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Ask Anyone

neighborly advice

I live in a pretty nice neighborhood, but there are a couple of derelict properties. There is a block club, and as a group we have tried to make complaints through the Department of Citizen’s Services—so far this has not worked. I know that my neighborhood is not the only area in the city dealing with abandoned housing, but do you have any ideas on how to get some sort of action from the city?

John Q. Public

The Gay Perspective: Call your City councilmember for advice. Mike LoCurto was all over the problem house on our street like paint. Now it has a new owner and is being totally restored. If Mike’s not your councilmember, call him anyway.

The Straight Skinny says: About six years ago, PUSH Buffalo, the housing activism organization focused on improving distressed West Side neighborhoods, mounted a terrific campaign to shame then Governor George Pataki and the state agency that controlled hundreds of derelict, abandoned houses throughout the city. PUSH posted signs on the front of the problem properties with a picture of Pataki, saying that the governor and the state agency, MBBA, were responsible for its condition.

I’ve often thought that block clubs ought to adopt some of PUSH’s guerrilla tactics. Why not do the same thing with the problem properties in your neighborhood? Get a photo of the owner, blow it up into some kind of poster, and slap it on the front of the house, with the owner’s name, address, and phone number. Call the local papers, too, especially Artvoice. Neighborhood block club shames irresponsible property owner, city hall unresponsive? We’d eat up a story like that.

In the meantime, keep calling the city and your elected officials. A little media attention might be just what’s needed to move your complaints to the front of the queue.

a christmas carol

I haven’t been in the Christmas spirit for probably about 10 years. I’ve been something of a Scrooge, and I don’t really know why. Then, last week I had a dream in the middle of the night. I can’t remember much at all about it, but it was so vivid at the time. There was something about gas lights. I said to myself, “You should get up and write it down.” But I didn’t.

All I know is that since I had this dream I’ve looked with greater kindness on my fellow man and woman. Nothing seems to bother me anymore. Every day I expect to wake up and be back to my usual somewhat depressed self, but it hasn’t happened. I watch the news, some of which is awful, and I simply say, “I hope that situation works itself out.” I even went Christmas shopping over the weekend—something I’ve never done this early in the season—and had a wonderful time navigating the cranky crowd of shoppers. I let people cut in front of me at the check out and it made me feel good.

My concern is that by Christmas this feeling will wear off and be gone as mysteriously as it arrived. Do you have any advice on how to keep this holiday cheer going?

George Bailey

The Practical Cogitator says: I suggest you keep doing nice things for people. Keep shopping for people in your life, not only your family, but those you come in contact with regularly. It feels good to give to others. The nicer you are to them, the nicer they will be back to you. You just might find that your “spirit” stays with you longer than just the holiday season. Keep looking at others with kindness and they will look back at you that way. Keep looking at others with indifference, and that’s just how they’ll look at you.

The Sales Guy says: I have enjoyed Christmas like everyone else to different degrees. Some good years some bad whether I was in love or brokenhearted, healthy or not so…it all factored in to how the holidays went. You, however, seem to have had a Christmas epiphany so that your whole outlook on life has changed. Not a selfish person by nature, I actually am envious of your new philosophy that no matter the travails, it seems to not effect your mood of contentment. I don’t know how it happened nor how to advise you to keep it, but I wish everyone would have your dream epiphany. It would be a better world.

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