Real Estate Blues
It keeps coming up again and again. In conversations on Seventh Avenue, on the radio, in the local media. It's definititely on Smartmom's mind: the reality that New York City has become a rich person's town. If you don't make a gazillion dollars a year, you can't live here anymore. Well, you can live here - but you can't buy a house or an apartment where you wanna be. Those who have chosen career paths far away from Wall Street - in the arts or in the non-profit sector - are being squeezed out of this city.
Smartmom finds herself feeling marginalized even in her own neighborhood where real estate is on everyone's lips. It hurts to have been one of the early settlers in Park Slope and to feel like there's no place left for me.
Back in '91, when Smartmom moved here, she and Hepcat were priced out of Manhattan. She , for one, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to their first apartment on Fifth Street. You see, they needed three bedrooms because they had a new baby, a boy who is now nearly 14 years old. Their needs exceeded what they could afford and find on the other side of the river. They didn't buy because they weren't even sure if they were going to like it here. It was Brooklyn afterall.
But Brooklyn enchanted. The red brick, the brownstone, the afternoon light on the dogwood-lined streets really struck a chord with me. Smartmom fell in love with the scale of the neighborhood, its architectural integrity, its beauty.
So here they are all these years later: enthusiastic members of this community. They've had their financial ups and downs and downs but have still managed to make a satifactory life for ourselves. OSOF and Teen Spirit are in the local public schools, we're card-carrying members of the Park Slope Food Coop, and they buy most of their books at the Community Bookstore.
But times are a-changing here: Brooklyn is, once again, in transition. Only rich refugees from Manhattan can afford to buy a gorgeous limestone, or fill all those new condos along Fourth Avenue. Everything is up for grabs: Sunset Park, the Atlantic Rail Yards, Kensington, Fourth Avenue, that crazy garage on First Street and Fifth, the Gowanus. Everything that made this neighborhood special is now just a real estate developer's dream. It's a land grab out there and everyone's got a price, an offer they can't refuse.
Smartmom wishes she could say that they'd had the foresight to invest. Wish they'd had good real estate karma. But they don't and I guess it wasn't meant to be. And that makes her sad...
Smartmom never thought she'd say it, let alone think it: but even she, diehard New Yorker born and bred that she is, may be getting fed up with this town. Even Smartmom is losing her taste for a city that's built on greed.