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Posts Tagged ‘Metro Areas’

$250,000 Isn’t Rich? Riiiiight!

In behavior, business, culture, Money, news on September 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm
Without money
Image by Toban Black via Flickr

Here’s a recent blog post that makes me want to throw a chair:

But for all the moral outrage one can level at a person bitching about making “only” $250K, know that $250K per annum is much closer to the minimum starting point you need to bank in order to have a shot at “making it” in the expensive cities of America. Living the dream requires a whole hell of a lot more…. if you are earning $50,000 a year, the prospect of earning $250,000 a year probably seems like a panacea. Think about it: you’d be earning five times as much! I’ve yet to meet the person who wouldn’t love to quintuple his or her salary. From the perspective of a person making $50,000 a year or less (the subset could also be called “most Americans”), the person or family making $250,000 a year is rich.

Except he’s not…

In fact, most people who make $250K aren’t even sitting there thinking: “Ooh, if I bust my ass and play my cards right, being ‘rich’ is just around the corner for me and my family.” If, God forbid, $250K also represents all you have, being truly rich is probably not even an option for you. You can’t “invest” in anything with the piddling savings you’ve stowed away. You can’t “buy” anything, other then maybe a family home and a some consumer assets that will start to depreciate the minute you breathe on them…

No, if you are making $250K a year, what gets you out of bed every morning isn’t even the desire to become rich. Instead, you’re motivated by the white-knuckle fear that something will go wrong and you’ll be cast back down with the sodomites who struggle valiantly to eke out an existence on $50K or less. You are certainly not rich, but you are terrified of becoming poor.

This is why living in New York City, and its self-regarding suburbs, makes for such delicious comedy. On a combined income of $250,000, it’s true — that a $5 million home is out of reach.

Boo hoo.

There is nothing more terrifying to the better-off, (as the writer, a Harvard-educated attorney at least admits), than the notion you might slide back down that greasy pole.

Then what? A cardboard box under a bridge?

Our household income, with no kids, is less than half this amount. That’s still a fortune to many people in this country.

In downstate New York, sadly, it’s a bit of a joke. Crossing any bridge costs $3 to $9 in tolls, one-way. Two hours’ parking in a Manhattan garage can easily run $20-40. My sweetie takes a commuter train to work — at an annual cost of almost $3,000, none of it tax-deductible. The maintenance on our one-bedroom suburban apartment is now almost $900 a month, with three increases in the past three years. No choice in the matter; if we don’t like it, sell and move!

We own one vehicle, paid off, nine years old. My income is less than half what I made in my last staff job. Good thing I didn’t buy a bigger home or take out huge loans…

The problem of talking about money is that it’s rarely just about money. It’s really about entitlement. It’s about Who You Think You Are. The gut-grinding knowledge that all that Ivy League striving may leave you owning only one home (not the two or three or four owned by the people you attended school with and, for many of the strivers I know, spend their entire lives comparing themselves with.)

Keeping up with the Jones — certainly when, as one attorney I know is doing, schooling four children privately ($100,000 a year in tuition alone) — can kill you.

I wake up daily deeply grateful for: safe, clean housing, healthy food, caring neighbors, my health, a functioning, insured vehicle, health insurance, some savings. It’s a lot.

It’s enough.

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Powerless twice this month, I'm one of 500,000 Northeast homes affected by storm

In news, Weather on March 15, 2010 at 9:07 am
Storm Damage

A typical sight here now...Image by Tobyotter via Flickr

The Westchester hotel parking lot was filled with Mercedes and Lexus, with MD and DDS plates — hotel refugees fleeing their suburban homes after this weekend’s brutal wind and rain. The diner across the street from it was so full we could barely find a spot to eat breakfast. Our newspaper delivery man — God bless his work ethic — had braved six dark flights of stairs to bring us our New York Times and New York Post.

On Friday morning I watched the tree on our terrace, the sixth and highest floor of our 50-year-old suburban New York apartment building, rocking on its base like a metronome in 50 mph winds before we brought it indoors for protection.

We lost electricity at 7pm Saturday evening, just as we were starting dinner. We often eat by candlelight, but this was now a necessity. Reading required so many candles, (we did have a flashlight), we gave up and were asleep by 8:30. Makes you appreciate 18th-century life in a whole new way.

We’re very lucky to have a hotel three blocks from our home and the rate wasn’t terrible, so, for the second time — we lost power recently in a huge snowstorm, and shared a room there that night with my Dad, visiting from Toronto — we checked in there Sunday afternoon. I can handle having no power — but when it goes, our building also loses heat and hot water and the temperatures here are still in the lower 40s.

One night in a hotel, luckily for those who can do it, is an affordable adventure; two or three, plus meals out, quickly adds up.

One occupant of the room next to our practiced cello for seven hours, lovely at first, annoying after endless sawing and scratching. They had several dogs with them. The dining room, normally an elegant quiet space, was filled with screaming infants and restless teenagers. I had hoped to use the indoor hotel pool — but it was closed due to fears of a lightning strike.

