Waiting in Grace by Liz Moniz

I want to be spared the wrecking ball, I want to stay in this place, the best place I've ever lived,
in the best city there is to live, forever. But my Brooklyn haven is a precarious nest because it's
slated for demolition. The clock is ticking but the executioner is elusive, hiding in the shadows of city regulations, commiserating with spec landlords, offering payoffs to building inspectors and leaning hard on the remaining elderly holdouts next door. Gentrification is hovering, casting a darkening shadow over my block but in the meantime it's my sanctuary and I am so very happy here.

I found my present home by walking at twilight. Twilight peeking is a perfect way to case out
possible places to live. People usually turn their lights on when it begins to get dusky, but they
often fail to close the curtains. Circling the block I came upon the old lumber store attached to
the old car repair shop below the old lawyers office. The blinds were up, the lights were on, and the entire building was empty.

Jamaican construction workers were ripping out the contents of the lumber warehouse. They
kindly gave me the owner's number then went back to eviscerating the cavernous shell. Filled
with piles of mahogany planks, gorgeous tin ceiling panels and boxes of colorful broken tiles,
the sidewalk dumpster swelled with pride, barely containing it's heaping pile of beautiful trash.
The new landlord had only a few hard rules and a curmudgeonly attitude. His terms and the
price were impossible to turn down so I didn't; "Do whatever you want but don't ruin anything or bother me. I can only promise you a year. I'm trying to buy the whole block, if it takes longer, I'll let you know." That was spoken 5 and a 1/2 years ago.

I'd been making concentric circles around my tiny studio only a day after my previous landlord
told me he' be taking it back as an office. I allowed myself 24 hours of brooding before I began
my search. I knew one thing for sure; I wanted to stay in my neighborhood. I'd lived here long
enough to know it's perfection. The Atlantic-Pacific Subway has nine different trains and despite its new moniker; Atlantic-Barclays, forced on it with the intrusion of the over-hyped over-sized special events center, it is, in the opinion of most, the best subway stop in Brooklyn. The additional traffic, the clusters of drunken basketball fans, the influx of chain stores and sports bars or even the whining children dragging their parents to Disney on Parade, none of this could hide it's underlying homey feel.

My neighborhood is still a place with a human net, a fabric of peopleness that can be felt. The
Bodega owner waves me off if I'm a dollar short. I'll be back, he knows this. He trusts me, I
know that. When I walk into the corner laundry the ladies don't need my ticket, they are familiar with the color of my laundry bag. When weeks go by and I neglect to return for pick up they always ask about my elderly mother in Rhode Island. It's the silly security of these interactions that feel like sidewalk beneath me, like an awning above. It's my neighborhood and after so long in finding it, I don't want to leave.

My new home has a fabulously weird floor plan, with hidden private spaces and a wide
accessible roof facing green backyards. Being that it was once a law office people still occasionally stop by to drop off briefs, inquiring about making appointments with ghosted
lawyers. Shortly after moving in I converted the front half by sculpting the odd offices into homey bedrooms. Using street scores and Craigslist finds I replaced the secretary's desk with a sink, the file cabinets with a fridge, a sleek buffet, filling in with cafe seating and glass shelving. Each new element added to the softening effect, effectively domesticating the environment. The large employee bathroom with its seizure-green fluorescent lighting, single hand sink and dingy toilet was the last hold-out. It now houses a roomy corner shower and bright lighting, allowing me to rent out half the space to short term visitors, squirreling away the funds for my future life, post demolition.

In the rear I cut through interior walls to create a small personal suite decorated with castoffs
culled from the once full dumpster. My bedroom is a quiet hidden refuge and in place of the sitting-room window a tiny hobbit-door leads to a blissful roof patio. In the old photocopy room a claw foot tub resides with  about an inch of wiggle room. A rare treasure in a city apartment, it was hauled into place by friends, bribed with promises of beer and bourbon, leaving space for only the tiniest hand sink, salvaged from a sailboat. Below me the old auto repair shop now houses Art Studios and Performance Space. In the lumberyard there's a Cross Fit Center. Behind them both, accessible only through a small side entry is "Brooklyn Skate" with ramps and half pipes, it's entirely hidden in the enormous belly of the building.

All the once-was spaces are now filled with short term bottom feeders. I use that term kindly,
well aware I am one. We reside in the temporary space between past and future. Aware of our
limited time but not dismayed by it. We are happy for this place of grace, between what was and what will be. Waiting for the wrecking ball.