It’s April again, in spite of everything. The weather in New York is damp and chilly. There’s a lot going on in the world. Revolution, unrest, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States. A big plane clipped a small plane yesterday at JFK and the pilot of the small plane, cool as a cucumber, said “send a truck, they just hit us.” Lots of other planes made perfect landings all over the rest of the world. The president of France is quarreling with the president of Italy over who will help the most number of desperate refugees. Let’s hope they straighten it out. Pleasantly nervous and admitting it too, William and Kate will get married soon. It’s amazing that such a thing can happen.
At the New York office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, three executives from a charitable organization rose when the division head walked in. She put her cane on the conference table and got down to brass tacks immediately by staring sternly at Martin Stanky, the president of the charitable organization.
“Why won’t Sowers of Charity put the $200,000 into the building, Mr. Stanky,” she asked. “The building is a slum; it has 282 building code violations. Why won’t Sowers of Charity put $200,000 in?”
“We were told we’d never get our money back.”
“This has Sowers of Charity all over it, Mr. Stanky. Sowers of Charity is a nationwide organization. It’s global.” An aide leaned over and whispered in her ear.
“No? OK. Sowers of Charity is a nationwide organization, Mr. Stanky. Nationwide. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to put $200,000 into the building? Just for the agency itself? Its reputation?”
“We need money to fix the building up and. . . . . “
“You have the money. Fix it up.”
“And somehow the building got into bad condition and tenants moved out. So our rent base has been steadily diminishing. There just isn’t the money to fix up the building. The only money we are getting now is the subsidy from you folks at HUD, because the tenants don’t pay their rent.”
“But the building isn’t in habitable condition. Your tenants are going to court and citing you with violations. Hundreds of them. No hot water. No heat. Roaches, Mice. Broken windows. Non-working stoves, non-working refrigerators. The chimney collapsed. They haven’t had heat in six weeks. You shouldn’t even be getting the subsidy from us.”
“Four weeks. And the chimney has been fixed.”
“Rotting pipes, collapsed ceilings. One apartment has a hole in the bedroom that’s four by five feet.”
“Well, anyone can go to court and say this and this is wrong and that is wrong.”
“But at 116 Lenox Avenue, it’s all true.”
“Oh yes! Actually, Ms. Prinz, I just want to clear something up. One sixteen Lenox Avenue is a service-enriched program. It’s a family housing program. In June we’ll hear about our request for a loan of a million and a half dollars from the Housing Trust fund. If we get it we’ll completely rehabilitate the building.”
“Mr. Stanky, 116 Lenox Avenue is a slum. You must do something now. It can’t wait until June.”
That night around midnight, 19-year old Thomas Medina walked into his building and was slammed against the wall by six cops from the 46th Precinct.
“Where do you live?” said one.
“I live here.”
“We didn’t ask you that. We asked for the number.”
“Smart ass. The whole thing.”
“One sixteen Lenox Avenue.”
The cops frisked and frisked Thomas from head to toe.
“Watch your step,” they said when they let him go from the wall he had been slammed against. “We’re watching you.”
It’s amazing that such things can happen.