Tuesday, April 13, 2004

...and why I was so desperate to hang onto it last January!


(Yeah, you need to have a username. If you don't have one, sign up. It's free, and hey, it's a great Newspaper.)

Granted, the situation outlined in the article isn't where I'm next headed, but it shows you how bad the housing/real estate situation is here in New York. If you want to live alone in a place you wouldn't mind your mother seeing, you need to make 50K or more. Those who have 10-15 year rent-controlled leases or who bought during the real estate slump a few years ago had better hang onto their places like mad and hope a huge company doesn't buy the block right out from under them, busting through zoning laws with multi-million dollar battering rams. Unless of course you are homeless. After a number of months on the street, you might qualify for project housing. Your chances improve if you have homeless children that haven't been taken away from you.

For singles like me, who knows where I'll wind up when I have to move. I've been aware for some time that these are my last years in New York. Granted, I only planned on living here around 10 years anyway, and it's been almost 9, so I'm technically on schedule, but I always thought I'd be leaving due to some outside pull from another city - a job, or maybe a relationship. However, in spite of my steadily increasing salaries over the years, rents are skyrocketing to the point where my time here is clearly limited by my ability to afford rent. At this rate, I'm going to have to skip town for reasons I create myself. A different feeling.

Nobody has any easy answers to this question. Politicians from all marks on the spectrum have ideas, but there is too much arguing over specifics and too many agendas for anything to truly be done. Nobody is open to new ideas, and the old ones have failed. Such is politics.

I spent this Easter at a friend's apartment in South Nyack, NY, in a reasonably sized 1-bedroom (for New York) that rents for more than my 2-bedroom does. No family could ever live there. For years I've been listening to my New York friends try and convince me that it's perfectly easy to raise kids here, after all, they did it in the 70's and 80's.

Things are different now. The article says it briefly:

...urban refugees from places like Newark, Brooklyn and Queens, they come here for the schools, the trees and the $140,000 starter homes, seeking what generations of middle-class strivers have always sought. With Long Island, Westchester and suburban New Jersey beyond their means, more than 44,000 arrived in the 1990's.

The reason they don't mention Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx is that neighborhoods in the outer boroughs have many of the high rents seen in Manhattan, and Guiliani's clean-up-the-crime sweep didn't extend into the boroughs with anywhere near the effects seen in Manhattan. City Lights at Queens Landing in Long Island City became an investor's nightmare. Sure, the units sold - but at a fraction of what the developers planned on, for various reasons. Even so they are around 2 or 3 grand for a 2-bedroom - and that's not including utilities and "Building maintenance" - upwards of $400/month. And that was in 2002 when my ex and I were looking to buy. The Closer neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens - as in shorter commutes to midtown - have rents almost as high as Manhattan. The affordable neighborhoods... well, they're not what you bust your ass for. And, again, they are tiny - only suitable for singles. If you want a spouse, maybe some kids - good luck finding space you can afford.

I am hardly the first person to complain about the lack of affordable housing in New York City. I am, however, in the unique position of having little to lose. I guess my planned transiency enables me to remain dispassionate. But... I don't see anything else anywhere in the country reaching out for me. My bf is perfectly content in his Upstate NY place, working at his company across the Tappan Zee Bridge, and we're not exactly to the point where either of us would move for the other anyway.

Then there's school, which my deep inner self has been wanting for so long. All the MFA programs I'm looking at are in Manhattan. That sure as hell would keep me here for awhile - and I'd be dirt poor too. How do I figure that into the equasion? Should I seek student housing? No way will I be able to keep my current place... which saddens me, but who am I trying to kid.

It is amazing the things in my life I feel willing to give up just to pursue my writing.

But then, I have a feeling many of you can relate.

Of course the simple answer to this question is to open my MFA program search to other cities. Chicago is close to my family and where my oldest close friends live. I just hate the cold so much. Boston has always interested me - UU City, after all - but again, brrrr. Baltimore... Mightn't I as well be in New York? The south scares me. So conservative. I'm a pagan feminist democratic voter for Goddess's sake. I'd be lynched in two days. But... it's warm...

Do I have to freeze my ass off to ever achieve any measure of success?

And before you suggest it, California is too far away from everyone I care about, and it's far too expensive to fly from there to the midwest several times a year. I'd die of isolation.

Actually, come to think of it, I don't know how my "success" in New York could be measured, so the opposite axiom seems to hold more truth: even while freezing my ass off I didn't acheive what I came here for, so I might as well try being warm.

Oh Christ. This is all just so wrong.

I need hot cocoa. I'm getting cocoa now.

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