Friday, December 10, 2004

Living in New York City

I feel sorry for my colleagues living in New York City. It’s absurdly expensive and increasingly homogenous. New York isn’t so much a collection of neighborhoods as it once was, but a collection of meticulously studied film sets where extras live out their dreary anonymous lives. You often see actual films being shot there but you’re not the star. You’re nobody.

Nonetheless, the cachet of New York is such that there is always a steady supply of newcomers who will do anything and pay any price to live here. And New York will not disappoint them. If you’re willing to pay, New York is willing to charge. The cost of living in New York City is 240 percent of the national average – nearly twice that of Boston and Washington, D.C.

The average sales price for an apartment in New York City is now more than $1 million. The median price is $655,000. That’s a lot of money. But what sort of value do you get for that? Here is the kitchen of an apartment currently for sale in the fabled Dakota on Central Park West for $4.7 million.


I don’t know about you, but if I were ever to accumulate the means to spend $4.7 million on my living accommodations I would be pretty disappointed if I couldn't fit a turkey into my kitchen. For that kind of money I would expect everything to be absolutely ideal in every possible way.

New York City makes you compromise even if you’re spending $4.7 million.

Another example. Check out this apartment in The Eldorado, also on CPW although a little too far north for my taste. This place costs even more . . . $4.75 million. But look at the floorplan. Two of the bedrooms appear to be in the water tower and you have to climb a spiral staircase through one of them to get to the other. This seems less than ideal.

In a normal real estate market this “apartment” would be a place you store roofing materials and elevator cable. If you were to buy it for living space you wouldn’t consider putting down more than $100,000 and that’s just because the view is truly spectacular.

One of the poor bastards I work with has two kids just like me and rents a cramped one bedroom apartment in Manhattan. He’d like to buy a place but he’s waiting for the prices to come down.

The more I think about this strategy the more foolhardy is sounds. I well remember the days when real estate was cheap in Manhattan. And you know what? It was cheap for a reason.

Fun City of the 1970s was a dismal, dangerous, and fetid Petri dish filled with the most virulent strains of Aquarian social decay metastasizing at a soul corroding rate.

Mayor Lindsay.

For whole generations of New Yorkers the mere mention of the name Lindsay sends a clammy chill up the spine as disturbing scenes of strikes, riots, sweat, grime and dented green and white Chrysler police sedans with pineapple sized roof sirens crawling crumbling urban jungles flicker up from the darker depths of memory.

Want to imagine what it would be live to in an affordable New York City? Rent a movie like “The French Connection” and “Midnight Cowboy” and take a good hard look and be grateful they didn’t film these two in Smellevision.™

Gritty. Filthy. Devoid of anything so frivolous as irony.
Chock Full ‘a Nuts, instead of Starbucks. Food City instead of Food Emporium. and evening at Bowlmor Lanes? Better bring a handgun.

Things weren’t “vintage” in affordable New York. They were old and broken and decrepit. Of course, as a kid I loved the faded glory of it all. But I’m glad I wasn't doomed to spend the final 20 years of my life in a place like that.

When I listen to my work friend talk about his appalling living conditions I now imagine a guy in Detroit around 1963 waiting, hoping, and praying that property values decline in Motown so he can step in and grab his piece of the rock.

Buddy, you don’t want to live in a city you can actually afford.

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