“It’s unclear where one can live comfortably, affordably, & ethically in New York.”
If the housing situation is Portland is rough, the situation in New York is galactically bad, apocalyptically bad, as bad as those first three Star Wars prequels. This meditation in the New Republic titled “Wishful Living” — ostensibly about being a house-sitter for rich folks but, like all good essays, actually about much more than that — gets at a lot of the current tensions and frustrations.
It has been widely written that the generation to which I belong will never reach the prosperity achieved by our parents. It also has been widely written that in New York, as in many American cities, young, educated people are no longer able to live in the neighborhoods that once belonged to youthful, artistic aspiration. Displaced by those with the wealth that it’s now impractical and a little gauche even to desire, we go where we can, displacing others in turn. The summer I lived in the loft, The New York Times proclaimed that Crown Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood notoriously divided over gentrification and cultural ownership, was “having a moment” — young professionals had arrived, bringing with them new condo developments, boutiques, and other hallmarks of the “new Brooklyn retail experience.” The tone of the piece was generally congratulatory, though the Times noted also that the “moment” was driving up real estate prices so quickly that longtime residents were forced to leave.
The author concludes, “It’s unclear where one can live comfortably, affordably, and ethically in New York.” With which my brain could quibble — did anyone ever, really, live comfortably, affordably, and ethically in this crazy city? — but to which my heart gives a hearty hear hear. That very conundrum leaves those of us living and working and raising families in the city trying to figure out whether it makes more sense to go far south to Bay Ridge, BK; far north to Riverdale, the BX; far east to Woodhaven, Queens; or far west to Jersey. (Cardinal directions are approximate. My internal compass can be a bit wonky.)
My ideal is to stay exactly where I am. Here is where the friends are, and when you don’t have moms in the area, friends who adore your child and occasionally take her off your hands are the next best thing. Friends are community, sanity, people who offer you tea when you arrive in the dark, crying. Friends are not to be sneezed at.
Beyond that, though, here are the park, the playground, the museum, the library, the botanic garden; here is where we have a daycare, a doctor, a dentist, a reasonable commute for the work-out-of-home spouse and a high quality of life for the work-from-home one. And here, courtesy of Zillow, is a screenshot showing all the three-bedroom apartments available in the entire greater Park Slope vicinity for under a million dollars.
So yeah. Unfortunately the things I find perfect other — richer — people find perfect too, damn them, and the Brooklyn bubble swells and swells. It’s great for the valuation of the apartment I am currently lucky enough to own, and terrible for the valuation of any other apartments I could hope to buy. Loft-hopping becomes an increasingly attractive option.