Thursday, February 7, 2008

Just a Few Words About Brooklyn

A few commenters mentioned that there are other places to live besides Brooklyn, so if Brooklyn is so expensive then move somewhere else. In theory this is absolutely correct. If what you want to "buy" is too expensive then either shop in another store with lower prices or buy something else. However...

A fact of life, economically speaking. When frum Jews move into a neighborhood and that neighborhood starts becoming desirable, prices of real estate start going up, way up. This is a good thing for those who have already purchased homes in the neighborhood. Their "investment" is reaping dividends. Until they have to sell that home. Older, established couples might, just might, be able to afford the prices. Young couples with no real savings and with earnings still on the low end simply cannot afford the houses if they have to pay for them themselves. But the neighborhood has everything they are looking for: it has the schools and shopping and restaurants they want; it has the "people" they want, and for some it also has their families. It has a cachet. It's where they have been told for years they should be living. This is the case with Brooklyn.

Brooklyn has become a magnet for certain people. They consider living there a necessity rather than a luxury. They will do whatever is necessary to remain in Brooklyn after marriage. Usually "whatever necessary" translates to "the parents are going to pay to be able to be close by their kids and grandchildren." A few families can indulge their kids in this way. In reality most can't, although they may start out trying. Some young couples will take on debt far beyond their ability to actually ever pay off. For many, many people their lives in Brooklyn are "living in a house of cards. One little breeze and the whole thing tumbles down."

So I'm using Brooklyn figures in many cases to, hopefully, point out the financial reality of trying to live a life you can't afford. If the bare-faced financial facts of living in Brooklyn don't scare off some young couples then they are living in la-la land and no amount of talking will help them to "see the light." They assume that they will be the exception. Or, as one commenter said, he doesn't have to worry about expenses since his in-laws are supporting them. And as I pointed out to that commenter, someday he will be the father in law and God help him then. You have to pay at some point, sooner or later.

I'm not being irreverant here, but God did not annoint Brooklyn the holy land. A group of immigrants decades ago did that all on their own. Of course, they moved into Brooklyn because it was cheap to live there. That's not the case now.

And in all fairness, it is not only Brooklyn that is facing this problem. All the larger, older, established frum communities also have the problem of real estate that has risen way up there. Granted, some of these places are still cheaper than Brooklyn, way cheaper, but cheaper is relative. So a house to buy in some areas is "only" $400,000 plus. Cheaper than Flatbush or Borough Park, but still many times out of the range of a young couple with a low income.

My cousin and I married around the same time and we bought homes around the same time. She bought in Flatbush, I in Staten Island. My home has gone up in value, at today's prices, around 9 times what I paid for the house. Her house has gone up in value, at today's prices, around 17 times what she paid for the house. Her kids want to, have to live in Brooklyn and frankly, they can't afford to. My kids are going to live where they can afford to live. SI does not have a Brooklyn mentality.

Of the married Brooklyn nieces and nephews exactly one is still living in Brooklyn. The rest spread out to communities where things were still, at least relatively, affordable. Three are in New Jersey. Would they have liked to have lived in Brooklyn? Most would have, but real life dictated otherwise. They were smart; they listened and looked and "cut their suit to fit their pocketbook."

Maybe the first point in a discussion of finances should be repeating the mantra: "Brooklyn is not the be-all and end-all of existence."


G said...

All the larger, older, established frum communities also have the problem of real estate that has risen way up there...So a house to buy in some areas is "only" $400,000 plus.

Not true.
I keep telling people, the midwest communities are the best kept secret in judaism...huh, maybe I should stop.

ProfK said...

Mark this date on your calendar--I agree with you completely. Way out of town offers the best buys in every way. Real estate is cheaper, the cost of living is lower, the cost of everything is lower. And if you move to one of the states with no state income tax you are way ahead of the game.

The fastest growing Jewish community in the US? Las Vegas, Nevada. You cannot believe what real estate does not cost and what real estate taxes do not cost, and that gas two weeks ago was over 50 cents cheaper per gallon than the price in NY, and there is no state income tax, and there are two, almost three, yeshiva ketanas and a boys high school, and a choice of suburban frum communities, and 8 kosher restaurants and incredible kosher shopping and a highly reliable vaad hakashrus and very warm, very welcoming people. And lots of help for newcomers who are still working people in finding good jobs. And no SNOW! And there are other gems just like this around the rest of the country.

It's almost as if people are afraid they can't be frum anywhere but in the NY environs. I'm more worried that it's not that they can't be frum anywhere else but that their entire frumkeit rests on being "policed."

Anonymous said...

Could we stop picking on Brooklyn? Lots of normal people living here who don't fit the stereotype you are showing. Looked at the five towns and Far Rockaway lately?

Anonymous said...

LA is not a cheap place to live but after seeing what things cost in Brooklyn and the kind of financial mess you can get into there we told our new daughter in law to be to expect the move to LA. Lucky for us her parents aren't giving us a hard time about it.