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<it's the heat>

It may not be 100 degrees in New York City, but it's at least that hot in here. I feel like Tandori Chicken, and I don't mean I'm hungry. The walls sweat. Even the cats look glazed and miserable.

New York landlords are legally obliged to turn on central air conditioning by May 15th. Which is exactly when our landlord will do it. That's eleven potentially blistering days from today.

Our landlord owns many buildings. All are air-conditioned. All but ours. Why are those buildings kept comfortable while ours feels like a lit cigarette tip held against the softest part of your skin? Turnover, baby. New York landlords love it.

Those other buildings house tenants in their early twenties. They move in, fall in love and move out. They move in, break up and move out. They move in, get a better job and move out. Under rent stabilization laws, when apartments turn over, rents may legally skyrocket. When tenants stay put, landlords may only raise the rent "reasonably" each year.

Our building houses mostly long-term tenants, including more than a few who get around via walkers and canes. They've lived here for decades and can't afford to move. Most will die here. And ahead of schedule, if our landlord has his way. (Two words. Heat prostration.) Since our landlord only squeezes "reasonable" profits out of this building, he fries us all each spring.

My eyes keep filming over in the airless narcotic heat. I nod to the monotone of cruelly useless fans. I try, but cannot work. In a moment, I'll turn out the lights, fill the tub with cold water, and climb in. Again.

Every year when my home turns into a nuclear barbecue pit, I think about buying a window unit to get through these two or three weeks. Every year I reject the idea. A window unit would block the light all year long. Besides, I'd have to cut the windows and rewire the wall outlet. And anyway, it's only two or three weeks. There are worse problems in life.

Then I think about moving out. But after twelve years here, I can't afford to. Besides, 49 weeks a year, I like the place.

I look at it this way. Each year I endure at most three weeks in Hell. My landlord will spend eternity there.

4 May 2001
The author and his opinions.
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