Can You Afford to Live in NYC?

Dec 23, 2009

As a general rule, your rent should not be more than 30% of your yearly income. This interactive map by Envisioning Development shows you the economic makeup and how much rent would be in different neighborhoods.

The map is part of a larger program to provide clearer information in the push for more affordable housing in New York City by answering the question "Affordable to whom?" While it demonstrates income disparities throughout the city and housing costs for a family of four, it is also a great tool to gauge how much it would cost for you to live in certain communities.

How to use:

1. Click on the area you are interested in living in. The bottom bar will show how many people from each income bracket live in that area and the median income of that community.

2. Click on "Who Can Afford to Live Here?" The bottom bar will show average rent for different sized apartments. Slide the arrow along the bar to see how much your rent should be for your income in that community. It will also show you how many families CANNOT afford that amount of rent in that community (useful to see if you fall into that category).

What to take into consideration:

Be mindful that the categories used (extremely poor, poor, high income, etc) are done for a family of four. As a result, the categories may not apply but the cost of rent does at it is based on income.

I make $37,500/year and recently moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. My rent is $780/month or around 25% of my salary which makes it affordable. I recommend including utilities as part of housing costs since you have to pay those every month as well (heat, hot water, gas, electricity). All together my utilities are about $100/month which means I'm paying 28% of my salary to housing.

Additionally, all other mandatory payments should be factored into your salary when looking for an apartment. For example, if you know you have to pay your student loan every month, multiply that amount by 12 and subtract from your yearly income. What's left after subtracting all mandatory payments is the amount you can play around with for rent.

I will be back!

Dec 20, 2009

It's been over a year since I last posted. My apologies. I will be starting this blog up in January, to ring in the new year!

I started this blog to discuss what young people need to know to make it in NYC. I would love to know what you would like to see from this blog. What topics or issues should I discuss? What questions should I answer? Your input is appreciated.

Happy Holidays and I'll see you in the New Year!

I wrote this in my other blog yesterday for Blog Action Day but forgot to put it here. There are great conversations happening all over the web and I encourage people to participate.

We tend to look at poverty as an issue too big for an individual to make an impact and too muddy to come up with an effective solution. As a result we remove ourselves from the issue and inadvertently start to “other” the people struggling—talking about them as if they exist in an entirely different world.

But what do we do when poverty hits home? When it’s not a matter of reading about a sad story but facing one?

Up until a few weeks ago my mother and my three sisters lived in a homeless shelter. They were there for six months. My sisters' frustrations extended beyond not having a home to call their own. They also had to abide by rules that were set by the shelter that were similar to lockdown: no visitors, a strict curfew, and no staying out over night without prior notice. Many of the cherished aspects of adolescence were denied to them.

I had these same issues growing up in the projects and when I left for college I thought that it was all behind me. Unfortunately it wasn’t. Aside from the fact that my family continues to struggle, our existence is stigmatized. We don’t solicit “oh no’s” and tear filled eyes when our stories are told. Apparently, you have to be in Africa for that. So I went to Africa—South Africa to be exact. And while the poverty I witnessed is much more severe, I saw similarities among young people there and the young people I work with in the States. They want to go to school; they want to make friends, and they want their families to be safe.

However, I also saw how diverse poverty in and of itself is: urban poverty is different from rural poverty; older poor people have different desires than younger poor people; and the dominant culture clashes with subcultures to shape how people respond to their poverty.

Thus, poverty isn’t just about “those people over there” and it extends beyond the lack of income. We all have a relationship to poverty whether through personal experience or through our viewpoint that extends beyond donating time or a check. In other words, in order to address poverty we need to examine its impact on everyone—not just those who live in it. We need to examine our relationship to poverty.

1. Get personal: There are faces behind the numbers and stories behind the faces. And those faces aren’t just in far away countries; many are in our neighborhoods or even our own families. Get to know people who have less than you—seek commonalities and accept differences.

2. Become an advocate: Why does poverty often solicit pity instead of outrage and when outrage does arise it’s directed at the impoverished? When there are a few people struggling it is a “trouble.” When there are billions of people struggling it is a structural issue that needs to be addressed as such. Volunteering and monetary donations are only the beginning. We need to address this together.

