Our heat was out again this weekend, for the second time in as many weeks, and for close to 48 hours. I vented my frustration online, and while I got a ton of supportive responses and helpful suggestions, I got a few that made me bristle, particularly the suggestion that we should “just move.” This is certainly not the first time someone has suggested it, and to be honest, I’ve long been one to say “if you don’t like your situation, change it.” Hell, the reason we’re back in New York at all is because we wanted to change our situation, and we took HUGE crazy steps to do just that. But still, I bristled.
The heat in our building goes out frequently, or at least it seems to; I have no real way of comparing it to other multi-unit pre-war buildings, since this is the first time we’ve lived in a building like this. And the boiler problems are but one recurring issue we’ve dealt with since moving back to New York, to this building in Brooklyn. We’ve got mold in the bathroom walls and ceiling; a droopy floor in the hallway; baseboards and door frames that swell and buckle and crack, sending thick shards of paint cascading to the floor, to be swept up quickly before they land in little hands or mouths.
But we’ve also got a fairly decent amount of space. We have updated wiring, no bedbugs or other vermin, a tiny workhorse of a dishwasher, a small but serviceable kitchen (probably one of the best we’ve had in all of the places Mike and I have rented together). We’ve got thick, solid walls, beautiful light, and original hardwood floors that are as lovely as they are lumpy. We’ve got two bus routes practically at our doorstep, and two different subway lines half a mile’s walk in either direction.
Crime is minimal, schools are well-rated, and the area is extremely walkable. The streets are mostly clean and quiet and lined with trees, and while I don’t love all of our neighbors (particularly the ones who leave their trash in the stairwells or toss things out the window to land on our fire escape), I do love our tribe, the neighborhood friends whose kids welcomed us and our kids into their circle, who fed us when we brought a newborn Mira home, who have driven Julian to and from preschool on frigid days, who have offered their space heaters and their couches and their showers while we awaited the return of our heat, or the completion of bathroom repairs after a collapsed ceiling.
This apartment is pretty much the best thing in the best neighborhood that we can afford at this stage in our lives, and I feel incredibly lucky we are here, despite its flaws. So I bristled at the suggestion that we should leave it, or that we could leave it.
I bristled at the assumption that we are even in a position to just up and move, that we have the money and the resources to uproot our family once again, to go… where? First month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, broker’s fees (unless you’re lucky), boxes and packing materials, movers to get mountains of crap from point A to point B (unless we did it ourselves, in which case we’d still need a truck and a sitter, at a minimum)… that’s a hell of a lot of cash. It’s a lot of cash we don’t have, and can’t easily get.
But let’s say we did choose to move.
We may or may not already be priced out of our current neighborhood. A comparable apartment in the building next door to ours rented last month for $1900/month, and a quick search of rental listings this morning revealed that a unit on the first floor of our building is listed, at $100 more per month than what our starting rent was. I see the occasional listing for an apartment in the neighborhood and those immediately nearby that I think we could afford, but would we even be approved, given our financial baggage? And how would it stack up against our current location?
Assuming we land in a new apartment without our current boiler troubles and plumbing woes, what other issues are we looking at? Higher crime? Lesser schools? A longer commute? Would we have to buy a car and incur all of the expenses that come with that (not to mention the hassle of alternate-side parking regulations)?
New York real estate being what it is, we would likely end up in an area far removed from our current neighborhood, farther away from my job, with fewer amenities and resources available. We might find ourselves once again living in a neighborhood where my husband is targeted simply for being a white guy in a sea of brown faces, and where I would once again experience the joy of street harassment while simply trying to get to and from work. We’d be starting over, and not necessarily in a better place.
Beyond all that, the timing would suck. We’re looking at pre-K for Julian, and preschool for Mira, in our current neighborhood, starting in the fall. Should we stop the research we’re doing and investment we’re making into programs here, and start looking at what’s available in neighborhoods we know nothing about, and where we know no one, on the off chance we can find a new home there by September? We’d be far away from our little community, the wonderful network of friends we’ve made here, and who knows if or how long it would take for us to rebuild that elsewhere.
I’m tired of moving, and not just of the physical aspects of culling and packing and carrying and unpacking, but of the soul-crushing judgment of one’s salary and income and debt history and credit; of the exorbitant fees to be shelled out up front when and if you are deemed worthy of becoming a tenant of a new and largely unknown entity. I went through hell and back to get us into this apartment in this building when we moved back from Providence a few years ago; I don’t relish the prospect of doing it again.
I know that there are other places a person can live besides New York. But my job is here, a job that (almost) supports our little family. The industry is changing, the market is too, so who knows how much longer my job will tie us to this city, but until my job or other circumstances change, we will stay, and fight, and be grateful for what we have, for as long as we have it. It is a struggle at times, but it is still worth it. We’ve settled. And I’m not ready to move on just yet.