COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT YOU’RE SEEING AND SMELLING IN FLOODED APARTMENTS “I have a question regarding the apartments in Kingwood. There is a statement in the letter from the apartments indicating that there is a clear difference between mold and mildew. I understand it as they are both one and the same when it comes to interior livable spaces. If it smells and-or is visible you have a problem irregardless of the classification of mold or mildew.
Is this not correct? Is there a legal distinction per Texas Law? Can someone please chime in? Thanks.” [It Smells, commenting on The City That Will Be Building and Rebuilding Forever; Houston’s Long Amazon Odds; The Latest Poke Place] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU ABOUT THE WHOLE MOLD BUSINESS “So for homeowners you just cut the sheetrock, and rebuild all of the stuff at 3 feet and go down the road? My feeling is that every house that flooded has some trace of E. Coli and mold. Pretty soon you’ll see mold lawyer commercials suing every contractor that worked in these places. Doctors will soon get in on the action too. Hell, back in 2000 when mold lawsuits were born my framer had a magnetic door sign for ‘mold testing and remediation’ in the back seat of his pick-up. Get ready for it again.” [Sporey McGee, commenting on Housing Authority Ready To Demolish More Than a Third of Clayton Homes After Harvey Flooding] Illustration: Lulu
YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR WILLOWRIDGE HIGH MOLD INFESTATION UPDATES Curious about the extent of the mold found throughout Fort Bend ISD’s Willowridge High School this summer? Wondering if all the penicillium discovered on the campus at the tail end of Chimney Rock Rd. can be cleared out in time for the first day of school? As of today, there’s a new website for that: Check out this page for updates on remediation efforts; an accounting of band, JROTC, and athletic uniforms locked inside (they’ll be professionally cleaned); as well as a bit of backstory noting how investigators think the whole fungus fest began — after power was shut down in late June in advance of a planned construction project: “It is believed that the conditions outside (with increased humidity) combined with the fact that there was no A/C in the building factored into the rapid growth of the mold spores.” [Fort Bend ISD] Photo: Fort Bend ISD
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HONORING THE SECRET FUNGAL AUTHOR OF THE HOUSTON SAGA “The toxic mold madness explains the entire history of our region. Think about it: the cannibal Karankawas on the Island of Doom, the ignominious and mysterious defeat of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the mass hallucination that Buffalo Bayou was a navigable waterway on which a major port could be constructed, the race for space, the Candy Man, Mattress Mack and the subsequent mattress obsession, Robert Durst, the tree holocaust, and so on. We should name toxic mold as the official mold of the City of Houston.” [Memebag, commenting on What Floated and What Didn’t by the Halstead Apartments at N. Braeswood and 610] Illustration: Lulu
Robert Boyd’s original remarks on the scraping of the Wilshire Village Apartments briefly mentioned another older apartment complex that Matt Dilick redeveloped and now runs: the Bayou on the Bend Apartments, at 5201 Memorial, just west of Shepherd. Boyd’s link to discussions of that complex at ratings website Apartment Ratings sparked a quick note from a reader:
It looks like Apartment Ratings attracts tenants who want to complain, but it seems like most of the gripes about other apartments focus on managers who are hard to deal with, thin walls, neighborhood crime, that sort of stuff. Have you read the reviews of Bayou on the Bend?
Bayou on the Bend gets a 35 percent positive rating from readers who have written in to comment — certainly not the lowest number for a large Houston complex. Here are a few choice excerpts:
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Self-taught Houston designer, cabinet-maker, boat-builder, and entrepreneur Robert Cohen passed away last weekend at the age of 91, a couple of months after the death of his wife, Jean, and a little less than 2 years after his singular creation, Meyerland’s ultra-fab Carousel House, was demolished.
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JUST ANOTHER DAY IN ALIEF “I live in a piece of **** Apartment. It always has and will probably always be a grand royale of common apartment miseries. Drunken neighbors stomping around at all hours including 4am, another neighbor who likes to play his Tejano music really loud, stray dogs, animal abuse, street traffic. To name a few. . . . I persist on staying thinking it’ll get better but it doesn’t. This morning at around 4am, as usual, a steady stream of water came pouring out of our bathroom ceiling onto everything down below. A great way to start a Thursday. I think to myself this is nothing, just a little upset, there a people out there dealing with real issues in the middle of the morning, but what’s really going on is growing unseen to my tired eyes. It’s black, moldy, and by all means making me sick.” [Working On It]
We get mail . . . from a reader who’s considering renting one of the many available condos in Montrose’s famed Tremont Tower:
I am moving to Houston in June and when I was looking around for housing I found an ad for a rental at Tremont Towers. I went to look at the place and liked it but something seemed odd to me. If this place is as nice as it looks, it is in Montrose (apparently a desirable area to live) why is is so silent and why does one man own at least 5 separate units and even more odd, why are they so cheap when last year they were valued at >300K (odd even in this real estate market). So, I plugged them into Google and started following a trail. I read about Jordan Fogle and Heather Mickelson.
