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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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« The Verdict | Main | In which I don't bother coming up with a conclusion. »
Tuesday
Mar222005

I leave the tough decisions up to the Internet.

I can’t stop thinking about real estate, Internet. Specifically: should we stay in Brooklyn, or should we beat a shameful retreat to the suburbs? I need you to tell me.

We bought our two-bedroom apartment a few years back for a quarter and some old gum wrappers, and it is now worth billions. While this is lovely, it also means that if we hope to buy a larger space in our neighborhood—well, we can’t; it’s not even worth talking about. Our space is not quite large enough for us, and will definitely Not Work if we have another child (NO I’M NOT PREGNANT). With the crazy inflation of real estate prices in NYC, we will only be able to afford a lean-to on the banks of the Gowanus, and Henry and his imaginary sibling will develop extra limbs from all the fumes coming off of the fetid waters. So that’s probably not the best option.

So it comes down to this: either we stay in our place, which in addition to being on the small side is dark and loud (we’re on the first floor on a main avenue—in the summer people walk up to our window and ask for money. We’re like an ATM! An ATM for crazies!), or we move to an As Yet Unnamed Suburb. We’ve found a couple of areas that seem to suit our needs: we could probably afford a smallish house in one of these towns, which are close to the city and artsy/liberal. However (need I add this?) they’re Not Brooklyn. We would not have the library, the museum, the park, and the Botanic Garden all within a few blocks of our home. We would have to own a car (gasp!). On the other hand, we would have a backyard. And a decent school district. And amenities within walking distance. On the other hand I will be dead inside (probably). My youth gone, I will spend the days watching soaps and drinking Chardonnay; when Husband arrives from the city I will greet him at the door with pies made of Play-Doh and cigarette butts. Isn’t this what you suburban types do? Yes?

In a nutshell, I am driving myself bonkers. One moment I think I can never leave Brooklyn how could I even think such a thing and then in the next moment I’m dreamily picturing mornings with Henry and Scott in a sunny breakfast nook instead of our dank living room/dining room/kitchen that is periodically infested with vermin. I would give up a lot to never have to worry again about stepping on a waterbug on my way to the bathroom. And don’t try to tell me about the cicadas or grasshoppers or whatnot you have in the suburbs--they are not the same thing.

Basically what it comes down to is there are many pros to moving, and one big con: we wouldn’t live here anymore. We feel superior to you non-Brooklyn people. Now you know.

Opinions. Yours. Let me have them.

EDITED TO ADD: Before I get more defensive comments: do I really have to say that I'm being facetious when I say I feel superior? Do I have to say that? I guess I have to say that. Sigh.

Reader Comments (203)

Eep, so many comments! Am overwhelmed and am freezing up.

Stay in the citay! Or at least very close to it! We moved to the middle of nowhere for the lure of big beautiful houses for pennies (Average 160K for 3500 square feet on an ACRE) but though I wasn't coming from the uber cool Brooklyn (only Salt Lake City) it was still a major change. One piddly library, and nothing, absolutely nothing to do here. NOTHING.

Someone pass me the playdough.



March 26, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterVery Mom
You are considering leaving right when I found a toddler/baby friendly happy hour within a block from our respective homes? And I happen to KNOW from a common friend which suburb you are considering and I gotta say "DON'T DO IT" (not because I know the suburb personally but because I know what Henry's answer would be when asked "Where did you grow up?". You can come have mint juleps and hot toddies on our back porch (which, I admit is not the same as your own back porch). But truly, don't give up on finding the right place on the fringes (as Prospect Heights once was) and having it be possible. Right when we gave up, we found what I did not think was possible. Are you tallying the "votes" on this issue? I am curious...
March 26, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie
Since you asked for input I'm coming out of lurkdom to comment. My family moved around a lot when I was young, but I mostly lived in small/medium sized towns in the Midwest. My favorite town that we lived in and one that we are moving to next month in preparation for when my husband and I start our family, is a smallish town outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Many people would call it a bedroom community. But it was definitely a self-contained town - real downtown, well funded arts building and programs, historic homes, family friendly neighborhoods, great schools (which was awesome for me because I needed to be challenged at school). Definitely not what I consider "suburbia." And a very short drive to the big cities and all the wonderful things that big cities have.

I think if you take your time and really pinpoint the things that are important to you and Scott, then you can find a place that meets the needs of your family. I love love love to visit New York, but can't imagine raising small children there or trying to buy property, so to me I would leave in a heartbeat. But it is obvious the love you have for living in Brooklyn and the things you fear you may be leaving behind.

Some commenters have noted how "boring" small towns are for kids/teenagers. I have friends that grew up in big cities and remember being bored and wanting to move away. It is more about the age than the location, I think. At least if you have a yard you can kick the whiny "bored" kids outside! At least that's what my mom did. No matter what you do, your kids will probably want to move away from where they grew up. Even if they come back later because they didn't realize how great it was (like me!).
March 26, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
two words...staten island...

so close and yet so far away
March 26, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterbaubodegoddess
We moved out of Brooklyn 3 months after my son was born thinking we were doing the 'right' thing. Uh, no. Realized two years later that he'd hate us no matter where he grew up, so we'd best make ourselves happy in the interim. And we moved back to Brooklyn.

Now, I'm halfway across the country (Portland, OR - come on over, despite what the NYTimes says, it's not got families fleeing for the hills) and a single parent, and I want urban living for me, for my kids. Grew up in the 'burbs myself, did the 'burbs again during a very brief sojourn in northern California, and made a very conscious decision to live right in Portland proper when we moved here. And I've never, ever regretted the decision to go urban when it's been an available choice.

