That Whole Thing About My Old Apartment

No matter how hard I try to not talk about myself, sometimes other people force my hand. So here we go again.

During the Valentine’s Day weekend of 2016, my apartment at 537 W 147th St Apt 1 was flooded. My  apartment was and is managed by Aizer Realty, specifically by Joseph Aizer. I am making this information public because I have just found out today that Joseph Aizer and 147 Hamilton LLC have taken me to small claims court for unpaid rent, and at this point, there is no reason to be quiet.

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On the surface, my apartment was perfect. It had a washer/dryer unit, hardwood floors, dishwasher and a backyard.

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And it was home. The only problem was that during the cold months, the apartment was nearly uninhabitable.

We had central air, but it was so expensive to run, between $1200-$1500 monthly during the cold months. We had been in long tern talks with Joseph Aizer about the fact that the apartment was so cold, even despite the HVAC system, and we desperately needed an alternative. I insulated the windows, my roommate cooked frequently to keep the apartment warm, but during those cold months, the electric bill was so high that we were going broke. 

That first summer, my roommate and I made the decision to have the central air system shut down from the unit, to lower costs. During the warmer months, the  difference was significant. The electric bill went down to an average of $100-$200 a month. During the winter months we resolved to use space heaters instead, which lowered our bills to about $900-$1200, better, but still leaving us looking for alternatives. 

My room specifically was known as the freezer. With three of the four walls facing the garden, my room was often colder than the outside. I mentioned repeatedly that my room seemed badly insulated, something Mr. Aizer scoffed at. But I could feel the cold coming in through my feet, and I never went without socks between September and May.

Sometimes, I had to leave the space heater on in my bedroom all day to get it warm enough in time for bed, and while it was hard on the wallet, it made it easier to sleep.

That Valentine’s Day weekend, I spent it with friends. when I came back that Monday night, I started to warm up the apartment before bed, per usual. What I didn’t know is that the sprinkler pipes in my room froze, and when I came back and warmed up the apartment, they burst. I was able to catch the very moment it all went from a drip to a complete flood. 

Within minutes, I lost 300 books. I tried to protect what I could, but the water just kept going and going, and even though I tried going to the basement and shut the water off with one of his men on the phone, I could not figure out what to do.

I spent the next hour knee deep in water, on the phone with  my roommate, with Joe and his flunkies, waiting for someone to show up. One of his men, Ezra, tried to make me take the blame for the pipes freezing, telling me I should have never turned off the heat when I left. I kept reminding him, no matter how hard he tried to pin the blame on me, that keeping the pipes clear was not part of my skill set or my job.

When Mike arrived an hour later, I was standing right next to him when he informed Erza and Joe over the phone that there was no way I could have anticipated this, and that it was unreasonable for them to expect me to be the one to shut the water off, something that I do not know how to do and had never done before, and something that was their job. 

They offered to put me up in a hotel but I refused, too afraid to leave everything to rot overnight. Instead, I didn’t sleep. I cleaned until dawn. I washed the clothes that had gotten wet. I mopped the floors with towels and dumped water in the sink. I tried to save some of my books, mostly journals and signed copies, but the majority were lost.

The next morning when Joseph’s help came, I had done most of the work. I tried to sleep while they cleaned up the rest, dumped my mattress (not covering it according to NY code) and ripped up the carpet. I was livid because just like i had suspected, the carpet had been glued directly onto the floor, proving that my room was badly insulated like I’d told them.

In person, Joseph was super apologetic. we agreed to two things in person: that my roommate and I were going to break that lease, and that Joe would help me find another place to live.

Over email or over the phone, Joseph was different. He continued to blame me for the flood because I didn’t leave the heat on while I was away, despite what Mike had said, and denied any fault because I didn’t have any renter’s insurance. He got convenient amnesia. He admitted to nothing, kept saying he was going to reach out to the owners for us but never did, and kept jumping off conversation threads and creating new ones, I’m sure to keep us off balance.

He made some attempts to find me another place, but left it to me to contact the brokers. No one responded after I disclosed that I was out of a home because the sprinkler system in my apartment burst, and Joe stopped bothering. For a split-second, I considered staying in the apartment, but he took this as an opportunity to keep my roommate’s deposit (money that did not belong to me and that I  did not have) instead for allowing for a break to fix up the apartment and give me time to get a deposit, a new roommate, and enter into a new lease with him. 

I  moved out on March 1st and Joe’s people were in the apartment hours later, with our written permission. Two weeks later, I saw my apartment listed on streeteasy.com for $3,000 a month. 

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Two weeks after that, the apartment was taken off the market, meaning that within a month and a half, Joseph had re-rented the apartment, upped the rent, and collected a fee. Meaning that due to his negligence, he poised himself to make even more money.

I have fought the urge to contact the current tenants and warn them about what we went through in that apartment. The idea that space is limited in the city is a myth, but the predatory nature of the real estate system is very real. It was in Joe’s financial interest to be negligible about that apartment. It has been in mine to keep quiet, for fear of being put on a blacklist. But to believe that I  should keep quiet after Joseph Aizer has had the nerve to take me me to small claims court for an apartment he was slow in maintaining is absurd. If he had been as diligent about maintaining the property as he is about trying gain financially, we would not  be in this situation. Specifically, I would not be out of a home.

