these problems.

Our courtyard in the rear is a trouble spot. Five 12 storey buildings surround it. Their tenants toss trash into our yard -- bottles, cans, garbage, pet cages, dead dogs, cats, and quite a few rats. Since it's our yard, keeping it clean is our responsibility. Things we can't handle, Phil, super for us and our neighbors, takes care the nasty stuff, (if we pay him extra).

It's annoying but the yard's outside. The inside where we live is like a 14 room country mansion. Colorful. Spacious. I designed the curved wall that separates the kitchen and green living room with its white wicker furniture. The doorway's shaped like a keyhole. All our walls are cloth covered -- blue room, red room, dark brown kitchen with matching enameled metal ceilings. (It's been described and photographed by magazines. I promise -- one of these days I'll post some pictures.)

Landlady-ing isn't a overwhelming chore. Our money managers collect the rents. One tenant didn't pay for almost six months; and owes us $20,000. It's something to deal with that I'm not dealing with -- lawsuit eats time, and will cost about 75% of what we might get back.

The new tenant, an angry girl -- called the police, Dept. of Bldgs. and WABC-TV, complaining that her place was too cold. (Her customers, opening her front door, let freezing air in, affecting the 68 degrees that our furnace provides. She's got a side door, won't use it -- claim's it's "ugly." ) TV commentator, cameras, and crew rang our buzzer. When I answered, they filmed me as a cruel unfair neglectful landlord.

It was a nightmare, till she bought (goody goody!) some portable electric radiators.

Still, we're lucky. Lawyers, leases, answering service, and caller ID protect us.

But, this is New York. Old violations can't be fixed in a building born in 1905. The money-hungry Environment Protection Agency will cite us if any debris is found in the front gutter; sidewalk, or on our front steps, where neighborhood employees love to eat their lunches.

If you protest a citation, you must prove with photos and affidavits, that your building is swept 3 times a day. We paid $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second, if we get a third it'll be $300 ... Well, we're hoping to get by for a while longer.

It's our home. Bought it for $70,000 and it's worth.... Put a row of zeros, each year it's worth more.

Yep, there are disadvantages . But golly, it's a lovely place -- bright pink and orange hall ways, red carpeted stairs, bright yellow ceilings -- just entering lifts my spirits. We're pleased, proud, tickled that its ours ! Okay, it's unusual, there are small disasters that require unexpected, remarkable rising to the occasion, but our home in the heart of the city -- it's truly a home sweet home.

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