Now that it’s spring, many of us are more conscious of the need to brush our pet, to
remove hair that will end up on the furniture or clothes. Rather than dispose of
their hair in the garbage, however, you can make it available to birds that frequent
our courtyards. They will gladly use it to build nests, and the time is right.
Just gather the hair in a specific place, and next time you exit your building, leave it
on the grass or any bushes you can reach. It won’t be there long, so no one need be
concerned about unsightly bunches of animal fur in the courtyard.
As I approached the building, it was there,
on the threshold, wedged (by its own efforts)
between the door and the door jamb.
A small bird, brown/gray like many,
(or I would not have seen it).
Not knowing what to do,
I opened the door and
it flew—or rather fluttered—
into the building,
quickly finding the place
where the elevator door meets its frame,
wedging itself in,
always on the ground.
With a scarf,
I picked it up and took it outside,
laying it on the grass.
By then, it had died, so
I covered it with
the leaves of the ground cover
that shares space with the grass.
Only later did I realize that
when we die,
we want to be enfolded,
protected on as many sides as possible.
You may have noticed the planters outside some entrances to Fort Tryon buildings and wondered about their origin. As a test, our hard-working, dedicated Garden Committee created them and filled them with dried foliage last fall. The test has been successful, and we residents will soon have the opportunity to join the Committee in making more.
The planters are made of papercrete, being a mixture of soggy, shredded newspaper, cement, sand, and gravel. Papercrete was patented in 1928, revived in the 1980s, and now re-revived at Fort Tryon Gardens. Its advantages are low cost and high performance. Visit http://www.papercrete.com to know more about this unusual building material.
Garden Committee member Ernie DeLia is the prime mover in this project. To learn more, several of us joined him recently to make planters. You need:
Shredded newsprint (this is the main ingredient; two Sunday New York Times are sufficient for a 1×1 ft. square pot)
Rubber or plastic molds (of any shape), e.g., mop bucket, dishpan, container of some brands of kitty litter, large bleach bottle
Cement, sand, gravel
Water for mixing + mineral or vegetable oil to line the molds;
First you let the shredded newsprint soak in water for two days. Then you add the cement, sand, gravel, and mix it by hand (or using Ernie’s giant egg-beater, which is an attachment to his power drill). When the mixture is the right consistency, you press it to the walls of the pre-oiled mold, about 1 inch thick. The action is similar to pressing dough into a pie pan (taking only slightly more exertion).
Once the planter is the height you want, you let it dry for about two weeks. Then you coax it out of its mold, and leave it to dry completely (about a month). The planter is then ready, and is sturdy, holding up well in inclement weather. If you are interested in making and adopting a papercrete planter for your entrance, contact the Garden Committee by e-mail at “gardens at forttryongardens.org,” via the Facebook group, or on the Fort Tryon Gardens website group.
Who hasn’t had issues with laundry? You walk into the laundry room and find:
Detergent spilled on top of a machine
Clothes left in the machine after washing or drying is complete
Someone is using the cart when you need it, and isn’t in a rush to finish
We may not all agree on how to proceed in these cases, so here are suggestions for what good neighbors do routinely, and what we can to when our neighbors are less than considerate.
Detergent spilled on top of a machine: If YOU spill it, wipe it up. We have been promised wipes for our laundry rooms, and perhaps by the time you read this, they will be there. If they are not, let one of your board members know, and please, take the time to bring paper towels from your own apartment to clean up. If others haven’t cleaned up their spills: shame on them! Just because they didn’t doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.
Clothes left in a washer or dryer after completing the cycle: Everyone has multiple timing devices, so use whatever will get you to the laundry when your cycle is complete. If a neighbor has failed to remove clothes, don’t be shy about removing them from the machine, placing them gently in either the cart or on the table to await their owner.
Someone is using the cart when you need it, and isn’t in a rush to finish: There isn’t much you can do besides stand by, hoping your neighbor will observe and be a good neighbor. You might strike up a conversation so that, even if it takes more time than you planned, you have a sense of the other person. Knowing your neighbors is the best way to foster cooperation and a sense of community.
