i don't have money or influence, but at least i can write (or type into my laptop)! thanks to tribeca citizen and curbedny, my blogpost about having my kids' bedrooms flooded by a developer got real attention.
i discovered this when i ran into zach vella on my street last saturday.
it was one of those hideous, freezing weekend mornings (rara had had a sleepover the night before and no one got any sleep). i'd gone out to walk the dog in uggs with polar fleece over my pajamas, eyes puffy, coconut oil slathered on my face and my big furry hat to hide under. convinced myself i'd dash in and out without seeing anyone.
of course, zach was out too. i contemplated running inside and putting on mascara, especially since i
heard he was a reality real estate tv star, on the million dollar
listing. (on the trailer says, a broker says, "zach vella is great, great
"hi... zach!" i said.
zach glared at me, "you have some nerve! all that stuff you wrote on your blog about me and my kid - now you're talking to me?"
i felt guilty because it's not fair to blame the entire debacle on zach vella. it's just that it's his project and he lives right next door so i thought i could actually talk to him. i figured he was the boss.
me: actually, i didn't write anything terrible about you personally. i just wondered why you didn't return my phone calls or my emails. your construction crew flooded my apartment and then you guys disappeared.
zv: look, i'm not trying to pass the buck, but it's not my problem. i mean, i hired a construction company and it's really their job to deal with it.
me: but it is your project, isn't it? you're the boss.
zv: of course, i'm the boss. but it's not appropriate for me to deal with it... you're ruining my life with your blog. i mean, i have to live here.
i guess it's like blaming the social security administration on the president. he's the boss but he's not the guy who writes the checks, i think that's what he was saying.
he was unshaven and wearing a sleek black nylon jacket with lots of zippers and kept putting his hands in and out of the pockets. (if it had been another moment, i would have asked where he bought it). i hate confrontation anyway and he looked so unhappy. there was a big black SUV parked across the street waiting for him and the woman who was in the car kept yelling for him to hurry up.
me: i have to live here too. i am a single mother, recovering from cancer, all i'm asking is for you to do the right thing... like return my calls or my emails... or the notes i've left with your doorman. i am supersensitive to mold.
zv: you know, i spoke to my lawyers...
i thought he'd spoken to his lawyers about how to resolve it, but he went on to say that he'd spoken to his lawyers about suing me for defamation of character.
he added that he didn't think it was legal for me to live there anyway.
then he tapped on the window of another enormous SUV. "excuse me, why are you parked here?" the driver assured him he was just waiting for someone in the building.
me: you can't sue me for defamation - i didn't write anything negative about you. i just said, you looked perfectly nice and then you didn't respond.
(wait - was his idea that if he could prove my living conditions were illegal, he could destroy them with impunity? i was trying desperately not to be judgemental.)
zv: well, there are a lot of people who don't like me for different reasons. i mean, i had a business partner and it didn't work out and we parted ways and he's not happy with the way it went, and then i got divorced... people use the opportunity to post comments about me.
me: that's just the nature of the internet. people use the anonymity to say things that they'd be embarrassed to say themselves*.
(the really funny thing is that now zach - or one of his friends - now posts DAILY anonymous posts on my blog about my divorce debacle or my being a muslim. i smile every time. i was deleting them but i'm getting tired of it.)
anyway, the conversation ended with zach taking my cell phone number and promising to call saif sumaida, his muslim contractor.
on wednesday, when i hadn't heard anything, i emailed zach and saif myself. i said how relieved i was to talk to zach in person and that i hoped we could resolve it.
saif sumaida emailed immediately. he said he hadn't heard a word from zach. he sounded sincere in wanting to resolve the issue. he asked me for the list of the damages.
i told him i greatly appreciated his having sent me a check for a little over $3,000 but the costs were more like $40,000 if we did a professional mold removal and then a re-build.
which we JUST did less than a year ago.
he told me he wanted to help me. he told me to be patient because the insurance company was handling it. "these things take time..."
when i explained that, during that time (three months and counting), three girls had to live there,
he kindly offered to give me a check for a few of the damages. he said the best he could do was $5,000 out of his own pocket, if i would just sign a small release that held him and his company blameless for all past and future damage.
saif said he'd come over and inspect the place himself.
the release was a little odd because he sent it along with a copy of my itemized list of damages, slightly improved on a little excell spreadsheet.
honestly, i'd be thrilled to meet him but i asked what he wanted to see in the apartment since i was running around last week.
i said, i can't sign that release. i guess i'll just have to sue you for the costs. my apartment is getting moldy.
(i guess i'll keep calling the dept of buildings. every week, the DoB sends a person out who looks around, tells me that the contractors have filed a claim with their insurance so there's nothing more to be done and writes ME a violation for my apartment being moldy.)
saif sumaida emailed back: Good Luck.
on friday, more water poured in to the basement of our building... the power of my pen seems to have been short lived.
wonder what happened next? not at all what i expected, the crying game