Luxury High Rise Building NYC Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Virge Randall

A recent headline exulted that “luxury renters finally have leverage to negotiate.” This news is not from the “Bizarro World Tribune” but from Bloomberg.

Thank goodness, their long nightmare is finally over. At long last, the beleaguered luxury renters finally caught a break – maybe now they can afford to put in that swimming pool…in the living room.

Meanwhile, nursing homes are being emptied; the struggling young and the just-hanging-in middle aged, and virtually anyone who has known no other home but New York City for all or most of their lives are being evicted…to build more luxury housing. Those luxury renters got their leverage at the expense of the previous tenants.

It would be only fair if each one of them were issued their very own “Displaced New Yorker.”

I have a nominee, a woman I’ll call Peggy. I met her at my health club and she told me she was losing her apartment. I felt bad for the poor thing. She seemed sweet enough. She taught swimming to pre-schoolers at my health club and told me she was attending a Christian college in NYC. She could save some cash by walking from my place to her part time job. She had a perky, wholesome look that was so clean I could practically smell the soap.

Then she came over and we had our first real chat. She declined coffee and tea, which made me wonder if she was part of some obscure Christian sect that forswore stimulants. If it also had a requirement to clean the bathroom she was in. I showed her around and asked if she had any questions, but I wasn’t prepared for her first one.

“Are you a light sleeper?”

My first thought was to wonder if this nice young Christian woman was actually Catholic and concerned that the rattling of her rosaries would keep me up. Or maybe she would be saying her evening prayers in tongues? Holding revival meetings in the hallway?

“Not really.Why?”

“Well I usually come in from the bars and clubs around 3 a.m.”

I was young once, too, but I didn’t go out to bars and clubs so regularly that I had a standard check out time. But I remembered what it was like to couch surf, and soldiered on — maybe she could bide her time for a month or two while she found someplace else, so all I said was, “If you’re going to the downtown clubs, cabs back uptown get pretty expensive, if you’re short on cash.”

“Oh, no, that’s not a problem at all. I don’t worry about it,” she said airily, “the guys I drink with usually see that I get home okay.”


“Right” I said. “Do you….do that a lot?” I asked, wondering if the tabloids would get the spelling of our names right when they reported on the homicides. Especially if she woke me up three times a week to buzz her in because she was too drunk to get her key in the door…although the “guys she drinks with” might be really good at that.)

“A couple of times a week,” she said. ‘But it’s perfectly okay, I’m used to it,” she assured me.

“That’s….great,” I said, “You’re used to it.”

“One time,’ she leaned in excitedly, “One time I was so drunk I had the whirlies and I was in the back seat of my parent’s car!! But I’m so good at acting they didn’t notice a thing,” she said triumphantly.

“Lucky you,” I said, “That skill must come in…handy.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “The only time I run into a problem is if my diabetes acts up. If I pass out, do you know how to use a syringe?”


“Actually, no,” I said. (My parents moved us out of our old neighborhood precisely so I would never acquire that skill.) “Oh, ok, never mind,” she said, “Just call 911. And don’t call my parents.”

“Right.” I said. “Well, look at the time, I have an…important phone call I have to take,” I said. I half ushered-half pushed her out of my apartment, shut the door, locked it, and leaned against it, like some cartoon character who finally outran a monster and got to safety. I may have broken a sweat.

Peggy found other digs, thank goodness, but she’s the kind of Displaced New Yorker I could see putting in the guest room of a luxury high-rise New York renter; hopefully one with a lot of really expensive and breakable antiques…and a fussy newborn baby with colic…or maybe just Donald Trump.

But don’t get me started about that.