The Leveraged LifeStyle of the Grumpies

On the Couch with the Grumpies

Back in 2004 I became even more painfully aware that Manhattan was woefully overinflated. A new breed had hit town and they could borrow millions that they did not have and bid up any apartment’s rent or sales price to any pitch they chose. They flaunted their grumpiness to the New York Times, New York Magazine or any other grumpies media that didn’t have anything better to do than take dictation. They told the reporters that they knew they were overleveraged and they didn’t really care; they were proud of it. They wanted the leveraged lifestyle now; they deserved it and they would do whatever it took to get it. They were the grumpies, greedy ruthless urban metro professional youngsters.

When the grumpies came to town the ghetto lords got all jived and kicked out longtime tenants claiming their rights to bankruptcy, renovation or coop/condo conversion plans. They were business people after all and the demands of the Grumpies were waiting.

The city accommodated the Grumpies with services, more police in the ghettos, 311 replaced 411 so they could have something to call their own. They were allowed to run red lights and drive their polluters endlessly. Even extra thick lines were drawn on some streets to keep pedestrians in tow. More city buses were added with stops tailored for certain streets in Harlem. Don’t believe me, just stand at the stop on third avenue across from home depot and count the 20 to 1 ratio of Harlem buses to Cloister buses.

I know Manhattan and Brooklyn like the back of my hand. I had a one bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen in the late-90’s. It came with a slew of rats and mice, though I never had food or clutter there. In fact I was never home. Although I was a highly paid consultant, I was not a grumpy. I lived in a hotel in the Hudson Valley during the week and sometimes came home on the weekend only to find the vermin of course. That walkup apartment was rent stabilized and cost me $1200 a month. Its landlords had changed the heating and gas in the apartment to electric and charged me for the renovation in my rent. However their craftsmanship was so poor that I faced a $250 a month electricity bill every month until one day I stayed home and found that very hot water was leaking in the kitchen. That apartment building did not have a solid front door on it, it had a screen door. It was the backyard of the Hearst Corporation’s building. I paid a $4,000 broker’s fee for it and when the lease renewal came up a year later I gladly let the apartment go. I mean really who wants to live with rats if you don’t have to?

When I tried to get an apartment years later in Manhattan all that was left were really down and out, high priced and crooked ghetto apartments with illegal smoking throughout and no law and order. In fact after living in one of them for a year I found myself coughing up blood all over 125th street. People just looked on as if it happened everyday. I had to go to the ER room and they said I had first stages of lung and pulmonary disease and I was to stay away from second hand smoke. That became my mantra when finding apartments.

I have to think back, yes, New York City has always been one huge stinking shit hole for apartments. My first apartment in the early seventies cost me $200 a month. It was a “doorman” building. Someone sat in the lobby and let strangers come up to your apartment unannounced in the early hours of the morning. Some tenants came down to the lobby via the elevator with guns. The building was in SRO conversion so all of the longtime musician residents were being bounced out. The new tenants were never told there was a conversion going on of course. We were stuck in the sadness and madness of it all. There was street construction going on 6 days a week for the next six years plus the reconstructon inside of the building. You are coming up the elevator, it stops and the whole floor is regutted and ever so dark; then some wino is making a rush for the elevator but by now you are rather nimble with the close button. Or you take your garbage to the corridor and there are police there asking if you would like to have coffee sometime. The Astoria was around the corner and swingers were always looking to grab a woman in for their “enlightenment.” I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

The street around the corner from my grand SRO conversion was Needle Park and at the other end of the street halfway homes village. Widgets
The subways were severely crowded, 72nd second street station was half the width it is today. The final straw for me was when a woman got beat up on the subway train while men just stood and looked at the scene. Nothing has changed, they’ll do the same today. The woman above me flooded out my apartment once and of course the landlord just came to patch up the ceiling and nothing more. Each year the rent for the apartment went up the maximum allowed.

