Saturday, March 13, 2010

square one

There are certain relationships that seem so perfect, so meant-to-be right, so love-at-first-sight, that you almost can’t believe it’s really happening to you. Everything just seems to fall right into place, and you walk around in a happy glow, so thrilled that life has given you such a winning hand.

Well, as they say, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. You may remember my lovely new apartment, the one I just moved into on Feb. 1, the one where I was finally feeling settled after nearly two years of shuttling from one spot to another. It had seemed so serendipitous, the way we found each other — it was enough to make me believe in fate, or the universe looking out for me, or something.

I’d loved the industrial feel of the apartment, with its lofty ceilings and huge metal-framed windows — it clearly had started life as a manufacturing space. The owners had taken care to create 54 quite nice apartments, with good kitchens and big bathrooms and great layouts. Unfortunately, in all the to-do of converting the building into rental apartments, no one seems to have taken a moment to officially convert the building from commercial to residential. And somehow, after years of tenants and leases and amenities and staff (and years of annual inspections by the Fire Department), the city apparently never noticed this minor detail, until this past Tuesday, when the Department of Buildings somehow got prompted to take a look at the situation, with the result that the building was shut down on the spot, and I and the rest of the tenants were given a couple hours to pack up some necessities and find a place to stay.

And it doesn’t look like this is a paperwork issue that’s going to be cleared up in a week or so. Not only was the building never zoned as residential, but it violates some fairly serious codes, like the one about residential buildings having more than one staircase or “egress” (no one ever says “exit” in the world of planning and zoning), or the one about residential buildings having a fire escape, or the minor one about residential buildings having sprinkler systems. As the very sympathetic cop said on Tuesday, as he briefed us shell-shocked tenants in the lobby, “I feel for you guys, I really do, but there’s no way we can let you stay here. God forbid [pronounced ‘Gad fehbid’] there’s a fire in the stairwell — you’d all die. This place is a deathtrap.”

Hard to argue with that logic. (And very hard to understand how those fire department inspectors managed to miss all this over the years.)

That sympathetic cop was joined by several other of New York’s Finest, along with a contingent of New York’s Bravest in three fire engines, the OEM, the Department of Buildings, the Red Cross (to make sure everyone had somewhere to go that night), and, of course, a few intrepid reporters who were salivating over the story of an entire “luxury” apartment building (no one told me it was luxury!) being evacuated, and all its occupants being vacated with almost no notice.

So, crazy as it seems, I’m back on the hunt for an apartment, less than two months after finding this place. I have no brilliant insights to draw, other than increased appreciation for Cindy Adams’ sign-off: “Only in New York, kids, only in New York.” In terms of my sanity, I’ve managed to not utterly freak out (after a few minor breakdowns in the first 48 hours), and I haven’t gone back to my apartment for more than a couple minutes at a time, so I’m already moving on, and not getting too stuck in “But this place was perfect for me!”

Hopefully, my return to living out of a suitcase will be limited to a couple weeks; as much as I enjoyed some of the adventures of the past two years, and the footloose-and-fancy-free-ness of it all, it had been such a relief to finally have a place of my own again, to start to put together a routine and some (relatively) long-term plans. I must admit that, in the immediate aftermath of the evacuation (the Post referred to us as “evict-ims,” which I thought was pretty cute), a part of me wanted to toss everything back into storage and pull a 25 days in _________, skipping town on the drama and hassles.

But my five weeks in the deathtrap were great, really, and I want to have some kind of focus and direction right now, to set up a bit of a life for myself. So this afternoon (a nasty, cold, rainy, windy, raw afternoon), I’ll be back out there with a broker whose instructions include “no illegal conversions,” looking at apartments and hopefully (please, Universe, please) finding the next next apartment without too much trudging and angst.


  1. Man, this is too unbelievable. And it's good that you used movie photos above because this is something RIGHT out of the movies. In fact I can see a young Diane Keaton in the role just fine. But instead of her adapting to life in Vermont as she did in the film "Baby Boom", she's trying to adapt to the madness that is New York City.
    But, hey, though I'm sorry for your troubles, my friend, (and not to diminish the hassle), it seems (or reads) like you're handling it in the right frame of mind... more adventure!
    Best of luck, Siobhan, and I'm sure you'll keep us "posted".

  2. Business Apartments Rochester New York offer corporate suites with a home like atmosphere wholly unlike a room in a motel.

    new york short term apartments

  3. You always curate the best photos for your posts! Love!

  4. NO! no, no. say it ain't so, Siobhan. I read about this debacle in The Post. Can not believe you were one of them. It's beyond the ridiculous. But what a marvelous post...

  5. Sorry to hear that but here's a story that might make you feel a little better. In a Dallas suburb (Addison) a very nice new condo was built and the units sold. THEN the fire dept notified them that even though the property had received its certificates of occupancy, the units didn't meet code and the interior walls would have to be stripped out to do some type of redo, so they'd all have to 1 - PAY for this and 2 - get out until it happened.

    They sued the developer and contractor, I'm not sure how it worked out.

    So at least you didn't BUY this apartment!

  6. my favorite "exit" is the German "Ausfahrt". it's all you need to make you smile when exiting the freeway comuting to work. i like how the PD had to tell you it was a death trap while the FD held their hoses.

  7. I forlornly return here hoping for a sign, a smoke signal, nay, a POST!

    Siobhan where are you? Your reading public grows long in the tooth along with your last communique.

    Feed me!!!

  8. I've checked your site so many times now I've realized that Chaplin's photo is sort of a mirror image of the dog, with the shadow on Chaplin's left instead of the little doggie's right eye. I wonder if that was deliberate?

    Anyway, hope you're doing well and looking forward to your next episode "in the next apartment."

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. That was a very unfortunate incident. It's unusual that the government and the owner failed to secure that document before opening the building for leasing.

    In New York, apartment rental (short term or long term) is quite common. Being one of the most populated city in the world, a lot of people go there for various reasons. In New York City, vacation apartments also offer a good place to stay in for businessmen and tourists. Since the 'rental' business is booming in the city, the government should have been more stringent in imposing its policies. Because small lapses, can cause major discomfort to the occupants of the closed structures.

    I hope you'd be able to find a better apartment that you with be comfortable in. Good luck!