Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stella's Birthday Present To Me

My one year old little girl. Happy birthday Stella, from Daddy.

A year, or so, ago when I started this blog I planned to write in it almost every day for about, say, a year. A record, if you will, of my first year as a dad. Well, you can all see how well that worked out. I have been patchy, and not always written about what the Brooklyn Baby is doing, but tonight I will. And for those of you who eagerly await more stories about being a fact checker, worry not, for they are to come.

Stella turned one year old on Tuesday April 14, yesterday. I would've blogged about that day but in true Baby Daddy fashion I came home, ate dinner, and passed out.

But today I am profoundly grateful. Because after all the drama, all the agitation, all the fighting to get our building's management company to do the right thing we got back Stella's blood test and her lead levels were just as they had been when we moved in: too low to measure.

This is an amazing, amazing relief and the best present my girl will ever give me.

Oh, you just can't know how hard we had to fight with these bastards to get them to do the right thing. When we first moved in in November we noticed paint chipping. I had it tested, on my nickel, and it came back lead positive. Our collective needles then moved into the red zone and stayed there until about six hours ago.

There were just so many shenanigans we were subject to. First our building manager didn't want us to tell the city about the lead. We didn't. Then they wanted to send some guys to work on the chipping paint who weren't certified to work on lead. We said no way Jose, and THEN called the city. Oh, that's when the trouble began. We were told we weren't worth the trouble -- after one month living here! -- and that we should go. I was yelled at over the phone for being a pain in the ass.

Then in December we were told they would do the work with an EPA certified technician. I was reassured and stayed home as they did the work all right, but they did it all wrong, dry scraping lead paint, which you should NEVER do. Oh, this was hell. And it lead to tensions here, too, you know.

Then we talked to the city some more, and they said they would come back and test to see if there was more lead. There was. Now they said they would do the work, which we wanted, because New York might be a screwed up town, but the city knows the proper procedures for getting rid of lead paint. So they contacted our building, via letter, and said they would do the work. They showed up, starting doing the work, and then our building manager showed up and threw a fit.

Then our building never did the work.

It just went on, and on, and on. Finally, things got even uglier and words were exchanged all around. Our building manager -- his name rhymes with "geek" -- said some very bad words to Randi. I got on the phone and told that fucker to NEVER talk to my wife like that again. I swear, even now, I could break his goddamned little neck.

They sent teams of workers to do the lead removement work. Workers without any EPA certification, documentation, or even named apparently. We sent them all away. For this the building manager said we were playing games and what the hell did we think we were pulling?

Finally we had an impromptu meeting in our apartment with the building manager, moderated by Housing Preservation and Development, the city agency that handles lead paint removal. HPD told the building, in painstaking detail, how the work should be done. We weren't going to budge one inch. Either do it right or don't do it at all. Period. Then our lawyer talked to them.

And then last week the work was finally done right.

Making matters even more galling when we moved in the building management included a pamphlet saying how lead paint needs to be removed, in complete and thorough detail. But when it was time to remove our pain they ignored their own pamphlet and tried to do everything on the cheap. Like we were migrants fresh off the turnip truck. But they learned something: you don't mess with the Brooklyn Baby Momma. Or even the Daddy.

But today I learned our fight paid off: Stella is healthy and that's all that matters. The fight may have been for naught, we can't know. But it sure feels good that we stuck it out for her.

There is a slumlord mentality some people have, where they think if they have the "power" they can just do whatever they want to you. It's awefully galling for them to learn that here in America tenants have rights. And when you insist on having your rights honored it makes their blood absolutely boil. At this point I enjoy pissing these people off. But it didn't have to be this way.

So thank you Stella Rae. And thank you Randi, for being so fierce: for mopping every week, washing her toys every week, and being the best mother this little fighter could ever ask for. You both make me so proud.

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