Thursday, November 29, 2007


Does anyone else out there besides chickens and rabbits live in a coop? In the old days this was a democratic sort of housing arrangement whereby homeowners were able to own and maintain their building in a way that benefited individual residents and provided group protection in the form of insurance, tax benefits, and a bit of control over quality of life. The Board or governing body was democratically elected and voluntarily bound to make decisions in the best interest of the group. Coop stood for co-operative. Cooperation. Working Together. Old-fashioned values. Recycling protocol. Safety issues. Owner control of service contracts. Grass-roots ownership of the ‘company’ stock. Economy. Volunteer gardening, architectural advice, in-house counsel. A bit of urban Utopia.

Welcome to the 21st century where any semblance of grass-roots values has been mowed down by the breed of greedy Pacmen who make clever financial decisions for our country. Take the sub-prime mortgage scheme. What a novel idea. I’m surprised none of these inventive people were nominated for the Nobel prize because this was a truly visionary concept, was it not? To offer the less fortunate of us the opportunity to live briefly in a fairy-tale version of their life for absolutely no money down, while the giggling bankers pocketed commissions on both ends of these loans?

In fact, one of these men has made enough money with these fantasy commissions to buy up not one or two but many, many apartments in my building which he has combined and extended into a living space billions of times larger than his brain. Sadly, now that these loans are being called in, the clever architects seem to be hiding. Everyone seems to have passed the buck. So it lands in the lap of the overburdened, nearly-obsolete middle-class taxpayer--you and me. The new American camels.

And have these meddlesome middlemen lost their homes… or even their jobs? Negative. Layoffs are for the non-monied. For the camels, rabbits and chickens. These guys were clever enough to have invested their profits. Too late for the whistle-blowers and us horrified old-school honest mortgage-payers. They are my neighbors now. In the newly converted one-syllable version of ‘Coop’, because that is what they have made of their honest, democratic, considerate, cooperative neighbors from the 20th century. And in a great distortion of the old system, the largest and fattest of the neighbors have the most votes, so the rest of us must eat our cake with a generous dusty layer of sawdust and plaster from endless renovations while they are temporarily renting in quiet buildings. Or vacationing with their buddies in Dubai and Anguilla. Or living temporarily with their rich parents on Park Avenue in buildings which would never have allowed the sort of ‘coup’ they have pulled in mine.

And because they now occupy the most space here, besides being the loudest, they now occupy the pivotal majority seats on the Board. Is this because they were democratically elected? I would compare our coop elections to the Al Gore Florida vote-count. It was a behind-the-curtains manipulation, with bribes and telephone calls. A few threats, although, of course, we are unable to mention these now, because our management company keeps us in check. They as well stand to profit from the in-house transfers of shares, roof-right purchases, mortgage arrangements vis-a-vis these financial wizards. And other secret arrangements we are not allowed to know about, because we are the chickens and rabbits in the coop and we are not allowed to view the books or see the checks which they have written to one another with our money. Their personal architects have now been contracted to renovate the lobby. Referrals in this business are always appreciated with a generous commission. Their contractors, as well, who hire illegal Chinese laborers who receive a tiny fraction of union wages and who continue to use ropes and home-made pulleys to create unending noise in our courtyard where all of the second-class tenants live. Because this is the new American way. And if we complain, they might decide to build a luxury hotel on our poor old coop-roof. Or a parking garage. A casino. Their architects tell them this is ‘feasible’. No matter that our ceilings are caving in and our pipes bursting from their existing renovations. Not their problem. Nor their expense. We-the-oldtimers must pay for their errors. They are busy selling themselves the air-rights for next-to-nothing, so they can make Wall-Street-scale profits and keep them for themselves. And come to think of it, wasn't 'feasible' the descriptive adjective used by 9 of 10 board-certified plastic-surgeons as they prepared to swipe the credit card just before Kanye West's late mother's recent procedure? For those who didn't ace their SAT's, 'feasible' is nowhere a synonym for responsible, safe, reliable or recommended.

They have even drilled through our 100-year-old brick wall to put windows in our landmarked building. Of course this was in the courtyard. The management does not take the calls of chickens and rabbits. Do you remember the 1990’s when there was a general shake-down of corrupt coop management, with exposure of kickbacks and padded service contracts? These were days of relative innocence, because this has now become the norm. This is the way the 21st century does business. Every single contracted professional is now in the pocket of these people whose only motive in life is: you guessed it---profit. This is their own personal fantasy corporation. They are the CEOs, the Chairmen of the Board, the young monied overdressed and spoiled who had the fortune to have ‘come of age’ in the Reagan Era, and superimposed these values on the rest of us who remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy and listened to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix in small clubs. Who swore we would change the world. And that we would fight for peace and equality. That we would listen. That we would not harm or disturb our neighbors in the name of greed. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Like a constitutional right? Like one of the Ten Commandments? Like something from any one of the Gospels? Does anyone read?

Not. Welcome to America in the 21st century.

Help, I say. My building has been hijacked. It is being flown by disrespectful and inconsiderate terrorists that enjoy driving the seated majority into a nightmarish destination that was not mentioned on the tickets we carefully purchased not so many years ago with our hard and honestly-earned dollars. Not the inflated devalued excessive amounts our new pilots have paid with their disproportionate profits of disgrace. And here is the thing. We want our plane back. We the people. But we are seatbelted and tied. Quiet, the hijackers say. You are bothering us. We are busy flying with $100-a-barrel oil directly to the pot of gold in which we are also heavily invested.

Does anyone remember John Galt?

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