Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a 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 still resides there. 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 young transplant who fears that life in New York just isn't sustainable. Jake is on vacation, so for answers we must turn to native New Yorker and staff millennial Rebecca Fishbein.

Dear Native New Yorker, I recently graduated college and fulfilled my lifelong dream of moving to New York City, but am struggling to find even a basic, entry-level job in my field of interest. It's even hard getting hired at J. Crew, and how am I supposed to afford this insanely expensive city on those wages? I am barely keeping my head above water, and have had to ask my parents for help multiple humiliating times already.

I am starting to wonder if it's worth it, and if life in NYC has gotten so prohibitively expensive that young people are better off moving to Buffalo and starting their lives there. Can we survive this place, or is it time to cut and run?

Buying Ramen On Kredit Everyday

A native New Yorker responds:


It is not easy to live in New York as a young person. This has been the case for decades—my editor made money by racking up loose change on subway platforms—but the dearth of rent-stabilized apartments and increase in $5,700/month duplexes in Crown Heights has made it nearly, if not entirely, impossible to start out here without help. Self-confidence and sheer will can propel you, but you will probably at the very least have to rely on friends and family for a time, even if that means crashing on someone's couch for a couple months.

This is frustrating, but my biggest concern about the future for millennials in New York is what happens to us now that we're growing up—it's one thing to eat stewed tomatoes out of a can for dinner every night when you're 22, but a lot of us are entering our 30s now, and it's hard to imagine how we'll be able to afford to raise families if we're not earning top dollars. My parents paid $1,200/month for a two-bedroom apartment in Midtown back in the early '90s and eventually bought an apartment, but millennials aren't buying homes in big cities, and the prospect of renting for decades seems like setting a pile of money on fire. There might be more jobs here than in other cities, but income equality in New York is still hugely problematic, and on average it seems like we're not making quite enough money to stick it out in the long run.

So, starting your life somewhere that's even slightly gentler than NYC doesn't seem like the worst idea—maybe not Buffalo, which seems unpleasant, but Philadelphia or Baltimore or Minneapolis are all worthy alternatives in their own way. New York might be a great city, but it's not the only city, and you don't have to suffer here just to prove that you can.

That being said, if young not-rich people get pushed out of New York, this city will be predominantly populated by douchebag finance bros and oil barons who don't even live here, and that can't happen. There are ways to survive here longterm that don't involve selling your soul to Wall Street. Neighborhoods that were once havens for young families might be too expensive now, but there are less cool spots that boast affordable more homes—Jake, for instance, suggests it's Generation Y's turn to move to the Bronx (Staten Island's already a lost cause), and though just the word "gentrification" makes me shudder, there are ways to live in cheaper neighborhoods responsibly. Young transplants have been coming here since the Dutch stole this town, and just because you were born in the 1990s doesn't mean you're a worse person than someone born in the 1950s.

I do feel strongly, though, that if millennials want to be able to survive in New York, they need to make themselves a part of New York, not just move here and get drunk for 10 years before peacing out to Beacon. Local politics might seem like a mess, but we should be pushing our elected officials to end vacancy decontrol on rent-stabilized apartments, and we should be going after landlords who violate rent-stabilized leases. We should be fighting for better affordable housing policies, and holding elected officials to their campaign promises when it feels like they're floundering. We should make our voices and votes heard about the tax breaks developers get when they build luxury housing.

Other quality-of-life changes are also worth making noise over—there's the Move NY plan to toll East River bridges, which would funnel money into our crumbling subway system and make it easier to live even further out in the boroughs; we can continue to push officials to increase the minimum wage, support sick days and parental leave, and make lives easier for freelancers as we move deeper into a gig economy; and even pressing for something like the full legalization of marijuana, which would generate tax revenue and save us from spending unnecessary bucks on low-level arrests and incarceration, would help us out in the long run.

Anyway, my point is that millennials have a future here, but we need to make the effort to shape the future, because the worst thing we can do is give up and let old folks with money continue to have their way with this town. Things have seemed dire before and they will again, but New York City is made great by people with true grit and a willingness to work hard for something better. That's you, right?

Ask a Native New Yorker anything via email. Anonymity is assured.