I did not want to leave my apartment. Financially, I had no choice. Joe gained more by my departure. This behavior is not only predatory, it is unethical, and New Yorkers are constantly being pushed out of their homes because of people looking out for the bottom line. I will not be silent about that any longer.

UPDATES

Here’s video I took as I stood in the dark waiting for someone to show. I shut off the circut breakers to keep from getting electrocuted.

 

A picture of the pipes that could have helped me but were chained:

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And more of the aftermath.

The 7 People You’ll Probably Argue With Online Now That Trump Has Been Elected President (And You’re A Liberal)

It’s been little over a week since the presidential election. I feel like I’ve aged five years. After it was clear on Wednesday morning that Trump had in fact gotten the electoral vote, New York was in mourning. No one could look at each other on the train. I cried twice in public, and still now I keep trying to think of upsides.

(“There is no upside!” My  roommate tells me as I  type this. “It’s just terrible!”)

Even though I can barely wrap my head  around what has happened, I’d rather not reiterate anything Vice, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and New York Mag have already said. Instead, I am going to do what I do best: analyze what I see.

I spend a lot of time online, mostly arguing with people in the comments section. It tightens up my writing, but it also makes me feel like I am reclaiming that space. Unless regularly moderated, the comments section on almost every website can be a petri dish of the worst of humanity; I for one think that the fragile anonymity that the internet provides should not be an excuse to indulge the worst in ourselves, and I like to use my powers of persuasion for the greater good.

But some people can’t help themselves. While they may think they’re being edgy or counterculture, or just expressing their opinion, man, the way that humans argue still follow certain patterns. And if you’re the type to loves to argue for arguments sake, then there’s a really good chance your arguments commit certain logical fallacies.

The truth is, there really is no one way to argue with these people.

1. The Move On’er 

“The election is over, man. Why don’t you just move on?” Admit it, even reading the title of this post you were thinking it. We’ve been in election mode for the past year and a half, and now a lot of people just want to move on with their lives.

Except the result of the election is not normal. Somehow we managed to elect a man who ran several businesses into the ground and is so unprepared for a presidency that he doesn’t even have a transition team in place.

It’s difficult to move on when your rights might be in danger. I live in a nice little blue bubble of democracy, and I am still worried about my reproductive rights being decided by the alt-right. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who woke up still black, Muslim, LGBTQ, or Mexican in a red state. People are afraid because there is real reason to be.

The best way to talk to the Move On’er is to point out the real reasons why you’re afraid, and the very real things Trump has said to make you afraid of his presidency. If they come back with something along the lines of, “Trump didn’t really mean that,” remind them that there really is no way to be 100% sure of that until it happens, and you have every right to be wary.

2. The Couple Tag Team 

You argue with one and you inherit an argument with the other. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, or if you’re being naive, confrontational, cynical, or snide. If you’re arguing with Thing 1, Thing 2 is bound to come in to defend their honor.

The problem with The Couple Tag Team is that they come at you as an united front but you’re still arguing with two people. When one taps out, the other taps in. When you’re responding to one, the other asks another question. It’s exhausting, and completely unfair. How can you possibly make your point when it’s two-on-one, at least?

The Couple Tag Team is tough because real relationships are on the line. If you are having a disagreement with a friend and their other half joins in guns blazing, it might be easier to back off to preserve your friendship. But if its someone you barely interacted with and then their spouse is being obnoxious? Fuck ’em. Make your point and then hit that block button when you’re done.

3. The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud)

They don’t make any sense. Any time you try to respond to one of their points, they throw three more at you at the same time. They change the subject, they move the goal post, they criticize your sources as”lamestream media” and then they turn around and quote The Washington Post. And then, just when you think you’ve got them cornered, they go to another thread and start the whole fucking thing again.

But look into The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud), and you’ll find someone with a family and children. They may even have high powered positions and college degrees, and you might actually consider being friends with them if they weren’t so horrible on social media.

You might start to think, why would otherwise will read and learned person say such horrible things online? Well, some people, hear me out, think that the things they say online has no real-world consequences. Other people feel so insignificant in their daily lives that trolling online is the only way they feel important. And then there’s the type of person that has really damaging opinions and sees the internet as a safe place to be hateful.

One thing we often overlook when dealing with conflict is that humans feel things. One of those feelings can be anger, and socially, we discourage people from expressing their anger. Often, this is well-intentioned: anger is volatile, unpredictable, and destructive. There really is no safe, public place where to express and expel undiluted anger, and for many, the internet has been an outlet.

The thing about The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud) is that they see the internet as a no-consequence space to  vent their anger. While anger is a perfectly valid emotion, there is a difference between venting and indulging. What they don’t see is that opinions influence media and ideas. Remind them. My favorite thing to tell people: everything is sociology. Everything. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything has a footprint. The quality of the footprint is up to us.

