Ms. Gottlieb Regrets . . .

December 30, 2010 at 12:09 am (By Amba)

In 2008 I made a deal with my New York landlord.  He (or rather, they) knew I wasn’t living there, and were preparing eviction proceedings, but the department that renews leases had automatically renewed mine anyway — they sent a renewal lease, I signed it, they countersigned it.  Their lawyer was so pissed.  The market was still going great guns then, they could probably have taken both my two studios and gotten the full market price of two for them instead of less than the price of one.  (How I came to have two tiny skylight studios, side by side, for such favorable rents is one of those New York real-estate shaggy dog stories you really don’t want to hear, unless you’re a New Yorker, for whom this stuff is like porn; but it involved the kind connivance, back in the ’90s, of my surviving neighbor, who had her 98th birthday this fall).  The landlord’s left hand had basically screwed the right hand by signing away two more years on the one that has a lease, because it is rent stabilized.  My other studio was rent controlled, which meant I was a statutory tenant.  I had moved into the building in May 1971, one month before rent control ended.  What can I tell you, I have a real estate guardian angel.

I went up to New York for just a day, because my home health aide was turning into a crackhead.  (The one visit with friends I didn’t cancel, providentially as it turned out, was this one.)  I shocked the landlord and his lawyer by telling them the unvarnished truth (something that possibly no one in a landlord-tenant proceeding had ever done before):  yes, I wasn’t living there; here’s why; here’s where I live; here’s what I want.  Long story short, I gave up the rent controlled studio I’d lived in since 1971 in exchange for one more two-year lease renewal on the rent stabilized one, the one where my beloved neighbors, two women, art-book editors, had lived and painted and partied since 1939.

It was a hassle and expensive, in time and lawyer’s fees, to pull off that deal, and many times in the years since I have thought it was a costly sentimental folly, though understandable.  My homesickness for New York gradually faded, or so I thought.  It seemed as if Jacques could go on indefinitely — well past the end of my last New York lease — and I was so fine with that.  Ready to go on indefinitely with him.

The deadline was February, 2011.

Sometime in October, when J was already so sick, my subtenant up there informed me that the landlord (presumably his left hand) had once again sent me a renewal lease — no doubt again by mistake.  (The landlord owns a lot of buildings and has bigger fish to fry.)  I signed it, and sent it back, and waited.  I was still hoping against hope that J would live on, incidentally sparing me what seemed like a tough decision:  to move back to New York, or not.

When he left this world, my feelings changed.  For one thing, there wasn’t a place or a sight or a gesture in Chapel Hill that meant anything to me but taking care of him.  Everywhere I turned, everything I did, stabbed me like stepping on broken glass.  For another thing, he would want me to go back to New York.  As far as he was concerned, we had never left, and I figure he took off for there immediately if he hung around Earth at all.  (Someone asked if I had felt his presence around me since he died.  “Not until one night about three weeks later,” I told them. “I think he had trouble finding Chapel Hill.”)  And finally, it seemed to me that if I was presented with the chance to live semi-affordably in New York City for a few more years, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and would never forgive myself if I did.  There’s all kinds of full-circle, or maybe spiral, stuff going on.

So I waited to see if the landlord would execute the renewal lease — by mistake — again.  If that was going to go off automatically, I didn’t want to rock the boat by notifying him prematurely that I was coming back.  Any vestigial impulse he (they) had to fight it (they couldn’t have won, but who needed the anxiety?) would, I reckoned, crumble before a fait accompli.

I waited . . . had they caught their no-longer-a-mistake?

Finally I texted my subtenant, “No lease, time to notify landlord? :( ”  The next day I got back, “Hi Annie, good news!!! lease finally came on Monday.  Sorry flew out to Seattle same day visiting family got caught up.  Will send to you when I get back.”

So today I took another step on that foggy road ahead:  I wrote and mailed this (address redacted for privacy).

To whom it may concern:

Regarding my tenancy of West 4th Street, Apartment 5B, which I agreed in a negotiated settlement (in May 2008) to vacate at the end of this lease period (February 2011) if my husband’s illness prevented me from returning to 5B by that time:

This is to notify you that my husband died on November 19th, 2010 (I will be glad to send you a copy of his death certificate on request), and so, somewhat to my surprise, I will be returning home to 5B as soon as I settle my affairs here.  Accordingly, I have signed a renewal lease for 5B, which has been executed, and am in the process of changing my legal residence, driver license, etc. back to that West 4th Street, NYC address preparatory to returning.