And has it ever happened that you’re in the elevator with your dirty laundry, and a neighbor gets on the elevator, armed with dirty laundry? From the looks of things, the machines might not accommodate both of you. What can you do? I have engaged in “negotiation” in these instances, which means having a conversation about priorities and flexibility. It’s an opportunity to get better acquainted, and you may make a friend. By the way, our residents who work on Broadway often do laundry on Mondays, when not engaged with a show. I try to avoid washing on Mondays for that reason.
Some of the laundry rooms have a “book exchange.” If yours doesn’t, you might consider starting one. The laundry is our most accessible common area in Fort Tryon Gardens, a potential meeting place, an opportunity to get acquainted, to learn about your neighbors. Friendliness is your best ally in the war on dirty laundry.
A preacher was walking by a farmer’s field and stopped to admire it. “Mighty pretty field you got, Farmer Brown.” “Thank you, pastor.” “Isn’t it wonderful what God and man can do working together!” “Yep, but you should have seen it when God had it by himself!”
Here at Fort Tryon Gardens, we live in a permanent art exhibit, for gardens are living art. Our grounds are an oasis, refreshing us from time spent amid concrete buildings and sidewalks. Being in the presence of growing things has a positive impact on our mental health, offering respite from the daily pressures of life.
Just as a stunning piece of music requires practice to deliver its effect, a garden requires diligence and constant attention if it is to be a beautiful sight to passersby. Fortunately, we have residents with the energy, dedication, and expertise needed to tackle the challenge offered by our green spaces. Its sections are varied as to soil, sunlight, and exposure to the elements. The newly formed Garden Committee is swinging into action, however, to better use the skills of our paid landscaping company, and to maximize opportunities to grow flowers, and even vegetables!
Good design principles help make a garden attractive year-round. One of the committee members says that she envisions the space as it is in winter, how it will look before it lives into the “easier” seasons. Many are the factors to consider. Beds may be dry or irrigated, rocks may be close to the surface, soil may be more or less acidic. Skillful handling of these variables make it possible to achieve a sense of harmony and unity in the garden. The committee’s work will start with a soil analysis, to determine which plants would flourish most easily in the individual sections.
Garden designers think about its every section from all angles: what the viewer sees when walking alongside and what the eye captures when the viewer looks at a space dead on. A given plant may offer one color in spring and a different color in autumn. The arrangement of plants determines whether the foliage contrast is esthetically pleasing. Certain plants are good companions for one another, and others are not. Similar to what happens when you replace a piece of furniture in your living room, the presence or absence of a given plant creates a change in the total picture.
PLANS AND POSSIBILITIES
Through the Garden Committee’s efforts, it will be possible for us—if we choose—to have a community garden. These jointly-tended areas depend on healthy interaction among the members, and the effort can bring residents together under a shared vision. The advantages are many: growing something you can include in your evening meal, interaction with neighbors, a sense of community that many of us long for in New York City. A committee member said, “You can go to the garden and people know you.” But it needs a solid plan, such as a garden divided into individual plots, whose keepers must be diligent in caring for their space (lest their forfeit their plot). As any gardener will tell you, “constant” means “daily,” and “care” means attention to every component in a space. It’s exciting to put something in the ground and watch it grow. A committee member said, “It works a part of my brain that enjoys color and shape.”
The project welcomes those who are ready to join the effort. The committee urges Fort Tryon residents: “Join us! Get your hands dirty!” The garden committee is brand new, and nothing firm has been decided. Below are the members. To attend their next meeting or involve yourself in other ways, here’s the contact: Gardens@forttryongardens.org
Ernie DiLia: Ernie works for Cardiology and is an administrator in the Department of Medicine, Mt. Sinai/Roosevelt Hospital. Since childhood, he has mowed lawns, grown herbs and peppers, and at one time had a plot on the Fort Tryon premises. He is currently enrolled in a landscape-architecture program offered by the New York Botanical Garden.
