There has always been this running discussion with my wife and I – where we would live if we ever “made it”…whatever that means. You know, financially independent, successful in all our ends, happy, doing what we wanted to do, the whole package. I guess Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character, Rod Tidwell, may have called it “quan.” Still the traffic buzzes by and we are left in the wake of the puddle splash, back to reality in the real world.
So there are these programs, housing lotteries if you will. Actually, that’s what they are, ‘affordable housing rental apartments’ housing lotteries. In all the biggest buildings in all of Manhattan, these lotteries are closed. Down, done, off the market, the lists have been closed for years. Whole generations of low-wage workers will live in this apartment before the building wrenches back control to market rate rents. I actually worked with a bunch of these lottery winners in the theaters on Broadway.
Being an usher (1) isn’t the most fiscally rewarding career, as I’d talked about previously. Many of these ushers were from the old guard, they’d been there forty years, ushering for $281 a week. When there was a show in our theatre. When there was not they’d tap into their meager savings. How could they have any savings living in New York City off $281 a week? Because of these NYC housing lotteries. People lived in all the best, closest, most amenity-strewn buildings (when they were erected) for next to nothing. These housing lotteries allowed for scaled back rent/income as long as their income didn’t exceed specific limits. This is basically the city’s way of keeping low-wage workers working and living and spending in New York City. It’s actually genius if you think about it. Working whatever hours you were (theatre hours weren’t exactly ‘long’) for next to nothing these people are trapped! Basically trapped on this island nation.
I’d thought there was no way I’d ever be able to get onto one of these lists. Until a co-worker of mine, Rose, a youngish single mother got into the new Donald Trump development on West End Avenue. I was living just north of there at the time in this scourge of a building, “240 West 64th Street,” (2) a building which will forever live in infamy in my mind as the building with latex paint and our wall which filled up with water. We’d lived there three or four years and there was an incident which pushed us from there for good. We were stoked that our wall just began filling up with water on Friday afternoon! Management just took it as business as usual. “Just let it drain,” they told us. So we did. The latex paint sort of folded over in this weird manner, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man as he’s raining to pieces over New York City.
Anyway this woman who was an usher, Rose, had gotten into a new building and this was Trump! She was neighbors with folks who’d bought these places for millions of dollars. It was just she and her son. So, I thought, why couldn’t me and my wife (then girlfriend) get into one of these situations? It was rent controlled, it was sanctioned by the City of New York and heck if we ever did “make it,” we’d be glad to pay the extra rent.
So continues the battle of wanting to get into one of these amazing buildings for a living/working artists rate. We’re actually applying to get into a few different buildings in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Randall’s Island, and Tribeca (yeah I know that last one is a long shot but it’s in the mix!) We’ll see if any of these HPD rental things work out. Or who knows, we could ‘make it’ in the time in between!
Wouldn’t that be wonderful?