I talked to my possible future landlord and he told me a story that Jordan Fogle confused the builder of Tremont with the ones who built her home. In addition he offered a story that the Heather Mickelson had purchased the property and then not long after moving in decided to move out with her boyfriend. Since they would not purchase the property back from her she sabotaged the apartment by opening her windows through all weather which then lead to some horrible development of mold.
My issue is that since the coverage in 2005-2006 I haven’t been able to find much information and I cannot verify either side of this tale. I was wondering if any readers had passed on more information about the Towers or if anything had been done in this building that had nearly 100% foreclosure. I am concerned because I would prefer to avoid paying nearly a thousand a month just so I can get sick and not be able to work.
A little more below, plus: your chance to help!
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[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLqkHr77N0U 400 330]
So the actors aren’t likely to win any awards, but this new video posted to YouTube by Tremont Tower owner-victim-gadfly Heather Mickelson is notable for it’s uh . . . stirring illustration of the connection between construction-quality complaints and foreclosure train wrecks.
The Tremont is colorfully renamed “LemonTree Tower” in the video reenactment. If you’re new to the story, you’ll find better introductions to the sordid Montrose condo tale elsewhere. But if you’ve ever wondered why foreclosures seem to gather like flies around new developments that feature questionable levels of quality (and, say, water-tightness), this will make pretty good internet theater. No, the mortgage defaults aren’t the work of the millions of mold spores and the grim reaper, who together make cameo appearances in the video; they’re the ultimate result of the surefire sales techniques employed for undesirable properties — made so much easier, of course, by the subprime-mortgage boom.
Here’s the formula: Building with bad enclosure + poor disclosure = lots of foreclosure. Or just watch the video. At just over seven minutes, it’s still a lot shorter than Glengarry Glen Ross.
As if on cue, the Carousel House received a demolition permit Friday. (See 9602 Moonlight Dr. in today’s Daily Demolition Report, below.) As of this morning, the Meyerland mod is still intact — well, at least you’ll be able to see its silhouette through the fog.
Who wants to keep all those mold spores cooped up in a dingy old home, anyway — when really, they could be doing so much more for this city? Set them free!
Photo: Ben Hill
One detail glossed over delicately in Lisa Gray’s colorful tale of the decline of Meyerland’s Carousel House, featured in today’s Chronicle: The abandoned home’s apparent awful stench. From a few would-be visitors, posting on HAIF:
The owner told me that everyone he’s taken in there has gotten sick soon after coming out. Apparently it is REALLY nasty in there. I may swing by and get some new filters for my mask.
i could smell “the smell” just standing in the driveway
But hey, the interior shots from just a few short years ago make the house look super fab! Built in 1964 by owner Robert Cohen, the Modern gem merited a Texas magazine feature story in 2003. Just four years, one ultra-rich attorney, one shady personal assistant, countless hookers, umpteen heroin hazes, and a couple of dozen missing exotic cars later, the house on the corner of Moonlight Dr. and Braesheather appears headed for an almost-certain but certainly difficult demolition. (15,000 pounds of steel, anyone?)
After the jump, highlights of the home from its heyday, excerpts from the sordid and fetid tale of its fall from Modern grace, and a photo of the far more up-to-date carousel that just might be built in its place!
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The “Lemon Lady,” Houston grandmother Jordan Fogal, testifies colorfully against Texas homebuilder mandatory binding arbitration provisions to a congressional subcommittee this morning in Washington:
The first night in our new home, my husband decided to try out his new Jacuzzi tub on the third floor. When he pulled the plug, one hundred gallons of water crashed through our dining room ceiling. . . .
Well, this was not one overlooked plumbing connection, as my husband so desperately wanted to believe. It was a preview of coming attractions. Rainwater, from outside, sprayed us at the kitchen table. – The windows were installed upside down (our builder finally admitted this after three years). Our floors buckled and black spider-webs of mold crawled up our walls; the smell grew worse; then shower wall fell out and little puffballs grew out of the carpet. All the while, we had begged our builder to please fix our house.
We had the mold tested by an accredited laboratory, and they said they had never seen toxic readings that high in an inhabited dwelling.
The story of Fogal’s Hyde Park Crescent home was detailed in Mother Jones magazine two years ago; she also plays a part in this Houston Press report about the lucky owner of another Tremont Homes/Jorge Casimiro opus.
- Written Testimony Submitted by Jordan Fogal To The Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law: “Mandatory Binding Arbitration Agreements: Are They Fair For Consumers?” [U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, via Bay Area Houston]
- Home Sour Home [Mother Jones]
- Ownership Wrongs [Houston Press]
Photo: Brewster McCloud, Houston Independent Media Center