So I get this phone call this past Thursday (11 October 2012) from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. It seems that the issues related to the building I live in have become known them and they wanted to reach out to me to see what help they could offer to get the situation resolved. Keep in mind now that this is 74 days after my letter to the BRA and the Mayor and 54 days after my letter from the Director of the BRA, which said they would get back to me in 3 business days (BRA_17_aug). When I answered the phone, I wasn't thinking about any of that. All I could do was sigh deep in my chest with some relief that there was someone at the BRA who was willing to have a discussion about possible solutions to the problems here.
Then we started talking.
He asked me who else I had told about the situation here. While I thought that an odd question, I did tell him that I contacted the people listed in the letter I had sent him who were copied at the bottom. I also let him know that I had sent the materials to Martha Coakley, the Attorney General of the Commonwealth.
He asked about the situation with the building which also had been spelled out in my letter and also about the status of the lawsuit. While I was getting him up to speed, he mentioned that it would be important to talk with "his colleagues" at Inspectional Services to have them come out to the building and see what needed to be done. I reminded him that we had a full inspection done and outlined the different construction bids we secured. I referred him again to my letter and the 108 pages of attachments I sent. I offered to re-send everything to him and he asked that I copy Inspectional Services on the message as well. I told him I was happy to do so.
Then we began talking about the "roles" of ISD, the BRA, the developer and the owners. I have to say at this point, the person from the BRA was very kind and compassionate. He told me he could not imagine my disappointment and frustration, but he wanted me to know that he was sympathetic to the problems here. He reiterated that the BRA is only involved in the design and approval of the project. I had to say at this point: that involvement was the stamp of approval on this project. None of us EVER would have gotten involved in this if not for the BRA's OK of the project and the developer. I asked him about the lack of oversight and he said that, while he was certain that he was not trying to diminish what is going on, he wanted to make sure this never happened again. I told him that was a major concern of mine as well.
I brought up the fact that this developer secured construction loans with the approval of the BRA and never finished the building, essentially using them to perpetrate the fraud. He also sold five of the units here. Where is all that money? Why wasn't any of it used to complete the building? Why didn't the BRA have any responsibility to see what was going on? I called the BRA in 2005 when this whole thing began to go South. I told him it was difficult to bear that all this time had passed before I got a response and an offer to help.
He returned to ISD coming to look at the building. He said they would be able to set forth a timeline for repairs and bringing it up to code. When I asked who would be responsible for implementing that timeline he told me that the owners of the building would be responsible.
You read that right.
I feel my stomach churn. I was being told that ISD would come to the building, inspect it, come up with a list of things that have to be fixed, and then charge me and the people who live here to fix them all within a given timeframe.
He said that he would get in touch with ISD and he and a representative from ISD would talk with me. Maybe they would come out to the building and we would discuss it. He assured me that he would stay in the conversation with me and not just hand me off to ISD. He gave me his mobile number and email and told me to stay in touch with him.
I hung up the phone and threw up.
I had to teach that afternoon (from 4-9 pm), so I went to work. I watched Joe Biden debate Paul Ryan in my office after I finished teaching. I drove home and collapsed in bed. I could not sleep.
The next day, (Friday, 12 October) I got a call from ISD. At first I thought that he was going to tell me that this was a conference call with the BRA, but I discovered very fast that I was talking only to ISD on this call. He made me aware that he had seen my letter and read my blog. He wanted to schedule an inspection of the building.
He was very concerned, you see. He was very worried that someone walking by could get hurt by something falling off the building. (If you look at some of the images of the Lovering_document, you can see why this is a concern.)
I asked why the building passed inspection in the first place. He said that we wanted to come see the building for himself and ask the building inspector that question. He also said that even though the owners would be responsible for bringing the building up to code, the majority of the funds would have to come from the developer, since he still owned units in the building. I reminded the ISD that the developer had not paid condo fees for close to a year. How were we going to get him to pay anything? As it stands now, we are paying for his water and insurance.
I informed him that it was staggering that I and the people who live here, who were defrauded, would be held responsible for repairing a building that was not up to code. He told me that was for a court to decide-who was responsible for what. I tried to explain to him that we have spent the past 7+ years trying to get this resolved, so how could we be held responsible for violations of the building code. Moreover, we didn't put the air conditioners on the roof improperly, so why are we charged with being responsible. Where was ISD when this building was going up? I could not and cannot believe that ISD would feel it proper to put the owners in a position where they are being held responsible for the city's failure to properly inspect a property. This is something out of Kafka.
Here's the kicker - ISD NEVER would have known about this without my letter. Now they are so concerned with safety? Safety of whom? Safety of ISD? Certainly not the people who have been living here for the past 7+.
So now the person who blew the whistle on ISD is going to be held responsible for bringing a building up to code?
I asked him why he hadn't contacted the developer of the building. He said he wanted to get us all "at the table" so he could have access to the building. He hasn't talked to the developer; just me.
I am NOT going to be set up by the artist housing apparatus of the city, defrauded by a developer, and have the BRA say that "they can't do anything" only to be told by Inspectional Services that this is my mess to clean up. This is unconscionable.
I called and texted my lawyer in complete disbelief. Being Friday afternoon, he was not able to connect with me. We have a call scheduled for Monday.
I don't know what happens now. Does ISD lock us out of the building because it's not up to code and "unsafe"? Are the owners now going to be required to find the money to repair the building, even though we have no equity and most of us are underwater on our mortgages?
I'm trying to make work for two exhibitions next year. Am I going to have to move all of my work to another studio so I don't risk it being locked away by the city? Am I going to have to rent another storage unit? Another workspace? I feel such intense pressure from all around me that I am having difficulty breathing and my chest cramps with anxiety.
I unrolled the rug I got from Turkey. I had stored it under the sofa so it didn't get rained on. I curled up on it.