The brass lock I'm pointing at is illegal.
The steel gate I'm pushing open is illegal.
This pink steel, floor-to ceiling gate that's in our third floor hallway is breaking the law.
We've didn't know it, but we have been breaking the law for a long time.
We live in a four-story building we bought a long time ago. (Before John was earning a good living as an actor, my mom lent us the down payment.) We occupy the top two floors. Income from our two tenants below enables us to live and work rent free.
Our home on the top floor is fancifully, super colorfully decorated by me, (using "On A Clear Day" and "Shenandoah" money John earned when he starred in those Broadway musicals.) We've got got curved, cloth-covered walls, enamel ceilings, skylights, a green living room like an outdoor garden, a brick-walled bedroom with shutters like an attic, a fabulous Halloween-colored kitchen. Our two offices and studio theater are on the third floor.
During John's money-making days, playing "Holling the Bartender" in the hit television series, "Northern Exposure," we installed a 15 foot tall steel frame with a door, in our third floor's red-carpeted hallway. The steel mesh, painted pink to go with the orange and pink walls, has enabled us to connect the third and fourth floors. With each floor being 2,200 square feet, we've got ourselves a uniquely gorgeous, sort of sprawling mansion, in the heart of Manhattan.
Two months ago, fire inspectors, inspecting all the buildings on our block, told us "That gate is a violation. It's got to come down." We sort of shrugged, and nodded, figuring we'd pretend we didn't know it was illegal if we got inspected again. A summons arrived a week later with a $1000 to $5000 fine, and a date to appear at New York City's Department of Buildings, before a judge.
We appeared on the scheduled date; certain that once we explained how easy it was to open the gate and showed how the gate was the entrance to our home, the violation would be dismissed. John made this video and photos to show the judge how easy it was to open the gate.
Click, and you will see what we showed the Judge.
The Judge, a friendly gracious lady, wanted John's autograph; she'd actually seen my blog, and our Air Broadcasting videos. The fire inspector and another judge attended the hearing. Everybody loved our photos and the video, but, according to the law, the gate was an "obstruction."
We lost the appeal. Our fine was the "low" end of the scale -- merely $1000, but the entire floor-to-ceiling steel structure had to be removed immediately.
Why? Our tenants -- a part-time vintage clothing store on the second floor, a retired photographer on the first floor -- must have access to roof. The stairway to the roof is in the fourth floor hallway. Though our tenants have access to the fire escape in the front of the building, they can't get to the roof if our gate is closed and locked (which it is). And even if the door to the gate were left open, the frame work is illegal -- the fire department "must have unobstructed access to the roof."
Shocked, devastated, we pondered how to maintain our lovely life style -- racing up and down our red-carpeted stairway, making coffee in our kitchen, galloping down with coffee, cookies, snacks -- being able to go from home to office anytime, day or night.
Thinking of ways NOT to take down our beautiful pink steel gate, we have phoned friends and lawyers who might know higher-ups in the city's government, who could help us get a "variance." We've considered evicting our tenants; selling the building and moving, but where in Manhattan could we find comparable, affordable space?
John Cullum's creative mind -- (and his earnings that have gotten us a nest egg of good investments), has solved the problem.
Right now there's hammering, buzzing buzz saw, men working upstairs and downstairs. A semi spiral wooden stairway is already half built. In our studio theater, there are now wooden steps that lead up upstairs to our attic bedroom.
Since this new stairway (inside our mansion) is not as wide as the hall steps, or red carpeted, I'm thinking of decorating it with tiny Xmas tree bulbs. John says if is too twinkly, he'll connect it to a dimmer, so as we steppy-step, sort of delicately dance up and down, it'll be just be a softly festive, lovely glow.