5.10.2007

Living at the office--not just an expression anymore! and more on UWS rent

Read this article ("New York City Renters Cope With Squeeze").

I mixed feelings about this particular article, although mostly horror at the prospect of looking for an affordable place to live in this market. But, come on, people whose parents are rich camping out in an office space? Weird. People who choose to go to NYU, which is notoriously expensive without a great reputation for financial aid, living in an office space? Also weird. Maybe they should consider one of these schools (click on the multimedia link) that meet 96-100% of students' financial need (as they determine it based on FAFSA and school-specific forms) through a combination of loans and grants? I'm not sure about all of the schools, but it looks like a decent list of choices for someone who could get into NYU. (In the same NYT Education Life supplement were this interesting article about community colleges and who benefits and who doesn't benefit from them and this long-overdue article about plans to simplify the FAFSA form).

On the other hand, this part of the article resonated with me, and I thought was good to bring to the public's attention (if they aren't dealing with it directly themselves):

Renters without high salaries have not been shut out of the market. They are squeezing in extra roommates or making alterations as never before much to the frustration of landlords. 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.

Young people making a fraction of those salaries are doubling up in small spaces and creating housing code violations, said Jamie Heiberger-Jacobsen, a real estate lawyer with her own practice. She is representing landlords in 26 cases that claim overcrowding or illegal alterations in elevator buildings in Murray Hill, the Upper East and Upper West Sides and the Lower East Side. A year ago, she handled a half-dozen such cases. Ms. Heiberger-Jacobsen said she was seeing the overcrowding not only in tenement-type buildings, but also in doorman buildings. “It really does create fire hazards,” she said. “You can’t just have beds all over the place.”

But more renters are finding that they cannot afford to stay in the city without resorting to less conventional living arrangements. For the last five years, Mindy Abovitz, 27, a drummer and graphic designer, has been living with four roommates in a 1,500-square-foot loft with one bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which has become a haven for young people, that rents for $2,600 a month.

About these doubling and tripling-up situations: I'm pretty sure that it's illegal according to most leases, but most landlords know about it and don't say anything, because they get extra rent money that way. When Archstone-Smith bought the Westmont and the KeyWest (see this post for more info), there were rumors that they were going to actually enforce the no-building-extra-walls-to-stick-two-extra-people-into-your-apartment bit of the lease. However, they were unable to get people into their super-expensive, large, luxury apartments, so they relaxed and let people keep their walls or put up new ones in apartments that didn't already have them.

Back to the horror at the prospect of looking for an affordable place to live--yeah. That's probably why I won't live in NYC forever. Right now, it's super convenient, but if I have to leave the Upper West Side because of skyrocketing rental prices, and live elsewhere in Manhattan or another borough, it will be less convenient to one or another of the many things that I have gotten used to here, and I may as well live somewhere else where I can't walk to work or to Fairway or to ten different kinds of kosher take-out in both dairy and meat varieties. (I don't get take-out all that often, but just knowing that I can! At 10:30 on a Wednesday or Thursday night! Six blocks from my apartment! That would be difficult to give up.)

Here's something funny. "The Melar, that...luxury Upper West Side development at 93rd and Broadway, finally has its very own website and pricing info. Studio rentals start from around $2,580 a month, while there's a high-floor two-bedroom with two bathrooms listed for more than three times that: $8,050." The scary thing is that only one apartment is still available, a two bedroom going for the bargain price of $5675/mo.

Another funny: The Lyric, where you can get a studio for only $3,295/month, a one-bedroom for a mere $4,095.00/month, and a two-bedroom for only $7,295/month. Oh, but it has two bathrooms. And a terrace. As if that makes it worth $7295/month!

Who are the people who can afford these apartments, and why won't they go live somewhere else? Go to the East Side, people! Or downtown! Somewhere where I don't really want to live!

Now, I'm not suggesting that I, or anyone I know, wants or needs to live in these sorts of luxury accommodations, where fewer than three people share one bathroom and no one lives in the living room. I'm only sharing these prices so any of you who live far away from this insanity can get a better sense of the market.

I met what looked like a woman and her teenage daughter who recently moved into my building, displacing some of the long-term tenants who had to flee in the face of 50%+ rent increases. I told my new other-side-of-the-building neighbor that I thought the new rents were outrageous, and she said, "Oh, but the apartment is so large!" So I guess people are willing and able to pay these prices.

Sigh... (I know, I know, David is going to leave a comment telling me to move to DC. Maybe I will, someday. I heard rumor that you're even going to have a partnership minyan of some sort down there one day, which is a nice added bonus. But, tell me, will I be able to walk to work through a park? Get kosher take-out at all hours? Do my grocery shopping at midnight on a Sunday night if the mood strikes?)

