By Phil LaMancusa
Baby, won’t you please go home
Tin gutters and fixtures comin’
You’re movin’ out of your home.
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four more have gone Condo.
Hey kids, time to get serious. Okay, listen up.
I guess you would call me a New Orleans Transplant (or implant, replant or even supplant), but I know Tom Foolery when I see him. Ya can’t put this one over on me.
There’s mischief afoot. We got trouble…right here in Crescent City; and it ain’t happening with seventy-six trombones either. It’s low down, guileful, insidious, double-dealing, silent and worser than chicken stealing! It’s those !@##$%^$#%^& Condos! Yes, Condos for sale, Condos to own, Condos to rent; and just to show you how much a part of the fiber of our American living it’s become: even spell check on my computer accepts that dreadful word as legitimate. Well, in MY WORLD IT AIN’T!!!! But, it’s a fact of life that can and is happening to us all.
This is how it starts:
In my neighborhood (and yours as well), there are buildings in less than perfect shape. They may have four, six or even eight apartments, flats, studios…whatever; and if you or your friends don’t live there, certainly your peer group does. The rent is affordable and is conducive to the income of students, artists, bartenders, and that cute little nurse or waiter/ess that has caught your lascivious eye.
The next thing you know they’re being evicted, movin’ out, the rent’s gone up, they’re fixing the building. There’s a garage sale. They gotta go, and go they do (even that hotty that you’ve been lusting after).
Then, someone’s gutting the building, the streets are blocked with construction signs, electrician’s vans, and friggin’ roofers (damn the lot). It looks like a darn make over of Buckingham darn Palace, for cat’s sake!
Then the dreaded sign goes up’ Countessa Theresa’s Condos Soon Available!! See Our Agent!!’
Well, in more cases than not; this is what has happened. Some cat (fat or otherwise) from out of town has snatched up a piece of OUR real estate and is about to make some quick and immoral bucks! They buy from some local, greedy landlord and they proceed hang the locals out to dry.
The economics are this:
Your landlord (sometimes slumlord) is getting three fifty to five hundred per unit; this usually flows one way, but when something breaks (which is all the time) he pays to fix it. Net to your landlord: not a lot.
Here comes the cat from Houston (the spec-lord) and your landlord dumps the place for a couple of hundred grand (borrowed) into his greedy lap. The spec-lord evicts everybody (did you think that you have any tenant’s rights? Think again.), and dumps a hundred thou (double or triple that when termites, local contractors, and city permits finish with him) into the building and gets maybe four units. He sells the units to some mentality (I didn’t say Mobile) that thinks a hundred and thirty grand (also borrowed) is a swell price to pay for a place of their own in New Orleans; even if they only use it three or four times a year.
The new condo owners then find out that there’s a ‘condo fee’ (which can be eight to twelve hundred a month) that they’ll need to be paying as well as the loan, so they figure they can rent the place out for the condo fee and maybe even a piece of the loan.
Well, if you’re anything like me, you figure twenty five percent of your income is the tops that you can afford for rent. If you’re also like me, you know very few people in the fifty thou plus a year bracket that doesn’t already own a house (or a condo). So the new condo owner is working twice as hard to keep an empty apartment in The Big Easy, the spec-lord is reeling from the depths of his debt, and the landlord is wondering how he ever let such a great piece of property go. The city and the contractors and the pest control folks all have made money; but, guess what? You and your peer group have been the ones that have really taken the screwing! Yep, the little guy gets it in the shorts again.
What can we do? I don’t know except it’ll take money to do it, so we’d better have a benefit We’ll do it N’awlins style and have lots of music and food and girls in white dresses with pink satin sashes. Craft booths. Kiddy rides. Fortunetellers. Tax deductible. Proceeds to benefit….etc etc etc. But mostly music.
We’ll get Lizzie Bordon and her band PMS to do cuts from their new CD “Ripping your lungs out through your nostrils is all I wanna do”.
Battered Shrimp and his Beaten Egg Big Band will play “Don’t hurt me no more” The Croissant Doors and the Rolling Scones will jam together. Maybe local musician Jimmy Robinson will reform his group from the sixties ‘Ejaculation’ and do that immortal tune “Three Legged Woman” (and that one’s no joke).
There will be an opening night party with the New Orleans Philharmonic playing ‘The Tenement Symphony in Four Flats’.
L’il P.P. and the Jockey Shorts will do their smash hit “Size Counts”
The Anarchists will probably no show, so don’t count on them.
Of course, I’ll be there as front man for The Well Dressed Oyster Po-boys doing our famous Creole tomato song: ‘How ya gonna keep them down on the firm after they’ve seen puree?”
It’ll all be for a great cause: ‘cause it’s gonna take a lot of money to keep us poor folks in town. I mean, look what the yuppies did to New York. Look what the dot com-ers did to San Francisco. Look what they’re doing to Seattle, Charleston, Denver, St. Louis, Miami (no, don’t look at what there doing to Miami).
I say it’s time to stop the madness. I hear it’s even started in Fairhope. For shame, for shame.