Within eight (8) years the apartment was $900 a month, I became engaged to drummer boy and we easily moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, away from the horror that was Manhattan, at least that was my hope. We rented a $1300 a month apartment in Park Slope in the late 80s, it too had a slew of rats and the neighborhood was questionable. The landlord was a slime and clearly off his rocker. Years later, when Drummer boy failed to cross the line for commitment, he left after much encouragement on my part. The slime landlord was waiting in my apartment the following night of Drummer Boy’s department. He was waiting for me to come home. He didn’t even live in the building. When I entered through the door of the apartment this slime landlord came up to me and kissed me and said we are alone now. Like I said, a real slime ball and completely off his rocker. He was a superintendent in the school district, go figure. Oh, he never did that again. I’ll leave it up to your curiosity; lets just say I took care of it. And drummer boy, a card carrying communist, left our bohemian lifestyle and went on to become a grumpy in Darien, CT. Did I mind? No, I had him in his twenties so he was pretty used up by the time whoever got him. They got the leftovers and what did he say years later. Oh that I was a big piece of his heart, I’ll always be there but he can’t live with me. Rule #1 never be engaged just get married or go fish.

Currently I live in a hell hole on 191st street with cigarette smoke coming though holes in the floors, walls and ceilings. I had to get after the landlord so many times to take the graffiti off of the inside of the building, stop people from smoking in the public areas inside the building and fix the broken back door of the building. They still have not come to see why there is smoke in the apartment and I have lived here since June 2007. Its no paradise because of this and I pay $1200 a month for it. The subway and bus service so sucks. They marketed the transportation as 15 minutes from 59th Street. It is a hellious 45- 2 hours in the morning and 1 hour to 3 hours returning in the evening. I recently wrote the MTA about the “A” experience that took 2 hours in the morning. They wrote me back that that train had been broken from 5:55am for several hours that day and they were sorry that we had not been notified. Thanks for the sorry and the confession. That’s a start. I wonder if they ever realize how employers are. If you get their too early they become suspicious and if you come in a minute later you are on the list for termination.

I only mention all of this because give me a break, this is something you should vividly understand, there is no apartment in Manhattan worth even a million. They all have mice, rats and roaches in them. None of them are safe. They are all contaminated by second-hand smoke. The pollution experts say that most people can’t even smell second-hand smoke. Trust me its there. I have an air monitor and its right on with my skin and my nose.

As to all this bubble burst crap, the reality is the problem lies with the grumpies. Read July 1, 2007 “the 3.6 million mortgage“:

“Mr. Appel said lenders that are willing to write large mortgages include UBS, Thornburg Mortgage, Countrywide Mortgage and JPMorgan Chase. For some clients, Thornburg will finance up to $1.8 million on a $2.25 million apartment and up to $5.5 million on $9.2 million houses. Banks that once required buyers to put down half for an $11 million house now require only $3.5 million, Mr. Appel said.”

Yep, that’s your problem in this financial crisis. If you think that Bear Stearns really failed and Lehman Brothers went bankrupt because they too failed then you probably believe in born again bankers. Well ok, but didn’t you notice how Lehman just got a new name, or rather kept the name of a subsidiary along with the executive (now CEO) that caused Lehman’s crumble or whatever they say behind closed doors, grumble. Yep, roaches and mice don’t go away in the city. You can’t exterminate them. I’d love to see the government inject a billion dollars into one of those CEO’s bloodstream.

You have to get the fundamentals right. Know that JPMorgan and Lehman Brothers figured this thing out a very long time ago and acted accordingly. See how the Swedes slapped these two’s greedy mammoth hands in March 2005 in the Song Network slamdunk. And you have to remember the largest derivatives holder in the world is JP Morgan, to the tune of trillions. Remember they aren’t enemies; they are banking bros.

You have to know that while they live in a little bit better policed neighborhood and their mice and second hand smoke are disguised behind the walls so they don’t notice it, we’re all living in the same shithole. There. That should make you feel better while you are eating your one burrito a day.


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