Wealth

When I came in, there were cockroaches all over. I was crying.

Location Lower East Side
Price $425,000 in 2004 [$657 maintenance]
Square feet 734 with 288-square-foot balcony [1960 former union cooperative]
Occupants Michael D. Tumminia [founding partner, 212 Partners LLC]; Jennifer Salzman [recruiter, Christian & Timbers]


What a balcony![Michael] It's abnormally large. My personal theory is that the union bosses decided they'd make theirs larger. Out of 1,728 units, approximately 32 have the extra-large. I've been familiar with the community for four years. A friend of mine lives in the J section.

Are you from this neighborhood?No. I was living in Barbados. My mother's a Barbadian, my father's an Italian-born American diplomat. I left my corporate job—I'd been in D.C. and Moscow—to figure out what I wanted to do. I grew up all over the world. That left me foundationless. That's why when I bought my apartment, this is the place where I could see myself growing old. Jen and I met in 2001. She was in the rock clubs. I didn't really get involved with New York until I started bunking down with Jen in the railroad. [Jennifer] This tiny apartment at 21st and First. [Michael] And I was living with my friend here. He's become one of my clients. His company sells tour packages to Barbados to college kids.

This co-op was built by the United Housing Foundation, which constructed affordable housing around the country. UHF was partly formed by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. There were more than a dozen union co-ops in the city. Most have gone fair market. This went in 1997. These people in these apartments paid virtually nothing to live here. It was like winning the lottery. The older community has more wealth because they have the equity. [Jennifer] They don't seem to know it. [Michael] They're starting to grasp it. We make more money but they don't have the mortgage. The lady that had this apartment paid $3,400 30 years ago. She wore taps on her shoes. [ Jennifer] So her shoes would last longer. [Michael] She was Section 8. Here's this woman with all this equity in the apartment and our federal tax dollars were paying a significant portion of her maintenance. I almost think she should have to pay that back. I worked for a company that used to audit HUD. The closing was very bizarre. She now has a huge chunk of change that her children are salivating over. She has five kids. The neighbors were glad we moved in because at times she had 15 people in the apartment. We're young professionals who keep a clean apartment. When I came in, there were cockroaches all over. I called Jen. I was crying—maybe we made a mistake. We renovated. We spent about $50,000. Now this is a gem. I used only local people. I wanted to do everything to support the community. We put a French door in between the bedroom and the living room. We wanted to see the Empire State Building. We paid $425,000, which was under market. I think today this place would go for $600,000. She didn't use a real estate broker. I did all the research—I benefited. I don't understand her decision, but it was a good one for us.

You are so gung ho about the community.I'm trying to get on the finance committee. I'm considering running for the board. I think there are 20,000-some people who live in the four co-op complexes in Co-op Village. Seward Park has a lot of commercial property. We can grow even more. This community mostly discourages investment. People aren't buying to rent the apartments out. You can, but you have to live here two years first. If maintenance is $600, you have to pay $900 if you're going to rent it out. The older generation is very welcoming to the new people. By and large, this reinvigorates the community. Mostly old folks go to these clubs, a women's and a men's.

You?It's really easy to meet people on the Yahoo group. I get postings.

Does it say Happy Halloween?[Jennifer] There are recommendations. [Michael] "Where can I buy this and that?" We talk about the grocery store. I call the authorities when I find that food has expired in a store.

 
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