Are you relatively new to this fine metropolis? Hey, don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York at one time... except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and currently resides in Brooklyn Heights. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.
This week's question comes from another curious transplant:
Dear Real New Yorker:
I've recently moved to the city and I'm astounded by how much I'm paying in rent—and it really burns my ass that there are people in my building with rent stabilized apartments paying a lot less. How do real New Yorkers afford to live here?
$3000 a month for a one bedroom
A Native New Yorker replies:
Dear New Arrival,
Real New Yorkers have three secrets for finding affordable places to live: arriving here many years ago when rents and housing prices were lower, living in neighborhoods that you are scared to live in where rents are lower, and exploiting connections that they have access to due to their long tenures, but which you do not. This last secret includes things like living with your whole family in a building they've owned since they arrived from Italy in 1908, inheriting a $500/month rent controlled apartment from your grandpa who was born there in 1933, having your cousin who's the super of a building get you the inside line on some new cheap place that just opened up, etc.
While you do not have access to these situations now, if you last here another 50 years or so, your progeny will—and they'll be grateful that they're paying $3,000 a month instead of the $20,000 that the hipster trust-fund cyborgs will be paying then.
But back to the present. Real New Yorkers know that rent control is actually a great thing for this city. That's because it shifts the burden of high-rent from those who can least afford it and have been here the longest (the poor, the elderly), to those who can most afford it, and have been here the shortest (the rich, and the young).
Yes, it creates higher rents for newcomers. Yes, it rewards people who have lived here a long time—we are the people who made New York cool enough for the rest of you to want to come here! The extra $500/month you're paying is a tax to repay us the debt you owe us for living through the '70s and '80s in the city, when the only cronut you were going to get was a crowbar to the nuts while some thug stole your wallet and left you to die in the street, you dig?
And don't kid yourself: even if rent-control disappeared tomorrow, that money isn't going towards lowering your rent, it's going to the profit margin of the landlord who owns your building. That guy is rich enough already.
The way of the world is that people who live in places a long time shape the laws to make things easier for them and harder for people who just arrived or are just passing through. This is a good thing! Cities need stability and diversity, and tenant-friendly laws encourage both of those things. Without them, every neighborhood would look like Battery Park City: monolithic, boring, expensive, and populated by people who arrived here 5 years ago. That's not the kind of place that made you want to move here.
So my advice is to abandon that resentment. Think of that $3,000 check you write every month as a contribution towards keeping this city cool. Or don't, and move back to Cincinnati or wherever you came from! Think about it: if real New Yorkers moved there, they'd be the suckers overpaying for their rent, and you'd be the one enjoying that sweet apartment your grandma died in. The choice is yours!
N.B.: If it really bothers you, you could vote for politicians who encourage more affordable housing, taller residential zoning, and lower-minimum parking space requirements for new buildings. Unlike eliminating rent control laws or breaking the construction unions, those measures would tend to increase supply without causing unnecessary hardship for the Real New Yorkers who made this city what it is.
Ask A Native New Yorker anything by emailing our Tips address here.