Saturday, March 13, 2010
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.