By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
You live near the Grand Prospect banquet hall with the marble fountains and gold leaf toilet seats! I saw some yellow houses with blue and purple window trim, like Easter eggs. I love the neighborhoodit's much more diverse, ethnically and racially, than the upper part of Park Slope. I was really desperate when I got this apartment. A friend who goes to the New School saw the ad on a board. The landlady kept asking me to call back in a half hour. She kept saying another half hour. Finally she says come over. I get there. She says, Oh, the person who lives there isn't there now. I was about to kill her. Then the woman came. I was in such a hurry to take it that I didn't see there was a view of all of Lower Manhattan. I love my apartment, but not my landlady. We got along for a year, but not anymore.
That was the woman wearing the fuchsia flip-flop slippers downstairs near the mailboxes. She won't give me a new lease. She thinks I'm a troublemaker. If she yells at me, I send her letters. She doesn't like letters. The heat's been a problem from last February on. I'd call and say, There's no heat. I'd get into ridiculous conversations with her son, tiresome, obnoxious conversations, and then finally he'd turn it up. I'm obsessed with tenant rights. I grew up in a two-bedroom, rent-stabilized apartment in Flushing. Sixty apartments in the building, a lot of Afghani refugees, Latinos, Asians, and landlords who never gave us heat. My dad was a cook in a deli. My mom worked at home. My parents are immigrants from Bangladesh. They didn't really know their rights. Most of the building didn't. Sometimes we wouldn't have hot water for days. I had all this rage about the situation. I didn'trealize until I moved here that there are so many laws that protect tenants. I went to Hunter College High School. In sixth grade, I took a test and got in. It's free, but all the Upper East Side kids who go to Dalton try to get in. I was too ashamed to bring kids back to my building.
Then Swarthmore. In '97, I was out of college. I lived on the third floor of this big, gorgeous house in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. I was interning at the UN. My parents were so upset about me not living at home they wouldn't visit. But they would bring food over. They'd call and say, We're coming over at 8:45. We're not going to come inside. We're going to drive by, and you should be standing there waiting for us. We'll honk and then you'll come over to the car window and we will hand you the food and leave. I said, No, I'm not going to stand out in the cold. Come and ring the bell. It was this circuslike drama, anxiety ridden. Though now my mother visits me. In fact, she visits for three days at a time. She wants to come every weekend.
Back to the landlady. You called HPD [Department of Housing, Preservation & Development], complained about the heat. They sent an inspector. She put on heat. No one else in the building complained? No, because the landlady will yell. The tenants are very unempowered here. The landlady and her son like to make everyone think we're a big family. If they really were family, they'd turn on the heat. The landlady does whatever she wants because people are wimpy. They don't want to cause waves. You know, when Westerners view people in countries where human rights are violated, they say, Oh, I wouldn't let them abuse me that way. If you don't have enough courage to tell your 84-year-old landlady to turn on the damn heat, how do you expect people in other countries to rise up while they're killing the masses?