At the beginning of 2017, I submitted this as an op-ed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a couple of other places. Although it was rejected by all those, I liked it, and frankly, it has become more prescient with every passing day.
On January 19th, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. To some, he’s seen as a toxic misogynist, or a Russian stooge, or the public face of a resurgent White Nationalist movement. But to those of us from the five boroughs, we know Donald Trump as something far more sinister: a New York City landlord.
Much of the country has no idea what this means, to live under the rule of a New York landlord. And, judging by the number of stories in the real estate section about NYU students whose parents buy their apartments, neither do many New York Times readers. So allow me, as a proud product of The Big Apple, born and raised in the buildings of President Trump’s home borough of Queens, to let you know what to expect from life under a New York City real estate speculator.
To start, for the New York landlord, our health and well-being is of little or no concern. In fact, in some cases, your death is a fantastic business opportunity. The passing of an elderly tenant can turn an $800-a-month rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment into a $3500 three-bedroom (“Yes, that used to be a crawlspace, but it’s been converted into an intimate loft area”) to be shared by five recently graduated liberal arts majors.
Not that he will actively try to kill you. For the most part, the landlord is cheap enough to know that there’s no point in paying someone fifteen grand to kill an old lady when you can just let a broken boiler in mid-February go unfixed for days or even weeks. Dark? Yes, and cold-hearted, too. But that’s New York City real estate. And so, your President will reason, why spend money on accessible health care or Social Security when the free market will do the dirty work for you?
Trump’s campaign promised to fix America’s infrastructure. As someone who spent most of his life trying to get a landlord to effect basic repairs, I am here to tell you that our Property Manager-in-Chief will do the bare minimum, and attempt to spend even less, on upkeep and repairs.
As can any New Yorker who has waited in their living room for days, knowing that the minute they leave, a handyman who is alleged to have been sent to fix their toilet will allege to have been at their door, ringing their bell. This handyman doesn’t exist. Like Santa Claus, he is a fairy tale character designed to soothe and placate a credulous mind.
Any repairs that do get done will be made only after a harassment campaign of weeks or months, each phone call or letter seeing your new landlord get more short-tempered and angry. He knows that if he bullies you long enough, you’ll find that living with a problem is easier than getting him to fix it. When repairs do come, they will be cheap, shoddy, and break again within weeks. If our government can spend the next four years patching together our country’s broken bridges and roads with pieces of other bridges and roads, it will.
As far as national security goes, don’t get your hopes up. Yes, we will see a mass expulsion of immigrants. What New York landlord hasn’t prefaced the making of a quick buck with the eviction of most or all his tenants? Just ask any former resident of the Brooklyn neighborhood where now stands an ugly arena, home to the tumbleweeds that blow through the stands during basketball and hockey games.
And your average New York landlord doesn’t care about building security, especially if he doesn’t live on the property. Especially if he lives in a big gold tower with his name on it that New York City pays half a million dollars a day to protect. Your safety and well-being is going to be the furthest thing from his mind.
Expect your new President to constantly war with his citizens, because any New York landlord’s true enemy is his tenants. He sees every resident of every building as a walking, talking, endlessly-complaining dollar sign. And the more they whine, demanding a livable environment, or clean water, or the right to live like a human being, the lower that dollar value gets.
Remember, our new President is a New York City landlord. And the New York City landlord’s ideal tenant is a $5,000 check that, once a month, appears magically in the middle of an empty, unused living room.