Gina Mennella: A former teacher in the city, Gina has lived at Fort Tryon Gardens for almost five years. With her two children (a toddler and a newborn), she is a full-time mother. She finds spare moments, however, to volunteer in local gardens.
Stanton Nash: New to Fort Tryon, Stanton is an actor, having performed at theaters in New York City and around the country. He has quickly become involved in the garden effort, and can’t wait to cook what he has grown on our premises. When closing on his apartment, he inquired about the potential for gardening, as this is something he has always longed for in New York.
Laura Smith: Laura is a professional gardener, currently on staff at the Central Park Conservancy. She has tended luxury gardens in Boston and New York, but she says that she prefers to share her skills with everyone. Fort Tryon gives her the opportunity to do that, and she brings significant technical expertise to the effort.
Levi Waldron: Levi is a professor of biostatistics at Hunter College. He grew up in a family of avid gardeners, and says that it has been part of his consciousness since childhood. His favorite thing is to pick something from a plant and eat it.
New York City apartment dwellers will pay dearly for three things:
They pay because these are the hardest to come by, but there are ways to increase your share of all three. Light is enhanced in your apartment by careful use of curtains and wall colors. You can gain space in your abode either by renting external storage space, or by calling in a professional organizer to maximize what you have.
What about quiet? Cities are noisy, but there are solutions. One is Cityproof windows, which reduces noise coming from outside the building. Internal noise requires more effort, and the first line of defense is to carpet floors adequately. In fact, Fort Tryon Gardens requires that 80% of your floor space be carpeted. If you play an instrument or like your music loud, sound-absorbent carpet is an easy solution. Professional musicians use it so they can play at all hours, and it’s not terribly expensive.
But what if your neighbors are not as careful as you about the level of sound emanating from their dwelling? In other words, what can you do about noisy neighbors? You have choices:
Call the police. This is not likely to be effective unless there’s a real brawl.
Write a letter to building management. It will take time to bring about enforcement.
Take matters into your own hands, and knock on the neighbor’s door.
The last is the most efficacious, but it takes will on your part. Most of us aren’t aware of how far our noise carries, and few of us would willingly disturb our neighbors’ peace. It’s reasonable to assume good will if you take this tactic.
So knock on the door, announce yourself as a neighbor, and make them aware of the disturbance saying, for example, “You may not be aware of how sound carries in this building.” Ninety-nine percent of the time they will apologize, comply, and thank you. Wouldn’t you do the same?
If they don’t, you may have to opt for the second tactic. And you should take action. Building management has a vested interest in maintaining a pleasant living space, and will notify the offending party.
Any action you take is better than feeling annoyed, and you’ll do yourself and other residents a favor. Remember, music pounding in hallways or apartments generates a negative impression when potential buyers are considering a purchase. Don’t we all want our property to be highly valued? So help with the noise factor, so that a noise doesn’t annoy.
If you lived in a house and someone were on your front porch, you would expect an explanation, for no one should be there without a valid reason. The hallways of our buildings are our front porch, and we are entitled and even have an obligation to know why anyone is there. Acceptance of that responsibility is one of the most effective ways of ensuring the safety of our community.
But how do you approach a stranger in the hallway? With friendliness. “Hi, I don’t think I’ve met you. I’m xxx, and I live on the third floor. Where do you live?” Or, “May I help you find an apartment? What apartment are you looking for?” If they need help, they’ll be grateful. If they don’t, they’ll at least know that people are friendly. If they have no business being there, they’ll know that they can’t walk around unchallenged.
You can use these friendly openings in the hallways, as well as at the street door when your arrival coincides with the arrival of a stranger. Do not feel self-conscious or defensive about asking why someone is in the building, or is attempting to enter. If a visitor is waiting when I arrive, I usually wait until the resident buzzes to allow entry. I may ask what apartment he or she is looking for, and offer to show them the way. If you are not accustomed to approaching people this way, know that with a little practice, you can become comfortable and proficient.
In the laundry, I make a point of introducing myself to fellow residents. Any pretext for conversation will serve: “All these clothes! Sometimes I think we should be nudists!” From there, you can introduce yourself, and segue into something like “Did you see the article on the Fort Tryon website?” We all benefit from engaging with one another, and most people are open to a little initiative from a neighbor.
