07:02:37 am on
Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Apartment Living
Matt Seinberg

I have lived in three apartment buildings and four private homes. Although I enjoyed living in an apartment for the most part, living in a private home is much better. I'll tell you why.

What’s the allure of White Castle?

The first apartment, which I barely remember, was in Jackson Heights, a suburb of New York City. What little I recall are the landmarks around it. It was on a block south of Northern Boulevard, behind a very large Mobil gas and service station. Right across the street was a White Castle fast food restaurant. I must admit that I didn't understand the allure of White Castle food as a kid. I do now.

In those days, a White Castle hamburger cost a nickel; a cheeseburger was ten cents. Now the same sandwiches are $1.29 and $1.69, respectively. The price of a slice of cheese has gone up 600%.

I had the chicken pox while we lived in that apartment. Stewart, a cousin of my mother, was a physician; he came to check up on me. I also recall the Big Blackout of 1965 occurred when we lived in that Jackson Heights apartment; I watched, through the living room window, as the lights went out block-by-block. For a seven-year-old, that was cool.

My second apartment living experience was many years later when we lived in Spring Valley, New York. I was there from grades seven through ten. That's how I remember my life, from where I was in school. I don't remember years that well.

There were two buildings that little complex. There was a tennis court, basketball court and a huge built in pool. In the spring and summer, we had a blast there. The super was a nice fellow that let me use his workroom to paint my model cars and super heroes. Those were the carefree days of fun hobbies.

As an adult, my father and I rented an apartment, together, in Westbury, New York. I eventually bought it when the building went coop. Dad and I lived together for about three years; then he moved back upstate.

I had a succession of roommates, after my father moved. Most were okay, one was good and one was great. When you can hang out and have fun with a roommate, that's great.

Mark was the best roommate I had. We're still friends to this day. Mark and I went to Disney World together, played cards with his friends, got pizza, went to the movies and generally had a good time. He and I got Domino, our cat, together; I kept her after Mark moved to California.

I had one roommate who wanted to be a firefighter. He was a bad drinker and mean drunk. I was happy when he moved out. I ran into him many years later. He retired from the fire department after getting hurt on the job. He seemed to have mellowed out in the ensuing years.

We had a great superintendent, Glenn, in that condo-apartment. He was always on call, but ran through assistants like water. They didn't do the work correctly, were drunk or both.  

Glenn could not keep an assistant.

Whenever I had a problem, Glenn was always there to fix it, even after they went from rentals to coops. If extra work was necessary, such as running an electrical wire for a new AC, I had to pay extra. Still, his prices on all extra work were very reasonable.

One night, while I was still living in the condo-apartment, I heard a noise in the hallway. A neighbor was running around naked, yelling and frantic. I called Glenn and told him.

Then I called the police. The police wrapped her in a blanket and took her away. Evidently, she had gone off her medications and had some sort of manic episode. We didn't see much of her after that.

My father has lived in the same building, in Syracuse, NY for over thirty years. For most of those years, two partners owned the building and took care of it. When one partner died, the other took charge and the building started to go downhill.

Regular maintenance slowed to a crawl and undesirable tenants were moving into the building through many social programmes. Many that are tenants because of social programmes are recovering drug and alcohol users. They may say they are recovering, but they are not.

Last year, the sole owner sold to a newly formed company owned by former Syracuse University and Atlanta Falcon football player Tim Green. Since he has taken over, the building has truly gone downhill. It is a rare day when more than one elevator is working and the boilers work for more than three or four days in a row.

Every day, the office receives complaints regarding rowdy, out of control tenants. Many days the police must stop domestic violence, prostitution and drug dealing. Is there an apartment building you want your parent to live in?

Tim Green is a writer and former television personality suffering from ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. My father was wondering what will happen to his home after he dies. Has he made provisions for a sale or a family member to take over?

How does someone, such as Tim Green, go from well-respected athlete, writer and television personality to slum lord? It seems they make more rent money from these various social service programmes than by renting to regular people or even college students. I guess when the State guarantees the rent, a building owner feels safer.

Here's the kicker. Building management isn’t sure who lives in many of these apartments, which rent to social programmes, not individuals. When an incident occurs and someone from the office must go to the apartment, he or she has no idea what or who might face him or her. Such circumstances are scary.

One social programme tenant came off the street last year and brought bed bugs with him. My father went through months of extermination without so much as a "we're sorry" from management. Nor was there any reimbursement for extermination costs.


Rental apartments are great thing for young people starting out or senior citizens on a budget and looking to downsize. What renters shouldn't have to endure is bad management and bad neighbours; both, it would seem, are inevitable. Living in a home, you control who lives with you.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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