Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The NYC Triangle

When you live in Brooklyn, or any borough in NYC I guess, you always have to contend with what I've come to think of as The Triangle Of Real Estate Happiness, heretofore called The Triangle.

The triangle adds up to the three conditions needed for happiness, or at least what I need for happiness. I suspect there are a lot of my NYC peeps are in a similar boat. The problem with The Triangle is that it is virtually impossible to get all three points in order at one time. It's easy to get two, but three are virtually non-existent unless you are very, very lucky.

Rich people don't have to contend with the issues raised by The Triangle, by the way.

Enough with the mystery. Here are the three points of The Triangle, as pertaining to finding a great place to live. And why this is so impossible.

1. It needs to be affordable. For our purposes this means less than $2000 a month for a nice, at least somewhat spacious and comfortable two bedroom apartment. My out of town friends will now smack their head in disbelief that I could ever spend that much. My city peeps will in turn smack their heads that I am so cheap, yet so demanding.

2. It needs to be safe. This is self-explanatory. Well, I will explain a little more. Safe, to me, means I don't worry about my wife and daughter walking around together in the daytime, and I don't worry about either my wife, or I, walking around alone at night.

3. It needs to be walking distance to cool stuff. Stuff like good bars, restaurants art, stores, the subway, all that. You know, the stuff that made you want to move into the city to begin with.

Okay, here is where the paradox of The Triangle comes into play. I have found it impossible to get all three points to align. (Or perhaps a better way to think of this is as the three legs of a stool) When two line up the other one slips away, it's like a Rubik's Cube, or something. The more you try to fix it, the more it refuses to be fixed.

Let me run through some examples:

If you live in Park Slope Brooklyn you get: safety and a good, fun neighborhood. But a comfortable, affordable apartment? Dream on Aerosmith!

If you live in Ditmas Park Brooklyn you get: safety and affordability. But you're pretty far from a lot of stuff, and it's not THAT affordable. I know my Cortelyou Road-loving readers will castigate me for this, but DP isn't dense enough with cool stuff to qualify as a happening 'nabe, at least not to me. You still have to travel pretty far for a lot of things, like going into Manhattan!

If you live in my old neighborhood in Manhattan, Hell's Kitchen you are: safe, and close to cool stuff. Affordable? No way.

Of course it's easier to get space, and even proximity, if you are not that keen on safety, but I can't make that sacrifice, especially with a child. So, Crown Heights and Lefferts Garden are not options for me. (I have a feeling I will get pilloried for this.)

Most of the places I like are basically too expensive, and I'm unwilling to give up safety. So, for me, proximity is the most easily sacrificed point of The Triangle. Where we live now, Windsor Terrace, is sweet, pleasant, with a great neighborhood vibe. But we're at least a subway ride away from any sort of real, active neighborhood--in this case including Park Slope and even the more happening parts of Windsor Terrace. Manhattan is accessible, kind of, but then you have the issues that come with schlepping a stroller-bound toddler on the subway; namely that after doing it enough it starts to break your back. Then you don't want to do it so much.

So there we are, New York. One leg short of a stool, one point short of The Triangle. If I am missing some magical mystery neighborhood that has it all--safety, affordability, and is either in or quite close to cool stuff--please let me know.


Holly said...

Glad to see you're back blogging! I hear you on that triangle. We had to give up the proximity thing in order to get some place comfortable, that wasn't outrageously expensive, in a safe area. Of course, we also wanted trees, so that meant moving to the 'burbs. It's impossible to have it all...unless you're rich, as you mentioned. But I'm sure even for them there is some sort of equivalent triangle.

lisachelle said...

Your so funny!
Good luck on your impossible search!

Anne Stesney said...

I was once told that the longer you live in NYC, the better your real estate situation gets. I think this only true if you never move. If I stayed in the $400/month rent-controlled alcove studio I had, the one smack in Park Slope steps from P Park, I'd have a sweet deal even with inflation. I'd also be very lonely.

Maybe you'd have better luck in Queens?

David Serchuk said...

Hi All,
Holly good to hear from you. Yes, I've come to realize that proximity is the most easily sacrificed of the three points. Safety is a non-starter for all us parents, for sure. As for the rich, I wouldn't know!

Lisachelle, thanks, we are still looking!

Yes, NYC is a great place in which to never ever move, thereby locking in a very affordable studio apartment that you outgrew ten years ago! I would laugh except I saw it all the time when I lived in just such a studio! There were families living in some of them!