Several recent Facebook posts mention package theft, so let’s review that unpleasant possibility. My immediate neighbors and I regularly retrieve packages for one another. If you see a package in front of a neighbor’s door, take it into your apartment and leave a note on their door. When the neighbor knocks, you can clarify: “If you would prefer that I not pick up your packages, just say so.” Most residents will be happy about your action, and it’s a good way to meet a neighbor.
I once encountered a young man waiting to enter my building through the street door. I asked which apartment he wanted, and he replied that he was just waiting for any unit to respond, because he was “doing a promotion.” I didn’t immediately know what he meant, but then realized that he was one of those who slip fliers under doors and wedge them into door spaces. I ordered him off the premises, and he scrambled to get away (knowing that I was watching him). Exerting even a low level of authority works wonders, so practice doing it.
I moved into Fort Tryon Gardens in 2012 as a renter, and purchased my unit last summer. The purchase price included renovation, and the management offered me the use of a vacant apartment for the duration. I gratefully accepted, and moved into a space that will remain unnamed.
My temporary apartment was on the Broadway side, and close to the street, thus noisy. But worse than the noise were the previous tenants’ leavings: cockroaches! For people like me, who come to New York in their twenties, learning to live cockroach-free is a rite of passage. I did this earlier in life, and didn’t expect to do it again, but there they were, crawling out from behind cabinets and counters late at night. I was aghast, but remembered grandmother’s words: “there’s nothing shameful about having bugs; it’s shameful to keep them!” Grandma would be proud to know how I became an expert exterminator.
The thought of cockroaches is disgusting to everyone, but if you’re determined to rid your unit, you can adopt a certain attitude. First, when you see a cockroach, you must never recoil, lest you give them the advantage. You must freeze, so they do not sense you. You must feel rage at their presence—not fear—and the conviction that it is them or you. They have changed your relationship with your home, and they deserve to die. I apologize to those of you who love all animals, but I am a truthful woman.
Next, you must know your enemy. Aware that some insects breathe through the carapace, I researched and found that this is true of cockroaches. This detail interested me because it provided an easy, inexpensive way to annihilate them. It’s too difficult to simply smash them with, e.g., a shoe (they move too quickly, and into cracks and corners). Keep at the ready a spritzer filled with alcohol (you can use your best vodka, but I prefer cheap rubbing alcohol). A quick spritz stuns the little buggers, allowing you to move in and spray them multiple times, causing them to suffocate. It is unpleasant to watch them die (they take their time), and I didn’t enjoy the many executions I conducted. But you don’t have to clean up the remains of bugs on your counter, and the smell of alcohol is clean.
HOW TO MAINTAIN
Keeping them away is a different task. They don’t like paint, so I bought the cheapest I could find, and slathered the interior of the kitchen cabinets, and spaces around bathroom fixtures (my temporary apartment was slated for renovation, so I was ruining nothing). The building’s exterminator service helped somewhat in the apartment, but I waged my own campaign.
You must never make available anything they want. Most of us in the City learned years ago to remove wet garbage every night (it’s a cockroach banquet). My cats leave not a crumb in their feeding dishes, so cat food remains were not a problem.
More important is water. Cockroaches can live a long time without food, and eat almost anything (e.g., paper bags), but they need water regularly. They can’t dip into, for example, a pet’s water dish, or the toilet bowl (otherwise we’d never get rid of them). They access standing beads of water. The water most people leave in the dish drain is enough for a cockroach orgy. Even a damp sponge on the counter will attract them. In my temporary apartment, I regularly wiped down sinks and bathtub, and before my head hit the pillow, my kitchen and bathroom were bone-dry, a desert, no oasis in sight. Damp sponges went into the refrigerator. As I had no dishwasher (nor do I have one now), I can’t comment on that aspect. Perhaps a reader has a method …
A friend advised me that cockroaches don’t like certain smells, e.g., eucalyptus or tea tree, so I left cotton impregnated with those oils in their haunts. She also told me to spread diatomaceous earth in corners, which causes damage to their shells, and they die a horrible, painful death. I did that in the temporary and in the newly renovated apartment, and now in the latter, I wipe down sinks and bathtubs every night. It’s an annoyance, but constancy is crucial, and remember: it’s you or them.
