Are you relatively new to this fine metropolis? 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 a Cobble Hill resident who just had a kid and is considering moving to the suburbs.
Dear Native New Yorker,
I am a 10 year New York transplant. My wife and I have been living in Cobble Hill peacefully, minding our own business, for the duration... And then we had a baby. The little guy is now three months old and we are deciding whether to raise him in the city or head out to the greener pastures of country living. Thoughts?
City Rat / Country Mouse
A Native New Yorker replies:
Dear Rat Mouse,
You should definitely leave New York. Hit the road! Vamoose! Ged da fuuuuhhhck oud. There's no time like the present: if you start looking for a house now, your kid can be enjoying the clean air and stupefying boredom of suburban life by Christmas!
If you don't mind spending two hours a day commuting, don't get suicidally depressed shopping at the White Plains Mall, and look forward to schlepping your kids by car to every appointment they have for the next 18 years, well, my friend, you have a strength of character that we natives do not. Therefore, you owe it to us to leave to New York, and to make room for those of us who have to stay. This is a moral obligation and a sacrifice you must make for the greater good and to reduce competition for real estate.
Sure, this will screw up your kids. Growing up amongst a racial and economic monoculture has a way of producing fragile offspring. The suburban kids are always the ones who get to college and immediately overdose on cocaine or krokodil or drink themselves to death, because they never gained the wisdom you get from smoking dust in middle school. Likewise, have you noticed that whenever a white kid gets murdered in LES, like nine times out of ten he's from Westchester? That could be because he never got the healthy fear that comes from repeatedly getting jacked on the train when he was just trying to get to Freshman biology lab.
But I digress, and anyway, by the time your kid is old enough to drive, everything will probably be in cyberspace or delivered via Amazon Prime, and he won't ever have to leave Hastings-on-Hudson or No-Poors-on-the-Sound or wherever it is you're moving. At any rate, you can stop reading here.
Now that this tourist is gone, I'd like to get real with the rest of you: people who can't imagine leaving and never will, but who, by choice or by accident, have found themselves with child. Here are my top five survival tips for middle income families, acquired over the last few years of raising kids on an average professional salary:
1) One bedrooms are much, much cheaper than two or three bedrooms. Use this to your advantage! A pressure wall and a fold-out couch can turn your tiny one-bedroom apartment into a microscopic three bedroom (you sleep in the living room, and each kid sleeps in half the bedroom you just split. It's probably illegal but with two bunk beds you can get 4 kids set up this way!). I have lived happily like this for years, and the children seem acceptably well-adjusted. I do sometimes come home to my wife crying because we're 37 and sleeping on a couch, but it's still better than Ardsley. And really, who are you anyway, Mr. Too-Good-for-a-Couch? Your grandparents were living ten to a room on Stanton Street just 100 years ago!
2) Adjust your mindset, man. All that stuff you think you need—like a big TV, a car, "a bed"—that's just our deranged consumer culture trying to enslave you in a life of debt and conformity. Go minimal: get rid of everything you can: your books, your CDs, all that shit you bought on Etsy. This will have a calming effect on the mind, and leave more room for the three hundred pounds of stuff each new kid will bring into your apartment.
3) Learn to use the city like a pro. You don't need a backyard when you've got a park. You don't need a car when you've got the best transit system in the world and a sturdy bike. You don't need a good school in your neighborhood when you can rent an overpriced apartment near a good school for one year, establish residency, and then move. It's an undeniable fact that the average New Yorker can live better than 99% of people who live or who have ever lived in the world. Join the museums, find the best cheap restaurants, go to off-Broadway shows, enjoy graffiti. Most of this stuff is cheap, and you can often take your kids for free. It'll make them the most interesting kids in their 2025 NYU dorm.
4) Most importantly, keep a sense of humor about things. These problems we face—not having enough money or enough space—in the scheme of things they're small and solvable. You could be getting shot in Syria or starving to death in Darfur; if your worst problem is that you might need to move to Kensington or Bed-Stuy, consider yourself blessed. And to the extent that you still suffer, embrace that suffering. It is through the pain of city living that a Native New Yorker gains the deep wisdom for which we are justly known.
5) If you ever find yourself doubting your decision to live and die in New York, I recommend reading The Ice Storm by Rick Moody, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, and Cheever's The Swimmer. That'll scare your ass straight.
N.B.: If you're still not sure, listen to the Kinks' Shangri-La, which was the greatest song ever written about the suburbs until Arcade Fire put out their 2010 album. Since then, the greatest song about the suburbs has been a two-way tie between Suburban War and Sprawl II. Have you ever noticed songs about the suburbs are really depressing?
Ask A Native New Yorker anything by emailing our Tips address here.