By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Location: East Village
Price: $104,000 in 1985 ($300 maintenance)
Square Feet: 1400
Occupants: Barbara Broughel (artist; teacher, MIT); Margaret Lee (assistant literary editor, The Nation); Otto (giant schnauzer)
Barbara, before we discuss the attempted murders, let me say the desk in your roommate Margaret's bedroom is famous! It's from The Nation magazine! It belonged to former literary editors John and Sue Leonard! Also, Margaret's metal bed is one of your domestically inspired sculptures with shapes of plants used by women to increase a man's sexual drive and vice versa. OK, back to the attempted murders. I hear your former landlord is in the pokey awaiting trial because the D.A. said he tried to murder two tenants, one by a drug overdose. There was a time in New York when I moved five times a year for five years. It was torture. In the '80s, I lived in two storefronts on Ludlow. I had this landlord, Mark. He was the one indicted for murder last year. I was literally ready to kill him myself. Mark was renting out apartments in a bunch of empty buildings. One day he said he needed my storefront for his office. I said, Guess what, I have no money and I don't have anywhere to go. He wouldn't take no for an answer. So he moved his office into half my storefront. He'd have tenants come see him there. This went on for two weeks. Finally he said, I'm going to put you in an apartment but I'm going to need to get it back sometime. He moved me into this sixth floor on Stanton and Ludlow. Then he got paranoid that I wasn't going to leave so he cut a hole the size of a man going from the hallway to my apartment. There was no logic. And then he had some machine cut a hole in the kitchen wall and in the ceiling of the bathroom. This was not a safe idea in that neighborhood. I was paying $225 and it was the most awful apartment. An entire colony of rats would run over my bed . . . .
Then you had a show in Paris, September turned to May, you bought this loft with beautiful white walls and oak floors, and everything became joyous . . .This place was a burnt-out shell! In the early '80s, the city announced they had a whole lot of buildings they were going to give to artists as part of an artists' housing program. I think in the end they gave away three. It was a catch-22. You had to be very low-income to participate in the program. But you had to somehow find a bank that would give you, like, a million-dollar loan to fix up the building. We found a Citibank which took us on as some sort of PR project. There were 12 people, 12 units. They awarded us the building. But we all had to get all our mortgages the same day in the same room for them to give us the loan to cover the construction costs. Then we had a fire, hundreds of thousands in damage, in the middle of construction which almost doubled the cost. Then the building department wanted to tear everything down. Then . . .
But doesn't your other real estate make you happy? You have that nice summer home, well, hut, in Lyme, Connecticut, the home of Lyme disease, and, since you teach at MIT, how about that apartment in Boston? Enough! Don't ask!