The damage to homes, landscape and people is frightening and sobering. Six people have been killed, as my former Daily News colleague Russ Buettner reports in today’s New York Times:

The scenes of devastation in the New York area were so widespread that some compared what they saw to the worst of natural disasters. Nearly everyone had a storm-related tale, mixing inconvenience and a sense of wonder at forces that effortlessly ripped trees from the ground, roots and all. And there were stories of loss and tragedy.

By the time the worst of the weekend’s storm was over, at least six people were killed, countless vehicles and homes were smashed, scores of roadways were left impassable and more than 500,000 homes had lost power — many of them to face darkness for days to come.

On Sunday, the storm’s lingering effects — and the recovery it required — became clearer…

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Power Authority, called the storm among “the top five or six weather events that have impacted Long Island in the last 40 years.”

One of the many issues that is not receiving coverage — people who are ill, disabled and elderly who do not live in single-family homes. While news  reports and photos inevitably focus on the terrible damage done to private houses — trees crashing through windows and ceilings — millions of us here also live in multi-story apartment buildings. On our top floor, a 96-year-old woman lives alone, but usually has a a day-nurse and has a nearby daughter; we make it a point to check up on one another down the darkened hallways.

I’m under doctor’s orders right now to avoid walking and stairs until I get an injection in my hip — and had to climb down six flights of stairs to leave. The pain was so bad I wept, and I had managed to leave my codeine pills upstairs. Advil helped.

I am home now writing this on my desktop, tea freshly made, fridge humming, lights on.

How long will it be until the next time?

Five Easy Adjectives — Can You Describe Your City Or Town In Only Five Words?

In cities, urban life on March 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm
This is a stitch made from three photos. Taken...

Where the Blue Jays play...The CN Tower in the background.Image via Wikipedia

Can you describe your city or town in five words?

Here are some attempts to do so for Toronto, where I grew up and lived until I was 30.

From the Toronto Star:

Star blogger Tonika Morgan was on vacation in the United Kingdom last week when she was asked to describe Toronto to those who have never visited the city. She struggled to find the words. What she came up with initially was “fantastic, a great mix of people and we have a CN Tower.”

I prefer some of the sardonic comments she got:

overpopulated, underfunded, expensive, polluted, home: Sorry fellow Torontonians, I lived the first 20 years of my life in Toronto and absolutely loved it…… I_think_I_know_all

underdeveloped, out-of-date, expensive, dysfunctional, mediocre: underdeveloped, out-of-date, expensive, dysfunctional, mediocre… codeman

A Little Aliteration: Dysfunctional, divided, delusional, debt-ridden and doomed.… CanadianBiker

1.city 2. with 3.crippling 4.inferiority 5.complex: Sorry, but Toronto is not as relevant as everyone imagines that it is. Sure, it has size going for…… Snas

I left Toronto in 1986 and go back 3-6 times a year to see family and friends, and occasionally, editors.

I’d pick: overpriced, diverse, workaholic, gray (winter skies), changing.

One of the oddest ongoing features of Toronto, and one of the reasons I was happy to leave, is the crazy price of buying a home, certainly a freestanding house. Toronto house lots are often postage-stamp sized and it’s not uncommon, in many neighborhoods, to look right into your neighbor’s windows from barely six feet across a shared alley or driveway. And the prices! It’s “normal” for people to bid way over asking — like $50,000 to $80,000 — not the $5,000 or $15,000 more typical in other places.

I live north of New York City….expensive, crowded, sexist, dynamic, divided. I now live in Tarrytown, a town of 10,000 on the Hudson River: funky, fun, affordable, diverse, historic.

I’d love to hear your five words about where you live.

Seven Inches At 5:00 PM; Snow Report From NY

In nature, news on February 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Went out for a walk today at 4:30 in my town north of New York.

The afternoon began with more excitement than I’d planned after I stepped out onto my terrace to measure the snow — barefoot and in a T-shirt — and the door slammed shut and locked behind me. I live on the 6th. floor. Couldn’t get a window open to climb back in. Thank heaven my neighbor (who’s done this for me before) was home, let me climb across her balcony and got the super’s extra keys to my front door.

The snow is gorgeous, as long as you’re not shoveling it or driving in it. Smells: woodsmoke, a skunk. Sounds: a crow, the clank and rattle of the snowplows, the streets otherwise empty of traffic. Sights: a little girl making a snowman, teens sledding the hill at the nearby school, trees bent low under the snow’s weight. Now the wind is howling. Thank heaven home is warm and dry.

Here are two of my photos.

birdfeeder

swings

Something Different: Three Of My Fall Photos

In nature, photography on October 13, 2009 at 11:57 am

I began my career as a photographer, and have sold my images to Time, The New York Times, and Washington Post. I shot these last weekend at the Rockefeller Preserve, a 750-acre park donated to the state of New York by the Rockefellers, who live nearby. I took these with the Canon G7 digital camera.

I hope you enjoy them — a break from all those words!

fall 2

fall 3

fall 1

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