3. Study resilience: While I believe that advocacy—in terms of social change and personal investment in change—is key, our examination of the issue needs to involve more than asking why people are poor. How do some people make it out of poverty? How do people manage to have little and still have enriching lives? The answers to these questions need to be in every solution we think of.

4. Understand how we are connected: For some reason people like to think that there are infinite resources to go around. Nope. I am a “have” because someone else is a “have-not.” And even then, many of us who "have" are precariously on the edge. Addressing poverty means coming face to face with how we may be complicit in the oppression of others.

5. Share the knowledge and encourage others: No need to explore complex issues in solitude. Get a blog, take some photos, take out the video camera and share. Not just with those who are fortunate to have social media access but also with the very people you are trying to help. Visit organizations that work directly with those who are struggling. If we keep the conversation going and include as many people as possible, we may find a solution sooner than we think.


I'm proud to participate in Blog Action Day: an annual call for bloggers to post about a pressing social issue on the same day.

Bloomberg's Madness

Oct 10, 2008

At times I can see the merits of extending term limits. Limits can upset consistency and make completing long term projects difficult. However, whenever Bloomberg opens his mouth all I hear is a sickening sense of entitlement; an arrogance that yells “but 8 years isn’t enough time for you to savor my greatness.”

The complaint that NYC is too vulnerable for poppa Bloomberg to leave is laughable. Aside from the fact that such a power grab is eerily reminiscent of shock-doctrine political tactics, Bloomberg isn’t as awesome as he thinks he is. Yes, I’m glad we don’t have transfats in our foods and 311 is indeed a time saver, but the falling cranes, ultra-hands-on police enforcement, incessant development that is squeezing out the middle class, and—given your access to financial information—relative silence on mortgage crisis and subprime lending practices lead me to question your leadership.

However, if he thinks he is really such a great leader, why not move on to something bigger, as other politicians have done? Certainly a man of his wealth talent can find another suitable position at the local, state, or federal level. Indeed, this is a criticism of term limits as they rarely get rid of politicians, rather they allow politicians to shuffle themselves around, still having influence. So why not set your sights on Governor or possibly President (as he once joked he would do)?

His behavior reveals the answer to that question. Any person who believes that our city is so weak that we can’t bear to part with his mediocrity would never take the risk of moving on. To do so would require him to be more creative in addressing pressing social, economic, and political issues and more appealing to a diverse group of people. Instead, he prefers to go back on his own word and hang on to as much power as he can.

Regardless of my take on this, one critical issue remains: his approach to extending the term limit is blatantly undemocratic. We already voted on this and we voted in favor of limits in 1993 and 1996. He is not bringing this to the voters—as it is too late for a referendum—rather he is bringing this to the council, two-thirds of whom will be out next year because of term limits. So this has nothing to do with the political benefits (or lack thereof) of term limits. It has to do with him and his feeling that he is above the law.

UPDATE: On that note, here is an event about term limits and public interest happening on Tuesday that I plan to attend:

Citizens Union, Common Cause/NY,
and the New York Public Interest Research Group present

A Panel Discussion and Public Forum

Term Limits: Their Impact and Who Decides

Panel in Formation

Richard Briffault
Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation, Columbia Law School; Vice Chair, Citizens Union

The Honorable Lew Fidler
Assistant Majority Leader and Member, New York City Council

Randy M. Mastro
Attorney, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Deputy Mayor, New York City, 1996 - 1998

Esmeralda Simmons
Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College; former member of the NYC Redistricting Commission

6:00 - 9:00 PM

Baruch College
The William and Anita Newman Vertical Campus
55 Lexington Avenue at 24th Street
14th Floor

Please RSVP at 212.227.0342 ext.39

Space is limited

Why I Love New York Moment

Sep 16, 2008

I'm looking outside of my office and watching a filming of Law and Order: SVU. The crew is really nice to us and even gives an eager parent some tips on breaking into the biz.

Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay infinitely hotter in person.

