Monday, November 06, 2006

Middle Class Series

New York Rents Are Pushing Middle Class Into The Suburbs
By Samantha Davies

The Big Apple. People move every year to New York City with Big dreams; yet, once here, many endure Big struggles and end up spending Big expenses simply to get by.

Many middle class New Yorkers, like Don Juan of Don Grocery, are finding it a difficult task to afford the middle class lifestyle. Coming from the Dominican Republic, Juan came to America in search of the “American Dream.”

Don Juan grocery, located in the heart of the Lower East Side, “was a lucky find,” says Juan. “In the beginning, my family and I lived above the store. But rent for the store and apartment increased and I found myself struggling to pay for both,” he said. Instead of giving up the store, Juan relocated his family deep into Queens.

Like Juan, many New Yorkers are enduring the grueling rise in Manhattan’s rent prices. In the 2005 National Real Estate Index, New York City topped the list, making it the most expensive place to live, surpassing L.A. and San Francisco. For many middle class New Yorkers, simply affording a place to live is becoming a struggle in the borough of Manhattan. New Yorkers, like police officer Timothy Spengler are beginning to question the true value of a dollar in New York. Many are wondering if they’re middle class at all.

“Statistically speaking, yes, I am middle class. I make a little more than the National average,” says Spengler. In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the national median is an estimated $45,893.

According to Spengler’s definition, middle class America would fall at the median. Is the price of middle class living unattainable in the Big Apple? When he lived in Springfield, Illinois “living comfortably was easier” says Spengler. “Here, in New York, I live in a smaller apartment, much smaller, and I’m not even in Manhattan.”

According to economists, the term middle class is applied to those who neither earn an extreme income nor make little enough to earn government assistance. Many New Yorkers, who are considered middle class, are finding it a difficult task to actually afford the middle class lifestyle.

“I think New York is trying to push the middle class out of New York,” says Charles Mcknett, a previous resident of the New York area. “It pushed me out,” he states. Due to increasing prices of necessities and increasing rent, McKnett, found himself not living comfortably.

As a former teacher in New York, McKnett says he was “not making little enough to gain government assistance, but was not making enough to survive. Here in West Chester, Pa., I have a house and I am paying less than I was paying in New York for a two bedroom, tiny apartment.”

In a July report from Citi Habitats, a New York City studio is an average of $1900 a month – for a studio. In Pennsylvania, McKnett says he “has more than the basics; lives comfortably, but still has to keep working to survive.” In NYC he said he “barely had the basics.”

So is New York City a place in which only the poor and the extremely wealthy can afford to live? Are the middle class citizens who establish the American mainstream, being denied the right to live in the heart of America? Due to Metlife’s current pending sale of the Peter Cooper village, 25,000 middle class New Yorkers may be looking for new places to live.

Metlife is attempting to turn the largest middle class housing complex in New York City, into luxury apartments. For those who currently pay stabilized rent fees, shortly they may be immersing themselves in the ever-rising prices of real estate in NYC. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been making valiant efforts to stabilize the rent market in Manhattan; however, this sale could prove to a 25,000 person set back in his attempt.

With rent prices growing rapidly, what once was known as the melting pot might just “push everyone without a lot of money out,” says Mcknett.

“When I first came to Manhattan, there was so much culture,” says Don Juan “and now no one with culture can live in Manhattan; we live in Brooklyn and Queens. Yes, I make rent for the store and my home, but after that I struggle to buy my family the things they want,” says Juan, “I might be living in the suburbs in a few years.”

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