City dreamers

The rents for one-bedroom apartments in Manhattan average $2,567 a month, and two-bedrooms average $3,854 a month, according to data from Citi Habitats, a large rental brokerage company, but rents tend to be far higher in coveted neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and TriBeCa.

Because landlords typically require renters to earn 40 times their monthly rent in annual income, renters of those average apartments would need to earn at least $102,680, individually or combined, to qualify for a one-bedroom and $154,160 to afford a two-bedroom.

— Christine Haughney, “New York City Renters Cope With Squeeze.” The New York Times. May 10, 2007.
I read articles like this about NY rents, and I wonder what will happen to the City of Dreamers — a city built on the energy of young guys with aspirations to invent, create, change and build.  Will NY instead become a city of people who aspire to pay their rent?  Who swap out of jobs in journalism and culinary arts and teaching and non-profits in order to go for the more solid banker/doctor/lawyer slots?

Or maybe Brooklyn will continue to be the wetlands of the housing price flood, absorbing the dreamers who can’t fit on the island anymore.  We Brooklynites will clear cut the the old growth communities out there to put up Starbucks-imitations (with WiFi) so we can write proposals on combating clear cutting in Burma, and populate the blogosphere where rent is cheaper (often free!).  And in these wetlands of creativity, we will connect with our parents’ parents, who experienced similar tenement conditions when they escaped from Europe to head to the Promised Lands.  And maybe overcrowding is a good thing for the future of ideas:  will so many dreamers, pushed together like diesel in a carburetor, explosively create new world order?  Or a better way to cook polenta?
As for those who stay in The City itself — ah that paradise island with same-day Barnes & Nobles delivery and 2 mph traffic blocked by construction and movie sets and a hailstorm of yellow cabs — maybe they will just take on second jobs (or first jobs) so they can keep the dream.  Restaurant service will likely improve.  Bartenders will get cuter.  English will be taught with zeal.
Others will flee NY, or at least flee the real world side of it.  They will go to school.  Or move to California.  Or to China.
I wonder what will happen to the dating scene in NY.  With more and more roommates in the same place, what happens when the question “your place or mine” doesn’t really have any good answers anymore?  Maybe the Love Hotel business will boom, like in Tokyo, or relationships will have to redefine the term “intimate” (in which direction, not quite sure…).  Someone should pitch a remake of “Friends” called “Roommates” and involve the same cast of characters, but living in a one room loft in Williamsburg.  Or how much more interesting life would be if Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha shared a converted 2 bedroom apartment?
I would go on, but I hear that your inbox is crowded too.

Leave a Reply