4. The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher

God knows all. God will protect us. God has a plan. God knows your ass didn’t vote.

The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher sees their own inaction as part as some mysterious greater plan. Didn’t wear a condom? God will know what to do. Got pregnant? God wanted it to happen. Criticize their decisions? God will protect them from your negativity.

The hard part about arguing with The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher is that they really believe God is pulling the strings. Call it a form of comfortable ennui. On one hand, it keeps them from feeling insignificant and giving up hope. But on the other hand, it can be a very passive existence, comfortable in the idea that there’s a higher power living their life for them.

I have a huge problem with “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosophers. I grew up in the same type of skirt-only-wearing, girls-should-be-pure-preaching, used-to-be-a-bodega kind of Pentecostal church that used to preach that the Apocalypse was going to happen and it was only a matter of when. As an adult, I now have anxiety.

But part of the reason I am okay with leaving the church is that often, The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosophy is often used to excuse bad behavior or inaction, because God knows what’s in their heart. It doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do, because God knows what’s in their heart. 

When I argue with The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher, I’m usually brutal. I’m not saying take my lead on this one, I am saying, I hate this type of person specifically and I am probably not the best person to take advice from on this one. When I do argue with  The”It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher, it looks something like this:

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5. The Conspiracy Theorist

They think Clinton should be in jail. They share statistics about black on black crime. They think 9/11 was an inside job. Something something Illuminati. And if you disagree with them, you’ve clearly have been brainwashed by the establishment.

The Conspiracy Theorist thinks they know a higher truth than you. How did they learn this higher truth? Probably on the internet.

The Conspiracy Theorist is usually trying to fill a void in their life, and it can be really difficult to convince them otherwise. The answer, however, seems to be empathy. From the linked article:

“So what’s the key to stopping conspiracy theorists? It’s like a wise dog once said: “Empathy, empathy, put yourself in place of me.” It was his conversation with Mark Bingham’s grieving mother (and his disgust at how his fellow conspiracy theorists were treating her with utter contempt) which pushed Charlie back into sanity.

There’s a belief that fighting conspiracy theories is a simple matter of bludgeoning people over the head with facts and waiting for everything to sink in. But that’s like arguing that Christianity will eventually defeat atheism by finding the right combination of Bible verses. Every one of us has near-constant access to the greatest information archive in history, and conspiracy theories are flourishing like never before.”

The Conspiracy Theorist, like literally everyone else, is trying to find meaning in this world, just through a really harmful outlet. If you have to argue with The Conspiracy Theorist, try to get them up on the conspiracy that private corporations have been trying to buy our democracy through the Republican party for over a century. It’s scary stuff.

6. The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist

Didn’t you hear? Obama has been coming for our guns since 2008! Did he get yours yet? Huh? He hasn’t? No, he hasn’t gotten mine either. But he’s coming for our guns!!! Any day now!!

The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist always makes me thinks of this quote in Good Omens. Crowley, a demon, is describing how he feels about the people who worship the Prince of Darkness:

“Crowley always found them embarrassing. You couldn’t actually be rude to them, but you couldn’t help feeling about them the same way that, say, a Vietnam veteran would feel about someone who wears combat gear to Neighborhood Watch meetings.”

The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist has probably never seen active combat. They’re probably not even fit to be on a police force. They’re probably white, very likely male, and  they’re very afraid that “those people” will come take their rights (i.e. privileges) away.

They also don’t represent they average gun owner:

Don’t argue with The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist, but keep a wary eye on them. If they post something that even hints at a threat, call the police, pronto.

7. The Diet Racist

They just want to make America Great Again, ya’ll. They want to protect the border and bring back our jobs! What’s wrong with that?

Well, The Diet Racist is the reason the United States has immigration laws after 90% of the native population died off. The Diet Racist is the reason redlining is still a thing, and why the quality of education you get depends on where you live.

The Diet Racist uses coded language to obscure what they really mean. They’re not racist, you see, they’re just trying to keep the ones they love safe from ‘those other people’:

Othering, of course, is the root of the problem. From the link:

“By “othering”, we mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us”. Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.

This psychological tactic may have had its uses in our tribal past. Group cohesion was crucially important in the early days of human civilisation, and required strong demarcation between our allies and our enemies. To thrive, we needed to be part of a close-knit tribe who’d look out for us, in exchange for knowing that we’d help to look out for them in kind. People in your tribe, who live in the same community as you, are more likely to be closely related to you and consequently share your genes.

As a result, there’s a powerful evolutionary drive to identify in some way with a tribe of people who are “like you”, and to feel a stronger connection and allegiance to them than to anyone else. Today, this tribe might not be a local and insular community you grew up with, but can be, for instance, fellow supporters of a sports team or political party.”

Understanding this, your best tool when arguing online is to remind your opposition that you are a person. Not a name on a screen, not a profile on social media, but a person who lives and breathes and has people in their corner. How you decide to get that message across, however, is entirely up to you.