Hot Fashion: Top Secret

Sep 9, 2008

As I have demonstrated I make no money. Sure, I live comfortably, but splurging on clothes whenever I want is out of the question. However, I have come across a website that can get you designer clothes for 40-75% off.

Top Secret sells sample clothing that designers dont put in their stores. There is currently a sale on Peugeot Watches, going for 40% off and there is usually a sale every week. Two weeks ago there was a sale on Marc Jacob shades. So if you want to get your hands on hot items deeply discounted, send me an email and I'll send you an invitation to join.

Don't Be Proud of Being a Jerk

Sep 5, 2008

New York City is known for its rudeness. While I am fortunate enough to be surrounded regularly by people (co-workers, friends, and family) who go out of their way to show kindness, I am the last person to pretend that in a city this dense and this competitive that you are not going to come across some jerks.

However, I have noticed people, native New Yorkers and transplants alike, actively taking on the rude persona like it’s a badge of honor; as if being a douche some how makes people respect you or admire you more. In addition to the attitude presented in this article I have heard so many people (transplants especially) say something like this:

“Gosh I’ve become a real dick to my friends. Like, now I don’t even listen to them. The City really changes you.”

All this demonstrates is that you are emotionally stunted.

If you are aware of the fact that you are an ass, then you are aware enough to change that behavior. Not doing so means that you enjoy being an ass.

And where does this rudeness come from? Are your friends rude? Are your co-workers rude? Family? Or is it from the 20 minutes you spend on the subway?

Does NYC toughen you up? Sure. Does it mean you have to be cruel? No way. Listen to those people who call you out on your foolishness--don'y brush them off because they "don't understand the grittiness of city living." Don't fall into the hype--rudeness does not equal coolness.

If you are new to NYC and looking for a way to meet people while learning and challenging yourself, I recommend taking advantage of a recent trend in many nonprofits: young professionals groups. Non-profits create young professional networks in order to get young adults more involved in the organization. I am a member of several of these groups and I strongly recommend them to young professionals for the following reasons:

  1. Network: What I love the most about these groups is that they tend to have young people from different fields working together on a common issue. It’s not an unfamiliar scene to find a teacher, a law student, an investment banker, and a nonprofit president-hopeful sitting together discussing their passion and suggestions for educational equality.
  2. Learn Skills: These groups aren’t just about sitting around and talking about an issue; you get to roll up your sleeves and get involved. Whether it’s fundraising and marketing or being a career counselor for a day, you get to develop interests and skills you may not have ever known you had.
  3. Give Back: All of your actions go towards the greater good of the organization and the community it serves. It’s not uncommon for discussions to lead to the creation of a new program for teens, or for fundraisers to go so well that more families can be served.
  4. Look Good: While the level of commitment can vary by organization, you are never turned away for wanting to become more involved. As a result your work can be placed front and center on your resume. Now, what looks better than community service that demands a commitment and innovation while also forcing you to grow professionally?

These groups allow us to use our passion and skills for good while providing a space to explore new ideas and interests. Below I have listed some organizations; the first three I am a part of, and the others are organizations that I have heard great things about. If you are in NYC, visit their websites to get involved.

