The New York Times is unusually good at ignoring economic forces at play in land use and transport markets, but I think this piece called “The Joys of Staying Put” by Constance Rosenblum takes the cake. Here’s a quote:
New Yorkers typically move a lot. Prompted by the arrival of a partner or a child, or money that buys more space or a nicer neighborhood, or simply an appetite for change, some New Yorkers move house every year or two. According to census estimates for 2009, 650,000 New Yorkers lived in a different house or apartment within the city than in the previous year.
But a few stay put, immune to the call of a larger apartment or a swankier neighborhood. They plant themselves in the same place for decades or for their entire adult lives. Some have been in the same apartment since graduating from college. Shortly after sinking roots in the city, they find a place that suits them and don’t budge.
Are they really “immune” to anything, or did they just make a good call a couple decades ago by not moving out of their rent-stabilized unit and are now responding rationally to price incentives? While the author does admit that a lot of the people have rents fixed by law (“you hear the words ‘rent-stabilized’ a lot”), the whole implication seems to be that there’s something about these people beyond the rent controls, like they’re some sort of special breed of über-New Yorkers. And while anyone who knows anything about real estate will realize that the places she’s describing must be rent stabilized (under $1,000/mo. for a 1-bedroom in Greenwich Village, for example), she never mentions anyone in particular as being rent stabilized.
So for example we hear about Esther Cohen, who’s paying “just about $1,000” for a two-bedroom on the Upper West Side “overlooking the American Museum of Natural History”:
Ms. Cohen found a roommate named Harry, and at one of many parties held in the apartment — Ms. Cohen was wearing a blue wig and Harry had made blanquette de veau — she met a filmmaker named Peter Odabashian. Nearly four decades later, Ms. Cohen can still remember what his face looked like in the shadowy hallway. Within days Mr. Odabashian moved in, and the two have been together in the apartment for 37 years. Their son, Noah, whom they adopted from Chile in 1986, is currently living under the family roof, sometimes with his girlfriend, Chesray Dolpha, a student at New York University.
Ms. Cohen, a writer, acknowledges that the kitchen and bathroom are in need of renovation and that the rooms are small and sometimes dark. But good karma keeps her rooted.
Uh, good karma keeps her rooted? You sure it’s not the law that compels her landlord to offer her, her Emmy-winning filmmaker husband, and her offspring an ever-more-valuable apartment at 75% off in perpetuity? It doesn’t even sound like she has a job – but then again you wouldn’t want to brush up against that $175,000/year income limit, would you!