Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Muttonchop City Part One: Election Season Home Opener

THIS JUST IN: Newly arrived under our door, the first evil snowflake. Board election season is opening, as if one ugly election weren't enough. Soon we'll have the same blizzard of hatemail, accusations and verbal projectile vomiting. Mr. P and I are, guess what, the opposition.
Here's where I try to hide from my neighbors' search engines: we live in an apartment complex, *Muttonchop City,* that's part of the *Fernando Lamas* Program. Anyone searching Fernando Lamas for real, you can stay, but you won't find him here. More important, the neighbors who've threatened Mr. P and me won't find us here.

If you live in New York, you might know that a program sounding like the *Fernando Lamas* Program created buildings throughout the city for the non-wealthy. It allows middle class people to live in either rentals or kooperatives for very little. Kooperatives: non-googleable misspelling. Fairly large, elevators, laundry rooms and landscaping--nice. More than the residents would ever be able to hope for otherwise. Your tax dollars at work.

These complexes were often built in what were remote areas that have since become hot neighborhoods. If your income qualifies, you enter a lottery for a space on a waiting list, and should you win the lottery, you wait for years, and finally you're notified that you're in. Or you can cheat; Fernando Lamas buildings are full of professional, highly competant cheaters. And people who got here honestly, like Mr. P and me.

The proviso is that you can only sell the place for what you paid. Mr. Fernando and Mr. Lamas didn't foresee the kooperatives growing intensely valuable. A loophole in their law allows kooperatives to vote on whether to stay in the program, or leave it. By leave it, I mean gather all the profit on the now valuable kooperative you helped them buy with your taxes. Take the place private. Which also screws everybody on the waiting list. It's like the immigration debate, in a way: We got in, now you stay out.

When Mr. P and I first moved in, we thought *Muttonchop City* would be full of residents skipping through the plaza singing "Tralala! We live for nothing in the heart of Gotham! Whee!"
They don't do that. The corner pizzeria owner says these are the sourest beings he has ever encountered. "They've forgotten where they came from," he told us. "I grew up like they did--in a tenement, walk-up apartment: bathtub in the kitchen, the toilet in the hall--no elevator. No nice tiled shower. No laundry room. Now they got used to their good fortune and it's not enough for them. They come in and chew over how everybody's screwing them, while I'm paying thousands of dollars more a month than they do and I don't have a balcony! I'd give my left one to live here! They're the unhappiest SOBs, I'm telling you, I've never seen anything like it. "

*Names, key words and search terms changed to protect Mr. and Mrs. Polly

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