  • Step Up Women’s Network: Step Up Women’s Network is a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to strengthening community resources for women and girls. Through teen empowerment programs for underserved girls, women’s health education and advocacy, professional mentorship and social networking opportunities, we educate and activate our members to ensure that women and girls have the tools they need to create a better future. Recent Event: Photography exhibit hosted by teens enrolled in their teen empowerment program. Cost: $50
  • Let’s Get Ready!: LGR’s YPN is a network of young professionals committed to supporting Let’s Get Ready through their mentorship of LGR students, fundraising, donations, and networks There are two main events for people to be involved in: Career Days (providing mentoring opportunities for disadvantaged teens to learn about different careers) and fundraising events. Recent event: Career Day for teens at NYU. Cost: None.
  • Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA): The group aims to bring together local, young arts administrators to discuss challenges specific to their field and generation. Our events are designed to help build the contacts, skills, and knowledge of arts professional under the age of 35 or with less than five years experience in the field. By focusing on this specific demographic we can empower associates, assistants, and junior level staff to explore ideas and potential they may not have opportunity to with their day-to-day responsibilities. Recent event: Happy hour and book club. Cost: None
  • Food Bank for New York City: Food Bank For New York City’s Young Professionals is a special group of successful, ambitious individuals, aged 21 through 35, committed to the fight to end hunger throughout the five boroughs. The Young Professsionals support the work of the Food Bank by raising funds and awareness through social events and campaigns geared toward younger New Yorkers. Cost: None
  • New York Urban League: NYULYP is a unique entity of the NYUL designed to serve as an empowerment forum for individuals ages 21-40 that live and work throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The organization trains, develops and educates young professionals to take leadership roles within the National Urban League (NUL), the civil rights movement and society-at-large. Members of NYULYP are defining, developing, implementing and leading the next generation. Cost: $75
  • Red Cross: The purpose of the Young Professionals Committee is to build awareness and raise funds in support of the mission of the American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY). In addition, it is a platform for grooming members for future leadership roles on its Board of Trustees or the Boards of Advisors of its Area Offices. Cost: None

From NYC Tourism:

On September 5, 1882 the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City.
Twenty thousand workers marched in a parade up Broadway. After the parade there
were picnics all around the city. Workers and celebrants ate Irish stew,
homemade bread and apple pie. At night, fireworks were set off. Within the next
few years, the idea spread from coast to coast, and all states celebrated Labor
Day. In 1894, Congress voted it a federal holiday.

What a glorious history. Like most important dates in American history, this weekend will be full of shopping and bumming around as back-to-school sales abound and the weather is warm enough to eat and be merry.

I will be enjoying the 41st annual West Indian Carnival Festival and other events. While there is an official website, people around the city will be cooking up West Indian food instead of just ribs and burgers.

Enjoy the day and be easy!

Recently the New York Times published an article about the process of becoming a New Yorker for many 20-somethings making the move to the big city. While many eventually become comfortable and make the city their own, the process is extremely challenging:

Young people have flocked to New York City by the tens of thousands for generations, to chase their dreams and test their mettle. And they continue to come in strong numbers. In 2006, nearly 77,000 people in their 20s had been in the city for a year or less, according to the annual study by the United States Census Bureau for that year.

But for many, the thrill of arrival is often tempered by the sinking realization of what an alienating place the city can be, especially for those who are not wealthy or who do not have a pre-existing network of friends. Nothing comes easily, even if one can get past the dauntingly high cost of living. The subway maze seems indecipherable. People are everywhere, but ignore each other on the street. Friends might live in distant neighborhoods, and seeing them often requires booking time, like an appointment, weeks in advance.

“Any time I want to see someone and catch up with someone, everyone takes out their BlackBerrys and says, ‘This weekend isn’t good; how about three weeks from now?’ “ said Ms. Sirkin, who moved to New York from Milan in June 2007. “How can you form really good and solid relationships with people if you see them once a month?”

The biggest barrier to making it in NYC isn't just about the cost of living. The culture of NYC--needing to have a thick skin and constantly be on the move--is challenging even for us natives.

It has been three months since I moved back to NYC. After five years of living in Philly and its burbs, and only spending a few weeks at a time in NYC, I expected that, since this is my city, adjusting would be easy.

Well it hasnt been easy at all. Moving back to NYC has required more of me emotionally than when I left when I was 17. Aside from having to deal with family issues and disappearing friendships, NYC’s defining characteristic is that it is always changing. As a result, I no longer feel ownership of the city. I feel like a newbie trying to figure out what this big bad place is all about. Stores close, buildings are created, demographics shift, and suddenly Im in a place that still has the creativity and energy I remember and feel better prepared to handle, but I hate this wide eyed confused feeling I get walking around what is supposedly my home.

What steps do we need to take to feel more in control and more connected?

So far I have joined groups, spent time with my family, and I have opened myself up to new people. I still maintain those relationships I developed in Philly but have become invested in mastering a place I thought I already knew. On the one hand it is a sign of growing up and how much I have changed. But on the other it is nothing short of disorienting.