Get me out of New York City, Son. New York is Killing Me.

– Ray LaMontagne “New York City’s Killing Me”

I’ve been hearing about people fleeing New York City for greener (read: less expensive) pastures for a while now. Recently, this exodus has affected me, as many of my friends have decided they actually, and rightfully so, wanted more financial security rather than suffer through living paycheck to paycheck in a city they love. I honestly, don’t blame them.  Over-developing, or ‘progress,’ as some would call it, has killed this city’s culture, while making it virtually impossible for anyone who doesn’t make a six figure salary to live here. (Anyone who ever loved to spend time on the Lower East Side, knows exactly what I’m talking about)

It’s depressing because I love New York. I am, to the core, a New Yorker, born and bred. Raised in Brooklyn, then Staten Island. My family lives here. I know the streets. I know the history. I lived through some of the best, and horribly worst, times this city has ever seen along with so many other New Yorkers. It’s a part of me.

I. LOVE. NEW YORK.
But I’m not sure how much longer I can live here.

I’m past the age where living in a cramped apartment, arguing with a roommate over who drank the last of the milk is remotely feasible. I am not married. I live alone in an amazingly huge (and thankfully rent-stabilized, despite my landlord’s efforts to make it otherwise) apartment on Staten Island, with a view of the city. A view that is about to be blocked by some ‘progress’ that hardly anyone I know actually wants.

Staten Island was the last bastion of affordable New York City living after Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bed-Stuy were taken over by developers, who, in the name of ‘progress’ killed the culture of these neighborhoods and turned them into luxury apartment, hipster enclaves that no one who isn’t wealthy, or willing to share a closet-sized dwelling with four people, can afford.

And now that there are no more neighborhoods to kill in the other four boroughs, developers have set their sights on Staten Island’s North Shore.

This sucks. I am tired of hearing how wonderful it will be for the neighborhood. I like my neighborhood just the way it is. It has always been deceptively on the seedy side – which was the beauty of it all as it kept all the assholes (hipster, yuppies, developers, etc) away.   I remember, my mother, upon her drive up to see what would become my current dwelling, seven years ago, nearly had a fit thinking I was insane for wanting to live in what she thought was a ‘bad’ neighborhood. That was until she turned the corner to the cul-de-sac on which my building resides, and saw the beautiful tree-lined block, with the huge, old houses across the street. Once she saw the size of the apartment, the view, the pool, and was told that heat and hot water were included in the rent, she helped me turn that place into the home I still live in today.

I’ve had some pretty rough times over the past few years. Financially, my life has been a roller coaster of crazy. But because I’m paying for my place for about half of what a shoe-box sized studio in Manhattan would cost, I have managed to somehow survive.

We hear politicians talk about ‘affordable’ housing – and yes, there are some very nice apartments, even in my neighborhood, slated for those who earn less than a certain amount per family member (I’m really not sure how they figure out the formula for these apartments but, okay). I don’t fit into that category, I earn too much, apparently.

I’m happy that those who have been struggling with inadequate housing, food, and salary for so long are finally being helped.  But what about the rest of us?  What about those of us who used to be able to afford decent housing and a decent life in The City, but no longer can do so because we earn too much money to live in affordable housing, but too little to live anywhere else within the five boroughs.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I in any way should be accepted into the affordable housing program. There are people in way worse circumstances than I am, and I believe they need, and should have, the assistance they are receiving.  What I am saying is, while I commend the efforts of the Governor and the Mayor to improve the lives of those who have fallen on hard times, (while simultaneously basking in all the extra money brought in by the developers and the consumers of their luxury housing options), I think they have forgotten that segment of the population that has been teetering on the edge for quite some time now. It is those of us in the middle that are running away from the city to pursue a livable life. You know, one where not nearly half our salary is going into the pockets of some greedy landlord or developer as housing costs rise, and salaries remain stagnant.

I’m not against progress, per-se. I realize that the neighborhood needs to be revamped. But does it have to go all “Williamsburg” on us? I couldn’t afford to live anywhere in Brooklyn now if I earned double my current salary and I am afraid that in a few years, I won’t be able to afford to live on Staten Island either.  I don’t want to leave the city. I really don’t. But I’m starting to fear that I may have no choice.

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