Not For Sale

Not For Sale
Protest at the Brooklyn Museum real estate jamboree

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

1986: Bought The House

My beaufriend bought his house in Crown Heights, where I now live with him, at city auction in 1986. It had no roof, and hadn’t for awhile. Jackie Robinson might have hit a homer onto that roof.

The house had belonged to a schoolteacher who'd descended into dementia. The City took the house and put her in a home elsewhere in Brooklyn, where she died. Despite the eyesore condition, some eyed him suspiciously: Maybe he was the guy who threw her out. Additionally, he and his then-wife were the only white people in the neighborhood and what were they doing there exactly?

Tim Seggerman, is an artist-architect, a builder and craftsman, an alchemist of minimalist design and peasant materials. He had $14,000 in the bank on that day 27 years ago and he wasn't expecting to spend it all. He liked the neighborhood because it reminded him of where he'd lived in in New Orleans. He found himself bidding against a pair of Korean businessmen who finally drove the price to to $140,000. In those days, you could still get a house with 10% down. “Somehow,” Tim says, “my hand went up in the air.”

He rented a dumpster and started clearing the house out. On maybe the first day a squad car pulled up in front and the cop motioned him over. "What are you doing here?" he wanted to know. "These people are animals." Tim said he didn't agree and was looking forward to living here. He knew from long experience that he would be made to feel welcome in a black community. He is, other than Tony Heilbut, perhaps the most knowledgeable white man on the subject of gospel music in the land, not that he writes about it. He's a deep listener to all African-American music, indeed all the musics of the Americas, but I digress.

The cop drove away and a short time later Dot came out of her house across the street. She is the soul of kindness and I'm told that though she has a very beautiful face, the rest of her body is badly scarred from the time she ran into a burning building to save some children, back home in Edenton, NC. "We're not animals," she said to him, gently. "I know," he said.

I would like to add here that our recent experiences with the local police has been entirely positive, to our surprise. We had occasion to call 911 on a domestic dispute between a troubled pair across the street. Another night we came home to find a lovely, but distraught woman on our street looking for someone to call 911. She'd also had a domestic dispute and was deeply depressed. Now I'm no fan of the NYPD, but the officers who responded to our calls were professional, understanding, well-spoken. Go figure. But not in 1986.