Thursday, November 02, 2006

Middle Class Series

New York City: Where The Rich Stay Rich And The Poor Get Poorer
By Michelle Bonarrigo

In New York City, the city of all cities, the Big Apple, where people come to achieve the American Dream, the class gap is dwindling by the minute. Walking through the wonder that I know as Times Square, one of America’s largest tourist attractions, I was handed an advertisement for a presentation called, “Fight for A Productive Middle Class Economy.”

The presentation will be lead by author of a book titled, “The American Dream vs. The Gospel of Wealth,” which foresees the gap between the wealthy and the poor only expanding in the future.

What does it mean to be middle class? What does it mean to be middle class in New York City, the 10th richest city in the world? Would a person living in middle class in New York City be considered middle class in say Los Angeles, Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Arkansas?

The middle class live comfortably, confident about their financial status with limited luxury. According to the 2004 U.S. Census Bureau, the state of New York sees the second highest amount of inflowing wages in the U.S., right behind California, a state much larger with almost double the population.

In New York City, most residents do not have a backyard or a porch, or a spacious apartment or home where they can kick back in sweats and socialize with friends. The typical New York social life is done at local clubs, restaurants and bars, where after your tab plus tip, you may be out of grocery money for the week.

Adam Harvey, New York resident for 10 years, a general manager of a chain restaurants in the Flatiron district, reports making a very substantial income, enough to pay off college loans for he and his wife, pay for a small wedding in New Jersey and rent a two bedroom apartment where they raise their daughter, Emily, who just turned three.

The going hourly rate for a babysitter in New York City is $15. Harvey says this is just something he is not willing to pay so Emily will have someone to take her to the local park while he and his wife go to work. His wife has not worked since their daughter was born, but wants to return shortly. The couple has just put a down payment on a home in suburban New Jersey, a 45-minute commute into the city.

Harvey says, “ You can get a spacious entire floor, a backyard and a porch in a nice duplex for what you pay for a tiny little shoebox apartment here, [in Manhattan]”.

He continues, “My best memories as a child were running free in the streets, in my sandbox, riding my bike, playing in my backyard. I don’t want to have to take Emily all the way up to Central Park just so she has a place to be a kid. I can see maybe moving her back here as a teenager, but not now.”

When asked why he chose suburban New Jersey over suburban New York, Harvey said, “Giving Emily all of the education and extra-curricular activities in New York I want her to have would prevent us from ever being able to consider having another child. I never thought raising a toddler in the city would be a problem until I actually started doing it”.

Janine Macky, 24, who has recently been promoted to assistant manager after being a bartender and waitress for four years at a local two-star restaurant that helped her pay her undergraduate tuition at New York University. She said half of her tuition was paid through academic scholarship.

Macky just moved into Lower East Manhattan from Hoboken, N.J., in June and reports, “what 24 year-old single woman wouldn’t want to live in Manhattan? I’ve paid off my school loans, I don’t need a car at all in the city. I work to pay my rent and going out money.”

When asked why she moved when she was already happy in Hoboken, she said, “As a bartender and waitress, I was on my feet all day, and though the money I was making was great, it wasn’t steady, it wasn’t dependable. Now that I’ve been promoted to manager, I’m making the same money on a slow night that I would on a busy Friday night. I have a set, fixed income now and can move into Manhattan.”

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