March 17, 2019.
It struck me just now at 4am (since I cannot sleep in this god-forsaken hotel with clanking pipes) that I am and have been in a gritty war with my merciless Harvard trained landlord and his army of accomplices for years.
My grimy dust covered kick-ass black boots just informed me in a way that was really real. What happened to my carefully chosen high heels or my pretty girly-girl boots? I was aware I had been fighting but not aware of the changes in what I look like or what I subconsciously selected as my uniform. The clothes I wear now don’t show the woman I thought myself to be. Instead they portray a person without a gender who is ready to physically fight at a moment’s notice. It is pretty alarming – even for me.
Not that I wasn’t aware of the struggles between myself and my landlord who has tried every conceivable trick to get me to leave. And not just because I am in a rent stabilized apartment but because as he once hissed: “You are my enemy.”
Why didn’t I see a battlefield much like the one in Vietnam? Why didn’t the word “enemy” make me realize the gravity of the situation? I have fought many battles and have survived. Perhaps not unscathed but not beaten.
I became his “enemy” when I created a Tenants’ Association that bore his name. I became his enemy when I enlisted the help of 100 other tenants to drive away the arsonist owner of Ollie’s Noodle Shop just as they inked a lease to occupy the storefront on Broadway (who btw was also sued by the urban Justice Center for underpaying his workers). I became his enemy when I placed a 20-foot inflatable rat in front of the building to protest the basement-turned-restaurant who infested our buildings with rodents by letting his food sit in open crates in the open cellar alley. I became his enemy when I outed the illegal rooftop apartments, the oversized 15,000 pound HVAC unit that held another 8,000 pounds which is slowly destroying the stability and soundness of the small five story building I live in. I became his enemy when I contacted every single city agency and he began to receive fine after fine; court days after court days. I became his enemy when I became relentless.
Perhaps there was a clue in a phone taped conversation of January 2014 when his son urged a neighbor against joining the newly created tenants’ association. “There will be a reduction in services,” he warned. “Don’t go to meetings. Don’t complain.” (I have the tape and the transcript in a bank safe because this is illegal on every level). Tenants are allowed by law to create a tenants’ association and landlords cannot retaliate against them. At least legally. But what does legal mean to a landlord who has broken so many laws that he has become lawless?
His attacks against me were never ending to the point where I truly believe he and his cohorts devised a scheme to drown me out of my apartment. To this end I also believe my life may have been and perhaps remains at risk. What he didn’t expect, however, was a woman who has been at war with giants for decades and one who possesses the ability to bounce back after every disruption.
If the repair of my apartment is in actuality a trojan horse I am armed and ready. My war-boots confirm this.