New York City to the Middle Class: See You Later

Did you see the Janny Scott article in Sunday’s New York Times Week In Review about the dwindling middle class in New York? The whole article is well worth reading, and here’s one paragraph that especially jumped out at me:

Meanwhile, New York University researchers reported last month that the number of apartments affordable to households making 80 percent of the median household income in New York City dropped by a fifth between 2002 and 2005. Nationally, median household income ranges from just above $20,000 in Miami to around $40,000 in New York and Boston and about $60,000 in San Francisco.

To me, that’s shocking. The number of affordable apartments dropped 20% in three years?

Look, here’s the deal. I’m a Manhattan Real Estate Broker. Expensive condominiums and apartments are the bread and butter of my trade. If Manhattan is filled 100% with luxury apartments, that’s great for my bottom line. So you’d think that I’d be thrilled with news of Manhattan going upmarket.

But even I, with everything to gain, am not happy about the trend of making Manhattan inhospitable to most people. It makes me a little queasy and depressed, for a number of reasons. Here are some:

  • I don’t want to live in a gated community. I want my kids to grow up in a diverse environment. One of the things that appeals to us about the city is the now waning socio-economic diversity.
  • Even as the city is wealthy, the public schools suck–which is shameful. The article points out that of all groups the middle class usually fights hardest for better public schools (the rich kids go to private schools, and the poor parents don’t have the leverage to force change).
  • New York City has always been chock-full of rich people… and every other kind of people too. This is the one place America where everyone gets to breathe the same air, walk the same streets, and curse the same cockroaches. There’s something great about that. Making it a place only for the very rich and the very poor makes it really not like most of America at all.
  • What can be done about it? I’m not sure. It’s a shame that measures like rent control and rent stablization are so exploited that they don’t work properly.

I’m going out today sell a $10M apartment. Good thing there is still affordable housing in the boroughs–if this $10M place ever catches fire, the brave souls who will put it out can’t even afford to live in this zip code.


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