Thursday, November 02, 2006

Middle Class Series

New York City’s Middle Class Is Shrinking
By Bianca Busketta

Twenty-year old college student Sarah Braverman stopped at the Food Emporium late one night, only to be found in a state of frustration and disbelief when she picked up a box of cereal and said, “Can you believe this is $6?”

Prices in real estate and even simple things like a box of cereal are taking a toll on the middle class in New York City. With New York City’s booming economy and expenses, the middle class has been dwindling at alarming rates since the past decade. Middle class New Yorkers are being forced to move to “greener pastures” and mobilize out of the city towards other boroughs and suburban areas.

Without the existence of the middle class, New York City will slowly become a fight between the extremely rich and the extremely poor without any middleman. The middle class can be defined as a group between the highest and lowest ranks of social classes. They have an average income, average status, and an average education -- at least a bachelor’s degree.

With “just trying to survive,” the middle class has struggled to live comfortably while sending their children to decent schools. The middle class comprises about 60% of New York City, which has dropped 3% since 2004.

The Brookings Institution, however, found that only 16% of these families in New York City make up a “middle income.” This means they are only making the average of about $40,000. Besides families, there is also the large group of middle class people who have come all over the world to live and learn in New York City -- college students. With New York University’s tuition reaching $42,000 a year, college students are struggling more than ever to learn, live and succeed in the city.

Along with the cost of tuition and loans for an average college student, there is also the cost of food and nightlife to be added in cost. John Maliszewski, a 20 year-old business and economics major at NYU admits that balancing his money was a big problem.

“Freshman year it was hard to balance food and money to make ends meet,” he says, “But once I realized that jobs in New York City gave me an opportunity to make a lot of money in comparison to kids that go to state schools, I realized a lot of my expenses were off set. I’m also now interning at JP Morgan Chase and they have helped me pay for my metro card so I can live a little more comfortably.”

Others have had a harder time at budgeting their money. Heather Breen, a fashion merchandising major at Laboratory Institute of Merchandising says food and rent money are big problems. “I end up spending $100 a week on food alone. Plus, my rent is about $1,000 plus a cable bill. It can be a lot to handle at times.”

When asking various college students about why they would go through all the struggles and the loans to come to New York City they are all answered with the same enthusiasm. John Maliszewski quickly adds, “Being a young adult in the city is very exciting. The bar, supermarket, laundry, and work are all a subway ride away and makes life much more exciting.”

Sarah Braverman, a dance major, has traveled all the way from Los Angeles, California to pursue her dream to dance and live in the city. However, with all the excitement, she does express fear when discussing her plans after she graduates.

“I know that once I am done with school and am cut off from my parents, I probably won’t be able to afford the rent here and will probably have to head into one of the boroughs to continue my artistic ambitions.” This is a perfect example about what most of the middle class is doing.

Chris Gey, who graduated college from The University of Pennsylvania works as an Investment Analyst at the Citigroup Private bank and admits after college and even with a decent job, he cannot afford to live in the city as of now. He instead commutes from Seaford, Long Island every day.

Although he expressed a desire to live in New York City he says it’s “Not an option right now, because even though I end up paying between $279 for a Long Island Railroad monthly pass and MTA monthly ticket, rent at any decent place would be $1,000 and I would still need an MTA monthly card.”

Is the city to blame for this? John Maliszewski says it’s not the city’s fault. “Manhattan has the best public transport in the world, the best fire department and the best police force. There are tons of jobs out there but the upper class citizens with their high paying jobs will drive prices up. I think it’s out of the city’s hands.” Chris Gey on the other hand, disagrees.

“The city should take some fault in this. If there could be regulation of real estate prices somehow, then rents and leases would drop for tenants and trickle down to cheaper prices. Life would be ‘cheaper all around.’ But so long as there is high demand for this real estate, prices will remain inflated and the middle class will eventually have to move on.”

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