It takes unstinting effort, over weeks, even months, but the cockroach community gradually gets the message that Godzilla reigns in your home, and they go elsewhere. It’s not that you wish bugs on your neighbors, but if they aren’t as diligent as you, then…
I first got to know Fort Tryon Gardens as a real estate broker in 2005 or so, when one of my agents started representing buyers purchasing Sponsor Units. This agent’s enthusiasm for the Coop and the area of Hudson Heights and Fort Tryon Park rubbed off on me. It was clear to me how it was all transforming, and isn’t it great to be able to live in Manhattan surrounded by amazing natural and commercial amenities? Simply put, I recognize the value, just as so many of you do. In June of 2011 my partner Andres and I closed on our nifty “C-line” unit in the 4501(263) building.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed living here and hope to for years to come.
I anticipated the day would come when the Sponsor’s influence would start to wane as the number of unsold shares dropped below 50%. Soon would be the time when the power of the tenant-shareholders would eclipse that of the Sponsor. Our New Board is the sign of a transferring of responsibility, and its installation represents a new era for our Coop. In my profession I deal with issues surrounding coops and buyers and sellers every single day. What we will be going through in the near term is an inevitable process that most coops have experienced. We have only just begun to sort things out. Yet already your New Board is aggressively scrutinizing every single aspect of the financing and management of this Coop Corporation, with the help of shareholder volunteers who have formed independent committees (Finance, Grounds, Website). I would like to stress that any shareholder is welcome to join or form committees. There are many talented professionals who make up our Community. I can’t wait to meet more of you.
I am thrilled to be serving with a talented and accomplished group that is committed to turning our Coop around. While it is true that our interests are aligned with those of the Sponsor so far as supporting and increasing the value of our apartments is concerned, it is also true that our interests might diverge when it comes to various financial details and the governance of the Corporation.
The Sponsor should know that we support a fair deal for all parties. It is the nature and the talent of the people living in our Community that create the value of this place. Add to that a well-maintained property and the value is enhanced for everyone, whether involved in a Sponsor sale or a resale.
The New Board has identified a large set of unfunded liabilities (over 500K) that need to be paid off so that we can establish a focused and responsible finance and management routine. Compared to the average coop in Manhattan, our Coop has historically raised maintenance levels extremely rarely while certain expenses have far outpaced inflation. No one wants maintenance to increase, but to deny the reality of rising expenses while failing to raise revenue to meet those expenses is irresponsible and can only lead to our defaulting on our obligations. An example of an unanticipated, unfunded expense is tied to the cold winter we had. Nearly 100K of extra fuel costs slammed down upon us. Around 74K of this is still outstanding. We owe around 50k for brick and roof repairs. We owe money to a variety of vendors on invoices that stretch back years. Alarmingly, our Reserve Fund has dipped below the amount required by a mortgage covenant with our bank. Evidence is abundant that the revenue we are now raising is not enough to cover our expenses. We, the Board and your shareholder neighbors, are now in a responsible process of review that will result, as soon as possible, in actions designed to set a solid course into the future.
We Are All Responsible
The Cooperative is a form of ownership that requires everyone to commit, to the best of their ability, to some level of involvement, or at least interest. The New Board is committed to transparency and communication. We look forward to meeting you on November 23rd at 245 Bennett Avenue, Apartment 5F, from 10am to 1pm. This event has already been announced. We look forward to answering any questions you might have.
I would like to thank my fellow Directors for the time, effort and spirit you have shown thus far, and I especially thank the volunteer committee members. Together, and through their elected representatives and officers, the shareholders manage the affairs and maintenance of the place they call home. I would welcome an increase in participation in our various committees. Let’s all get involved and grow together!