Monday, October 1, 2007

It's been a while since Megan lived in NYC

it seems.

A number of years ago, I was discussing rent control with someone who had managed to snag a government-subsidized co-op. "But you have to understand," he said earnestly, in response to my eminently reasonable economic arguments, "If it weren't for rent control, someone like me couldn't afford to live in Manhattan."
... what? Rent control and government-subsidized co-ops are very different things. One is a way to prevent landlords from price-gouging, the other is a system whereby the state or city obtained ownership or control of decent buildings in order to provide some employees with affordable housing near where they work. Whether the gov't sectors that have this option deserve it or make fair use of it are fair questions in response, but not Megan's.
My response, though I never said it out loud, was a puzzled "So what?" Living in Manhattan is not a civil right. It's ludicrous to think that we should construct an elaborate regulatory system that degrades the housing stock and helps push the vacancy rate down to 2%, all so that averagely paid government workers can afford a two bedroom apartment near Lincoln Center. If you want to live in Manhattan, you should prepare yourself for a job that will pay you enough to do so. Or you can do what I did, and cram yourself into 400 square feet of cave-like space on the first floor of a building where the hot water supply ranges from temperamental to nonexistent. But the idea that the government has a duty to reallocate the very limited supply of attractively located Manhattan apartments to . . . well, to the kind of people who know the guy who allocates the supply of attractively located Manhattan apartments . . . seems so transparently awful that I was struck dumb.
I, too, am struck dumb. First question is, what does Megan consider affordable? My last place in Manhattan was a 400 sq feet cave, and it was 1800 a month. People told me I was getting a good deal, and they were tragically correct. (I now live in Brooklyn, and pay less for about 3 times the space.) And this was almost 2 years ago. There are no affordable places in Manhattan anymore, unless you mean section 8 housing that a whitey like Megan has never heard of.
Second, while a person like Megan might not notice the difference, the lack of housing non-corporate or rich family types can afford in Manhattan is changing the borough. My last place was on the LES, and when I got there it was a DFH friendly area, the home of Tonic, and generally one of the few areas of the city you could wander around high as a kite and not feel like anyone cared. Now it's a Sex and the City set. Tonic was closed to keep the owners of the new glass monstrosity next door happy, and ABC no rio is almost a museum piece. Lots of yuppies and bridge and tunnel crowds trying to feel hip. And, no, Williamsburg and its hipsters aren't really much better, but their bars and music are. Megan may be glad for the change, but Manhattan isn't the place it once was.
Getting back on topic, you gotta love Megan saying "If you want to live in Manhattan, you should prepare yourself for a job that will pay you enough to do so." Cause, y'know, if everyone just picked themselves up by their bootstraps and..... how the hell does she convince herself of this crap? Does she really think everyone can just buckle down and train themselves at night instead of sleeping and suddenly have the connections and skills required for the near six figure income you need for Manhattan these days?
I could go on, and, hellishly, this is all just a set-up for Megan to argue against taking economic consequences into consideration when discussing how to set up a carbon tax, but I can't do it. The fall of Manhattan and Megan's employment at The Atlantic are bad enough individually. I can't deal with both at once.


Fishbone McGonigle said...

See, this actually was a post of Meg's that I had no substantive quibbles with . . . but then, I have never lived in NYC (Boston is the closest I ever got, and that was over ten years ago), so I don't notice the problems with the details.

One question, though: who, specifically, are the bridge-and-tunnel crowd?

M. Bouffant said...

People not from Manhattan who use the bridges & tunnels to get to Manhattan & pretend they're "hip" in the big city (the John Travolta character in that disco movie) & (I guess)drink & whatnot to excess & ruin things for those who can afford Manhattan. So now that brad lives in Brooklyn I guess he's one of them.

brad said...

The bridge and tunnel crowd are the folk from jersey, westchester, and long island who pack the island on weekend nights, making it intolerably crowded. Many natives avoid going out on weekends, generally, cause there's just too many of them.
The village will be packed like times square, it's horrid.

brad said...

Nah, like all good quasi-hipsters I now tend to avoid manhattan, except when I have to go in for school or a concert or a date or summin. Besides, the only borough it really applies to is staten island.

Anonymous said...

Here again is where I think Megan absolutely is in love with wealth and power, to the exclusion of understanding how complex a socity actually is.

First of all: the entire point of providing cheaper housing for public sector workers is because it supplants in some ways the meager income they earn so that Megan can have her low taxes.

Secondly - lets have Megan tell that to Cops and Fireman who ensure her safety at night.

Third - not all of us have the desire to remain single at 38 and childless like she does. Clearly, her selfishness in attitude towards others is clearly a problem in her relationships.

Fourth - at some point, if you price out your basic service workers, you are not going to be able to function as effectively. Silicon Valley finally had to reconcile this as they were having trouble getting teachers and other lower paid workers to work in those locations. As such, the school districts started offering housing to teachers to help bring in teachers (unless of course Megan would support paying a teach $200,000 a year...but I doubt it).

Fifth: Megan's contention that we all should or could become big time hedge-fund managers is ludicrous. It is the same crap when I hear that we all need to focus on careers that cannot be outsourced. First of all, most of those professional already have a surplus of supply in labor, so more people entering into this labor force will only reduce the meager wages. Secondly, we all cannot be lawyers.

Fishbone McGonigle said...

But see, Megan shouldn't have to trade anything for lower taxes. It's her birthright, dammit.

Yes, you're right that she is in love with wealth and power, but there's another force in play here as well: she sees most people as theoretical constructs, and nothing more. Her anecdote proves that that includes people she knows, who are actually standing right in front of her.

And I'd love to see her try to make it as a hedge fund manager, even with that fancy MBA from the University of Chicago.