Virginia saw someone moving furniture out of 86 Kenmare,
around the corner from her loft at Spring and Lafayette. She told
me to go over right away, there might be an apartment available. It
was one of the larger buildings in Little Italy, with 30 units. There
was a restaurant/bar downstairs named Patrissy's.
I asked the bartender in Patrissy’s if there was an apartment
for rent. He called out, “Danny,” and the owner came over
to me. A nice Italian-American businessman in a suit, well-fed and
contented, Danny Patrissy greeted me.
“I am looking for an apartment for me and my teen-age daughter.”
I pleaded. “I like this neighborhood and I work as a proofreader
on 19th Street.”
“Someone just moved out of 25,” he said. “I’m
curious to see it myself, Let’s go up and look at it.”
We started climbing the stairs to the sixth floor. Danny had to rest
half way up to catch his breath. Relieved that climbing stairs was
an effort for him, I felt safe. If he turned out to be a maniac, I
could get away.
On the top floor, he used a set of keys to open a heavy metal door
labeled “25.” The first room was a decent size. It was
the kitchen, drab, with a small stove and refrigerator near the door.
The first thing that you saw when you walked in was a rusted metal
shower and a small, low sink. The apartment was a converted cold-water
flat with hot running water now, a toilet in a small closet next to
the kitchen sink, and one large radiator, tilting as though it might
fall over at any minute. The floors sloped in and down from all sides.
The kitchen had no charm except for the good-sized window between
the radiator and the toilet door.
A doorway without a door, but still having a transom window above
the place where a door once was, led to two very small rooms, each
with a window. “Horrible, horrible,” I thought to myself.
“What do you think?” Danny asked me.
I lied. “I like it. It’s perfect for my daughter and me.
Can we rent it?’
“How much will you pay?” he asked.
Knowing that my friends were paying less than $100 for places better
than this one, and knowing that there were (and still are) laws controlling
the rents in this area, I stabbed at an amount: “ $200.”
He was not pleased. He scoffed, “You know I could get $300 for
this place easily.”
“Of course you could,‘ I shot back. ’How about $250?”
“Ok. The sink is pretty bad, so I will give you a new sink.
Here are the keys. Take them to my agent around the corner and tell
him that Danny is renting apartment 25 to you.”
“And some paint for the walls?” I asked.
“Yes, I will pay for paint. You buy it and bring me the bill.”
Downstairs and outside, Danny told me to cross the street and to go
to a building displaying large letters. He pronounced the name. It
sounded to me like “Pisa Caro.” I tried to memorize the
name. Thinking that ‘Pisa Caro’ might mean ‘Dear
Caro’ in English, I chanted to myself, ‘Pisa Caro. Pisa
Dear. Pisa Caro. Dear Pisa,’ while looking for the building.
As we parted we shook hands. It was something new for me, making a
deal with a handshake. Danny was the ultimate generous Padrone to
be trusted, I thought, even if he was breaking the rent stabilization
laws. Thanks to his sense of magnanimity, Teva and I would finally
have a home. At last we could leave Mariann’s loft on Ludlow
I walked across Petrosino Square which was at that time named Kenmare
Square. I looked up and saw “P. Zaccaro” in huge letters
across the top of 218 Lafayette St. I walked in the front door and
up steps to the second floor.
“Danny sent me,” I first told a secretary, and then, escorted
by her to the front office, I greeted an old man who sat behind an
imposingly large desk which took up up most of the space in his office,
“Danny sent me. He said that I can rent apartment 25 at 86 Kenmare.”
The old man was Max Isaacs. ”You can’t rent that apartment.
We have someone waiting for it,” he said.
The next moment was divine and memorable, my great triumph of logic
and luck. I held the keys up next to my face, jiggling them ever so
gently. And I said, “Danny gave me the keys.” Mr. Isaacs
never liked me after that, so it was a costly victory.
Just then the phone rang. “Hello,” Mr. Isaacs said. “Yes,
Sir.” A pause. “Yes, Sir. Yes, I will.” Another
pause. “Two-hundred-fifty a month. Yes, Sir, I will prepare
Suppressing anger he looked at me and said, “Write your name
on this piece of paper. Come back in half an hour and I will have
a lease ready for you to sign.”
Later I sat in a chair next to a desk in the center room at the P.
Zaccaro office and looked over the lease that Mr. Isaacs had prepared
for me. I began to write my name on the line next to the “x”,
when a tall thin man came out of a back office. Wearing a a tie and
white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and holding papers in one
arm, he leaned over me menacingly. “I wouldn’t sign that
lease if I were you,” he said. “There will never be any
repairs done in that apartment.”
I looked him fiercely in the eye.
“Do you do the repairs?” I asked him. He backed off a
“No,” he answered. I learned later that he was John Zaccaro,
son of the founder, P. Zaccaro,
“Then I will take my chances,” I said.
That night Teva and and I carried our dufflebags and suitcases to
our new, if drab, apartment and slept on the floor using our clothes
to cushion us and to keep us warm.
I drew the view through the kitchen window,
Our six-week stay at Mariann’s loft had been difficult. She
was renting almost 4,000 square feet of open floor space on Ludlow
Street in a two-story building. She had cluttered the space with old
furniture and junk from the street, a collection of about 30 broken
umbrellas which she planned to “do something with” someday
but never did, chairs, cabinets, broken bicycles, and, oh, two large
unruly dogs, one of whom would chew up worn underwear if he could
get to it, so we had to be careful as we undressed not to allow any
piece of clothing to fall on the floor, and then we had to stash our
clothes in as high a spot as we could find. Even then, the dog sometimes
would manage to snatch someone’s underpants and rip them to
In the back quadrant of the open space, Mariann had built out a room
of a thousand square feet for her twelve cats. Twice a day one of
us would enter the room and feed the cats and empty the litter boxes.
Mariann would walk the dogs most of the time because they were hostile
towards people on the street and difficult to control.
When she first rented the “raw” loft above a hardware
store, she installed a tub, sink, and toilet, all of which functioned
well. Then she put up studs for drywall to enclose the bathroom space,
but there was no drywall up yet when Teva and I moved in, so we all
had to avert our eyes whenever anyone used the bathroom or bathed.
Before September, 1978, when we arrived to stay with Mariann while
I looked for an apartment, she had agreed to go out with Paul, an
artist who lived in the neighborhood. It was to be their first date.
She was running late, so she still needed to bathe before going out
with him. When he arrived, she told him to wait for her in the front
of the loft while she got ready. She turned the water on to fill up
the tub and undressed in the transparent bathroom. As she stepped
into the tub of hot water, she saw Paul in her peripheral vision just
outside the bathroom undressing. He joined her and they had sex. I
didn’t hear the details.
Copyright © 2015 Minerva Durham
Kitchen Window © Minerva
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