It was a cloudy and cold Sunday in Manhattan, the kind of day one wants to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed all day. However, I was out on the Upper West Side and so was Tom. He was walking on 73rd Street near Broadway with his walker. As I walked up to him, I smiled and said hello. Tom responded with a smile and a hello. I remarked that today was a pretty ugly day and I see that it didn't keep him from getting out. He said that weather would not keep him from getting out, that he gets out almost every day.
Tom started using a cane a few years ago and a friend suggested that he try using a walker. He gave Tom his walker. Tom said that he could get away with only a cane, but feels some much steadier with the walker.
Tom is 80, was born on the Upper West Side of New York as were his parents. When he was two, his parents moved to Connecticut where he was raised. About 50 years ago, he returned to live on the Upper West Side because he loves living in the city. He is now retired from teaching English as a Second Language to High School students in Washington Heights. After he retired, he taught part-time for a few years at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
I said to Tom that he appeared to be about my age (73), he smiled and took off his hat. He said his secret to feeling young was that he never married. Adding that he had no children, few worries or problems, it saved him a lot of money.
Tom stays active and has been involved in politics. In 2013, he ran for City Council for District 6 on the Green Party line. He was also a political activist in the 1960s and 1970s He had been friends with Mark Rudd and took part in the anti-war protests and participated in the occupation of Hamilton Hall on May 22, 1968, at Columbia University. Tom remains politically active now; he meets with Green Party members frequently. Now, his major political focus is on rent control. He said that he lives in a rent-controlled apartment and that if he did not have this apartment, he would not be unable to afford to live here. I thought that rent control no longer existed and that only rent-stabilized apartments existed.
Approximately 1% of New York rental units are rent controlled and roughly 50% of the city's units are stabilized. Rent stabilization generally applies to apartments in buildings of six or more units constructed before 1974. A landlord can also raise the rent if they've done a major building repair.
So clearly Tom is among the fortunate few who still live in a rent-controlled apartment in New York City. Tom lives in an area he loves so much that he is sure to get out every day that he can.