Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Thing We Have Been Wanting For So Long

Eight years ago I got a bee in my bonnet about moving out of Manhattan to Brooklyn. The economy was ok, pre 'dot-com' bubble burst, pre 9/11. Pre everything. Everything was la-dee-dah. And I thought we needed more living space and a brownstone seemed like a good idea. Hellbent, I was. In hindsight I just desperately needed to get out of Soho; living in a fishbowl shopping mall was simply no fun.

We shopped around and for reasons that are still unknown to me, I fell in love with a building in Park Slope that had been neglected for nearly 20 years. I mean SERIOUS neglect. It needed everything from a roof, to new plumbing and electric, ceilings, doors, you name it. I had fantasies of being able to completely restore it and bring it back to life.

On top of all the things wrong with the place, the number one thing was SRO. Meaning, Single Room Occupancy. As in, rooming house. As in, a layer of complexity that boggles the mind beyond anyone's imagination. You see, SRO makes it more difficult to secure a mortgage and filing plans with the City of New York to make alterations. Oh, the hoops we had to jump through! I could have joined the circus I was getting so good at hoop jumping.

But we dreamed of making the house into a legal 2-family dwelling. And we dreamed of restoring this house and making it a grand place to entertain, live comfortably, with no co-op boards or stompy feet above us. We would become landlords. Homeowners in the City. And, changing the SRO designation is a sure-fire way to increase the resale value. A holy Grail.

The odyssey we experienced turned into a nightmare when we hired all the wrong people - architect, contractor, plumber, electrician. All of them. WRONG. They laughed all the way to the bank on our dime. We made every mistake in the book and it cost us big time. Like when the plumbing inspector failed the work and it cost us $14K to fix it? Yea, that's just for starters.

The set backs, the delays, the complications, the expense. It added up fast. And it drained all our money and more. It drained my energy, my psyche, my everything. Throughout, the one thing I wanted more than all other things was the CofO. Getting that clearance became the one goal of all goal lines we needed to cross.

Expeditors, architects, paper pushers, all came and went. Checks were written, phone calls made. Pleading, cajoling, begging. I even tried doing the work myself! Brick walls. Speed bumps, inspections, move paper from one counter to the next. I am convinced the system is designed to keep normal citizens like me out of there! I would run out of Boro Hall practically screaming, it was all so insane!

Here we are, EIGHT years later and I am happy (exhausted, relieved, fed up) to report. After countless thousands of dollars and some more signed documents,


I honestly thought this day would never arrive. But somehow, it did. It's like a miracle or something? No, it's just a matter of spending enough money, I guess. And finally hiring someone who really understood the process. Done.

There are still things to do around here, and honestly I hesitate to do anything. Because every time we hire someone to do anything, I just know we are getting jacked 30% simply because of the address. And even after paying the premium, the workmanship is never completely satisfactory. Maddening. And everything, I mean everything is custom in this house. No such thing as going to Home Depot or Lowes to buy product. Oh No. That's too easy. Nope, it's got to be custom made. Know what? Custom made is expensive made. And hard to do right. Windows. Screens. Doors, Hardware. You name it. Custom.

So please excuse me my little cynical rant. It's sad, I want to be elated over the CofO. I really do want to feel the joy that comes from finishing a task as huge as this has been. But the cynicism has seeped into my bones by now. I mean it's eight years of frustration and dead ends. Now that we have this holiest of Grails, I want simply want OUT. I want to sell this albatross - ahem - brownstone and move on with our lives.

The idea floating now is this - scale down. Right size. Unchain the shackles. Make things manageable.

So Economy? Yea, you Economy? Straighten the fuck out now! Because I am so tired of putting life on hold and feeling weighted down by the load. I need you to get your act together and I promise, I will get mine together. You listening?


Susie said...

My husband is a superintendent in Manhattan and I know what you mean about contractors, plumbers etc. If everyone just did their damn job the world would be a better place. Congrats on your CofO and I hope the rest is easier for you.

Beverly said...

Congrats on hanging in - though i have the impression you would refuse to be defeated! I hope there are scads of photos to show us all what you've been through from beginning to end...
and if the dogs like it, well then, you know it was all worth it!

Sara said...

Congrats! Happy CofO day!

Eliza said...

Congratulations!! I know how it can feel never ending, though.
We (mostly C, really) have been sleeping on the floor for a month while we wait for our windows to get done.

Oiyi said...

Wow, you have been through so much! Congrats for getting the cert!!! I am so excited for you guys. It's a fabulous idea to make it into a 2 family.

We bought our condo in Brooklyn 6 years ago and feel like we are never finished with fixing or renovations. There is always something to improve.

pronounce my name in spanish + Claudia . pornounced Clawdia. said...

Sis - Congrats on the Cert. Remember...our choices from the past have brought us to where we are today. CU next week.