A few other bits of news related to rising costs of renting on the Upper West Side:
  • I heard, from several people, that West Side Judaica is going out of business. If you want to try to save them, you can go shop there today. I'm not sure if it's too late or not. I'm sad because there are always people in there buying things--both people who look less-than-comfortable in a Judaica store and those who appear to be right at home--and so I feel like they provide a valuable service to the Upper West Side.
    I mostly go there go buy milk-meat-pareve stickers, pretty Chanukah candles, the occasional haggadah, siddur, or reference book, and dreidels for playing with my cousin, and if it wasn't there, I would miss it. I don't want to have to go running to midtown or Brooklyn for these things.

  • The Dale & Thomas Popcorn store on Broadway between 76th and 77th closed in mid-April. Yummy, kosher, super-rich popcorn is no longer walking distance from my domicile. I hope the one in Times Square is still there.

  • Morris Brothers, which has been open on the Upper West Side (currently Broadway at 84th) for more than 50 years, lost their lease and is going out of business.

  • You may already know about Eden Wok closing. It was very sudden. They closed for Pesach and never reopened.
Soon, the entire Upper West Side will just be a bunch of Gaps, Banana Republics, Starbucks, banks, and cell phone stores. Nobody else will be able to afford the rent.

* * *

Need to get away after reading all of that? Try www.localhikes.com, where you can find information about hikes near both large and small cities. Here are the New York City/Northern New Jersey/Long Island ones.

* * *

Finally, if you want to vote for AbacaxiMamao as the Best Jewish Personal Blog in the final round of the JIB Awards, you can vote here. There are lots of other good people to vote for, too. I mean in the other categories. Vote for me in my category; for them in the other categories. Voting is open until 10 pm US-EDT next Wednesday, May 16. Thanks for your support.

* * *

Oh, one more thing. A lot of people get to my blog by Googling various things about the crazy rent in Manhattan generally and the Upper West Side specifically. For any of you just joining me, previous posts on this topic are below:
  1. Rising Rent on the Upper West Side (updated)
  2. Historical perspective on Upper West Side rents...and more!
  3. More (depressing news) about the real estate situation in Manhattan
  4. Separate Entrance For Poor People? (Real Estate Ramblings)

7 comments:

BZ said...

"The Melar, that...luxury Upper West Side development at 93rd and Broadway, finally has its very own website and pricing info. Studio rentals start from around $2,580 a month, while there's a high-floor two-bedroom with two bathrooms listed for more than three times that: $8,050."

HEALTHY PLEASURES!!! We'll never forget you!

hotshot2000 said...

How about everyone move to Riverdale and transform it from a boring middle-aged place for people w/ kids to a hip happening funky place? Close to the #1 train (40 minutes to mid-town) + 2 Metro-North stops! And the rents are reasonable (we got a really nice 1-bedroom for $1200). Egads, I sound like a broker, but it's a thought.

ALG said...

Yeah, I've thought about that and BZ and others have talked about it. Possibilities include Riverdale, Mt. Vernon, and parts of Brooklyn other than Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. I think that a bunch of people would kind of need to plan to do it together, though, or it wouldn't work.

Any idea how much 2-bedroom apartments go for in Riverdale?

Also, a friend reminded me that she lives in a $600/month two bedroom in Jerusalem that's also walking distance to all kinds of kosher take-out and the shuk and good grocery stores. I won't say I haven't thought about it.

David said...

I'll buck my minhag and NOT encourage a DC migration in this post, but will answer the questions: yes (according to Cecil Adams, Central Park is 840 acres, while Rock Creek Park is 1754 acres), no (sigh), yes (but you'd have to drive a bit for the all-night ones - the close-by ones are open late, just not 24 hours).

:)

ALG said...

David,

How likely is it that I would actually get to walk to work through Rock Creek Park? In both my last job and my current job, walking to work through Central Park was plausible. (It was 2.5 miles to my last job, and involved walking through parts of midtown also, so I walked less then. Now my walk is 2 miles and is almost entirely through Central Park, which makes it a lot more pleasant.)

How late is late? During my last year in Cambridge, I lived near a cheap grocery store, but it closed at 9:30 pm every night, and that was a huge pain. Or maybe it even closed at 9 pm. I don't remember. I do remember thinking that it seemed excessively early for a grocery store to close.

I'm not really defending NYC here, just pointing out that I've gotten used to all of these conveniences and it would be hard to give them up.

triLcat said...

um, yeah, try Jerusalem or Tel Aviv... Modiin lacks a singles scene, but hey, I got married while living here...
-your cousin from Modiin.

alg's dad said...

This is probably being posted too late for anyone other than ALG to read it, but it's the time of day when I am getting tired of working, so... You asked how likely it is that you could walk to work through Rock Creek Park if you lived in Washington. Maybe not walk, but my second cousin John B (not to be confused with The Sloop John B) regularly rides his bike to work through Rock Creek Park, from Chevy Chase, where he lives, to downtown.