A while ago we blogged about Toni Schlesinger’s new book Five Flights Up. It’s a series of off-beat interviews with real New Yorkers about where they live. One of the recurring topics is: how can you afford this place? One response that’s not super uncommon is along the lines of: with help.
Below is a short segment from the book, part of an interview conducted in June 2002. Schlesinger’s questions are in bold. Eighth grade math teacher Smith Watkins is talking about her newly purchased 300 square foot studio apartment in a prewar building in Greenwich Village.
This is one of the Bing & Bing buildings, which they say are among the city’s finest prewar properties. I sound like a real-estate agent or something. But I read that Alexander Bing was one of the great socially conscious developers. He created Sunnyside in Queens, modeled on an English garden city. Profits from his Manhattan buildings subsidized the experimental communities. Now, are you in the mood to say, how, at twenty eight, you can afford to buy an apartment with your current teacher’s salary?
My family helped me. My father and his brother have a company, Watkins Trucking. My grandfather started it in Thomasville, Georgia.
With a pickup truck delivering chickens during the Depression.
Yes! Now he ships Gap, Sony, Clinique. I’m the only family member, out of seventeen, who could work in the company who doesn’t. I’m the only one who lives above the Mason-Dixon Line. I grew up in Tampa, where the headquarters are. My dad has a farm in Thomasville. He raises pointers. My boyfriend’s getting one from my dad. [Her boyfriend, Rob, lives on Avenue A, is a digital retoucher, used to be a bartender, and met Smith in late September. He arrived later with a bag of pork chops and Coca-Cola.] My dad raises the pointers for hunting. The farm used to be owned by the Whitney’s. My dad’s a wonderful businessman. Yes he advises me. He told me that when you buy an apartment, you can write off a percentage ofó-wait, I’m not sure. I’ll call him. [She dials.] Hey Dad, how’s its going? Is the interest expense write-off the incentive for home ownership? Yes, OK. I wrote the $59,000 check today. Dad, you’re going to be proud of me. Last night I went to feed the homeless on the Upper East Side. I’m going into overdrive here. I’m going to be a math teacher, feed the homeless. I made fifty pounds of mashed potatoes. We served it with chicken and corn. Daddy, I love you. Thank you for all your help with everything. [She hangs up the phone.]