The Construction before the Deconstruction (of my mind)
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, my building had been bought up by developers who mission in life was to extricate low rent tenants like myself. Samy Mahfar was notorious. He bought out my favorite coffee shop and now he was after my unit. Mahfar hired renegade old school relocation “specialists” who would offer dubious “buyouts” with no papertrail or proper legal representation. These specialists were later busted by the Attorney Gerneral. So there’s that.
They managed to shake out two tenants on either side of me and treated me to a daily dose of hammers, chainsaws, and power drills at 8am every morning. Pieces of my bedroom wall came down, my building was covered with dust and debris. We later learned that the lead levels were five times the legal amount and ceilings in various units were caving in. This was hell.
Weeks went by and I was progressively deteriorating. I was falling asleep on trains, yawning on stages and getting bumped off of gigs since all my bands were noticing that I could barely stand up straight.
I decided to speak to the press and stated that we were not being treated like human beings. Samy retorted that I was trying to squeeze him for a high buyout. I met him for the first time the next day and gave him a friendly piece of my mind. I told him straight up that he needed to respect the old school residents, as we were the reason this neighborhood became so desirable in the first place. He asked me to meet up with him with a list of all my concerns.
Samy met me at Black Cat Coffee and while I couldn’t stand his landlording, I kind of liked the guy in a weird way. He was a total bullshitter, but super charismatic and oddly enjoyable to talk to. And he played drums. He was telling me how my particular building was less valuable as it was close to the projects. I told him the Rivington Hotel just purchased property down the street and I knew the long term value of the place.
I would like to think that while Samy probably couldn’t stand my “tenanting”, that he kinda liked talking to me too in a weird way. I looked him in the eye and told him I could speak to him about real estate all day, as I loved to study it.
Samy gave me a million excuses for the conditions in the building and I decided to be firm with each and every issue. I think I wore him down and I think he kind of liked it. At one point he looked at me and said, “Collette, there are some things I can not defend. I can only apologize”. “So what else do we want to talk about?” We knew what this meeting was really about. I wanted to collect a big check and he wanted to me to get the fuck out. He knew I was an old school Lower East Side anarchist and would live longer then the cockroaches and grow old in the building just out of principle.
I’d just retained a lawyer, Martin Kera to take care of my buyout. Martin had a great reputation for providing hold out tenants with buyouts that propelled them into home ownership. Everyone seemed happy. I asked Martin how I should handle this conversation once the buyout came up.
“Get him to name a number and tell him it’s not enough”.
Awesome. As we were talking, I was trying to figure out how to work that into conversation. Finally a light bulb lit up. “Samy, you mentioned in the press that I was trying to get a very high buyout. How much did you hear I wanted?”
Samy tried to repress a smile, but the left corner of his mouth crept up ever so slightly. He knew I was playing his own game. I think he might have even respected me for a second.
“Um, $100,000 I think?”
“Oh, that’s not enough”.
Samy laughed and said he had a feeling I would be his tenant for a very long time. But then he said that our lawyers should get in touch. I was feeling very good about this conversation. I was going to get away from the construction and start a new life.
Later on that night I had what was going to be my very last rehearsal with the P!NK Tribute Band. The potential replacement/understudy was there. She looked JUST like P!NK. Despite my intention to get out of this band, I loved playing with these guys. Micah had just joined us on keyboards, and the band was sounding divine. We ran through the first few songs and I joked “This is going way too well”.
As if on cue, a man walked through the door with three huge stacks of paper. One for me. One for Rik. And one for John, the guitar player. I looked at mine in disbelief. It was 112 pages long.
Chuck just fucking sued me.
A man that I have never met just sued me.
And he’s a lawyer.
The rest of the rehearsal was bumpy to say the least. We began with “Sober” and I was fucking up all over the place. As Linsey drove me home I flipped through the 112 page complaint and caught some tidbits.
“Defendant McLafferty was too unattractive to front this type of band”
“Defendant McLafferty was a lousy singer”
The complaint alleged that I acted in concert with Rik and John to cut him out of his own band while he was having shoulder surgery and that we purposely cut him out of his own band. Flipping through, I saw I was being held on 13 causes of action including “Tortious Interference” and “Conspiracy For Fraud” for damages ranging $100,000 to $5,500,000, plus his LEGAL FEES and interest for just under $10,000,000.
It was also alleged that we would harm the public by playing.
$10,000,000. Wow. This is the day that I slowly started to retreat into a state of shock and numbness. Not full force, but it was the beginning.I just couldn’t make sense of this.
I came home and attempted to sleep for a few hours before waking up to my daily dose of morning hammers.