Archive for March, 2012

A MOVING EXPERIENCE

So much for New Year’s resolutions.  I haven’t been able to sit still long enough to finish this.  Have been busy exploring the neighborhood, meeting people, and getting settled in my new home.  Made several attempts to update my adventures but trashed them all in frustration.  Then, just when I was on a roll, the gremlin in my computer replaced my prose with a blank screen.

If you’ve been reading “Perils” you know I wasn’t pleased with my Long Island co-op.  I made repairs, replaced appliances, improved and decorated the apartment.  I ceased and desisted planting cherry tomatoes in front.  I kept the Cheerios in the kitchen and let the birds fend for themselves.  And I tried to overlook the sourness of a few — maybe they weren’t loved enough as children.  Maybe they were hard to love as children, too.

I couldn’t understand the Board’s acceptance of the managing agent’s rudeness and poor service.  Some samples:  With $8,000 a year budgeted for snow removal, the plow piled mounds of it on the back of our cars — leaving us to dig ourselves out or pay someone else.  The dumpster door hung off its hinges for months — we tied a rope to keep it from swinging in the wind.  I asked a reasonable question at a meeting — the agent tartly snapped:  “If you just listened with both ears, Mrs. Gallagher!”  A water pipe burst inside the wall of a downstairs apartment — the agent demanded the upstairs resident pay for repair since the “pipe originated in your unit!?” Owners groused timidly to each other, but otherwise kept quiet.

But I absolutely couldn’t tolerate being cheated of school tax relief mandated by New York State’s Enhanced STAR Plan, a law enacted for senior homeowners on moderate incomes.  Co-op owners paid our managing agent almost $500 monthly for maintenance and taxes, which the agent then paid on our behalf.  Before January each year owners filed forms requesting tax reduction with the Nassau County Assessor’s Office, which then determined a lowered school tax amount.  The Enhanced STAR law states that senior co-op and condo owners be repaid in a lump sum at the beginning of the next school tax year or have monthly payments reduced for the following year.  Our residents chose the first option.  We expected about $1,200 in October 2009 for 2009-2010.

Months passed.  No money.  No coherent explanation.  My son had made me promise not to join the Board — we both knew I lacked the necessary calm, collected disposition.  But as a former legal secretary and then a research librarian, I thought I’d be helpful from the sidelines.  What was I thinking?  I called the agent.  Ouch!  I wrote to New York Senator Dean Skelos.  I went to the Assessor’s Office twice.  I contacted New York State’s Real Property Office which suggested I file a complaint with the State Attorney General.  Sadly, I learned that no one actually enforced the law because of “budget and time constraints.”

Then I posted a copy of the STAR law on the Community Room bulletin board and gave copies of  correspondence to Board members — naively awaiting their gratitude.  The president taped a note to my door:  “Do not send me any more of your letters.  I am tired of your letters.”  The secretary banged her cane on the sidewalk as she loudly berated me for suggesting we change managing agents.  A friend who lived in a nearby co-op had recommended hers as excellent.

At last, we got checks in October 2010 —  a whole year late — when our next refund was due for 2010-2011.  Later on the agent notified us that we wouldn’t get that money until May 2011.  In July we received checks for less than half the approved amount with an explanation that sounded like a shell-game. “Guess where the money is now.”   Inexplicably, the Board then decided to renew the managing agent’s contract for three years.

I was dumfounded, beyond angry, and very disappointed that others were so leery or afraid to get involved, with the single exception of lively Cathy, who joined me in notifying the Attorney General’s Office.  She’s the one who gave in and paid for the pipe repair.  Gentle Ruth told me:  “I’m satisfied enough, Eileen.  I don’t know how long I’ll live.  And I don’t want to cause any turmoil.”  She played cards and bingo with Board members.

So — I again listed my unit for sale with the Town of Hempstead Housing Authority.  They soon  referred several people, including a widower who’d sold his house, had his furniture in storage, and was living out of a suitcase at his sister-in-law’s home.  A seller’s dream.  After one tour of my apartment he made an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I’d given up finding anything affordable on Long Island, but knowing how much I wanted to stay there, my son came to help me look one last, sentimental time.  Then I flew to Baltimore to see properties he and his wife had found for me in Maryland.

The next day I fell in love with a practically perfect ground floor condo more than twice as big as the co-op at much less cost.  Two big bedrooms, two full baths, eat-in-kitchen, walk-in pantry, large living room/dining area, lots of closets — and a patio where I’ll grow cherry tomatoes.  Friendly neighbors, an impressive community room, exercise facility, and tennis courts.  Beautiful countryside with rolling hills and farms.  Farmers’ Markets, festivals, craft fairs, art exhibits, concerts, theatre, many good restaurants, and a lively, traditional Main Street.  I’m very much alive, thank God, but feel as if I’ve arrived in a kind of Heaven on Earth — at least an Eden.

It’s not far to my son and daughter-in-law’s home.  But not too close. “Everybody Loves Raymond” comes to mind.  I can be in New York City by car, train or bus in about three hours to see plays and meet friends.  I don’t have to miss the superb productions at The Irish Repertory Theatre in Chelsea.  I’ve told them if I ever win the lottery, I’ll sponsor another sorely needed bathroom — with my name on a plaque above the door.  Or I’ll settle for a small, walk-on part.

Most wonderful of all —  my lovely daughter-in-law is pregnant and the baby is expected in June.  After my son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, he was advised to deposit sperm before chemotherapy and radiation treatments which can cause infertility.  As insurance against that, he’s paid to keep it frozen since 1995.  He and his wife are delighted their baby was conceived the old-fashioned way.  I may be prejudiced, but my grandson looks handsome and intelligent, even with his eyes closed, in the amazing sonograms.

Friends at the co-op tell me the man who bought my apartment  is very amiable, comes to all meetings and parties, and is now Board Treasurer.

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to get a check from the managing agent for the balance of my last school tax refund. Went right to the bank.

Moving on . . .  Honey and I have had several interesting experiences recently.  I’ll regale you after I sort them out.

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