Thank you very much.


Annie Gottlieb


  1. amba12 said,

    And best of all . . . Brunobaby gonna be my neighbor!

  2. wj said,

    “All things come to her who waits.” (Or however that is supposed to go.)

    Enjoy going home again.

  3. PatHMV said,

    Hooray for office functionaries who send out paperwork as a matter of routine!

    Annie, that’s wonderful news. I hope I can come to New York one day to visit you, and of course your invitation to visit Louisiana remains open!

  4. amba12 said,


  5. michael reynolds said,

    Right on.

  6. amba12 said,

    *laughs with joy*

  7. Maxwell James said,


  8. david said,

    See you there, in the Spring, perhaps?

  9. Peter Hoh said,

    Aw, now this is the kind of story that makes me think warm fuzzy thoughts about New York.


  10. Randy said,

    Hooray! Hope they’ll have the streets plowed by then.

  11. Ruth said,

    Note from Amba: I decided to put Mary/Ruth’s comment on display (this post was irresistible bait for her, no?) before blocking yet another IP address of hers. . . . Kiddo, after you have taken care of a traumatized partner for 40 years, and been taken care of in return, get back to me. Then you might have earned the right to carp. But (I will now make exactly the kind of assumption about you that you routinely make about others) you’ve never loved anyone, or been loved, have you. You have no idea. (What? You don’t like it? Can dish it out but not take it?) . . . Duly blocked.

    Wow. It’s like J. died right on time! How convenient all around.

    You get so lucky with slip-ups like that when they benefit you!

    Congrats, and go get em girl !

  12. Ron said,

    Maybe we need to be a positive spin on all these carping trolls….Just think of them auditioning for the role of Assholeatoylah of The Interwebs….they read the notice somewhere, and everywhere they go they have to bring their a(hole) game, ’cause you never know who is doing the casting….

    It’s not crabbiness….just lots of flop sweat!

  13. amba12 said,

    Actually, I had a hunch she’d show up for this post and that’s one reason I removed my address. I heard she kind of stalked Althouse.

  14. Melinda said,

    Welcome back, neighbor!

  15. michael reynolds said,

    If I may respond to Ruth.

    Annie endured.
    She survived.
    She earned unquestioned status as a true mensch.
    Now she has a whole new phase of life ahead of her.
    So go suck a bag of dicks you nasty, twisted, small, bitter creature.

  16. amba12 said,

    *snicker* I see that visually.

    I really have gained the whole world at the cost of my own soul. It will be a long time before my flag has a center (thinking of the Romanian flag after the “revolution”). And I haven’t the faintest clue what it will be. All that is lost in the mists of time future. So that “creature” shouldn’t envy me. (I do have the sense that envy is what drives her.) One has to go forward, however. One might as well do so with . . . what’s the word? Have something to go towards.

  17. karen said,

    …destination w/determination?

    I’m sorry you have to deal w/Ruth. Not to be confused w/Ruthanne, for sure. I’ve learned way too much about projection in the past two years- still not sympathetic to the ruths of the world who wear it so miserably.

  18. Donna B. said,

    I am so happy for you Amba!

  19. A said,

    I have a sensory intimation, like a fragrance, of New York and New Year vibrations already
    starting to envelope you with liveliness. Here’s to a radiant future!

  20. Ally said,

    Yay! Just back online after a week unplugged. Great news. It’s where you belong.

  21. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Where were ya?

  22. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    It’s where I belong for now, at least. Home base for lots of traveling.

  23. michael reynolds said,

    I will be in New York my own self the 10th and 11th. Not really looking forward to it since the heaviest shoes I own are sneakers and I possess zero long-sleeve shirts, one sweater and my leather jacket.

    I went full California. Never go full California.

  24. Ally said,

    Baltimore and Philly, doing as little as possible. Left my laptop at home and avoided computers as much as possible.

  25. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    For a gearhead, that’s cold, cold turkey. Refreshing, innit?

  26. Danny said,

    I’m so glad you didn’t lost that apartment! Hooray for hopeless bureaucracy! Do you have a moving date yet?

  27. amba12 said,

    April-May, Danny . . . I’ve got so much work now (thank God), and am doing so much traveling, I fear not having time to get ready (mostly a matter of throwing stuff out — I have to wedge myself into 1/3 the space for more than half again the rent) . . .

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