March 26, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy
Did someone say this already? Craigslist. If you troll it, you might find something. Or even the Times. Finding real estate is an obsessive pursuit but I think if you truly believe, you will find it. We don't own, but we came from a 5 story walk up into an doorman elevator building for an incredible price in an incredible location. And we were looking forever and then I got pregnant and it really put the fire on my looking. Here's hoping they renew the lease! Stay here. You love it here.
March 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKim
DON'T LEAVE. We did and just-- THANK GOD, moved back. Nothing nothing nothing beats NYC. I would give anything to get back my two miserable years in Montclair.
March 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Seems like a lot of these days are contemplating leaving NYC. Check out my blog. You inspired me to write a post about it. But the long and short of it?

DON'T LEAVE!!! Your boy seems like such a great NYC kid. You don't want to stifle his creativity in suburbia! Stay in Crooklyn! You'll regret leaving and moving somewhere else. As a lifelong NY'er, I can hear it in your voice! STAY!

(ok...that's my vote)
March 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMetroDad
the way i see it, if you're gonna leave brooklyn, go FAR FAR away - so far away that the pull of brooklyn can't be in your face constantly, reminding you of the stupid mistake you just made...

(god, i miss brooklyn TERRIBLY - but Portland, Oregon, is a very cool place)...
March 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterdori
OK--we need to know what else has been going on with Pretty Rambo and Henry. And the waterbugs. But I will offer a quote which I can't hope to attribute. "If you want what you've never had, you've got to do what you've never done." That will work for just about everything. Change is exciting and scary and the only way we make advances. Sometimes you just have to throw your hat over the fence--then go after it. Good luck to you as you make your decision!
March 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Ok, first i must bow down and say "i'm not worthy, i'm not worthy, i'm not worthy" So, it's a bad, out of date joke. But what do you expect, i'm bonified hick. You know when they talk about the sticks? Well, i live about, thirty miles futher back into no where from there. I say, if you like where you live. Stay there. Your kid(s) will be happier, if you are happy. I'm just amazed that you got 185 comments, i'm a new blogger and i find that totally amazing. So, i have to say, you are a goddess. (backing and bowing out)
March 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJerriAnn
Interesting, because we face the same dilemma, but on the other side of the continent and for different reasons. (Replace library, museum, park with weather, ocean, mountains.) One thing I've noticed over the years, though, is that those who leave don't come back. They all talk about coming back, that they're only leaving for a couple of years, but few ever return. I guess, in the end, the reasons they left remain compelling enough to make them stay away.
March 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterdwarfy
Presumably you are considering your child's best interests with this move. I have to say that after teaching and living in Brooklyn Heights and Manhattan, I decided that when I had kids we would definatlty move out of the city. Why you ask? While the "city kids" were obviously sophisticated in many ways, I found them to be a little "freaky". Mind you, these were private schools I was teaching in (Big $$$$) Anyway, Several of them were in some sort of therapy and most of them had this jaded and bored attitude at such a young age. So much for the wonderment of childhood. I tried to do a unit on planting and many of them didn't want to touch dirt. Very weird. My husband & 2 kids live in a Connecticut suburb 1 hour from the city. My husband still works there. We go in every month or so. We last went to see The Gates, and in March a Laurie Berkner concert. My kids get a lot of space and freedom, and it's a treat to go into the city. Oh, and I don't miss the vermin! Good luck.
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen
I grew up in Brooklyn and it was not all it's cracked up to be. Twenty-odd years ago NYC public schools sucked and I don't think that has changed a lot. It is also a drag to be 15 years old and worry about being attacked on your way home from your friend's house on Saturday night (I realize NYC and Park Slope have changed a lot so maybe this is not such an issue anymore). I escaped for a small city in Mass. After 15+ years here, I'm getting a little bored of the cultural options, but since I have small children I'm lucky to get to a movie twice a year so it's not exactly tragic. Half of NYC is moving to this town right now anyway, and the public transport isn't what it should be, but there's a downtown, two art-theaters, a great music scene, really quite decent restaurants, and, well, character (if all the recently-appearing NJ people with the freakin' hummers will go away please). There is also a vibrant world of community-supported agriculture, a network of bike paths, and plenty of hiking and nature in reach. The NYC housing market is affecting us now too (because of all the people moving here), but it's still a heck of a lot more affordable than Park Slope (or Montclair for that matter). Oh yeah, I'm talking about Northampton. But don't tell any of those Manhattan types, would ya? ;)
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermamacate
Alice,

To be happy in Brooklyn, maybe you can adopt my two rationalizations:1. Who needs a backyard when you have Prospect Park?2. Who needs more space when the three of you are usually hanging out in the same room together?

Lastly, are there a sufficient number of bookstores in the location you are scouting?Please don't go. We would miss you-
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I grew up in a rural area, and I now live in an area that planners call "fully suburban" (i.e., it's really a small city). Suburbs can be great. I live in Eastern CT and I can walk a few blocks and eat Italian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, French, Greasy Spoon or American (I am praying that someone will open a Vietnamese restaurant soon, because that's my favorite). There is a children's museum about 2 miles from our house, 2 libraries within walking distance, a theater (stage plays, not movie) within 3 miles, and the public schools our children attend are both within 1 mile. I can walk about 3 minutes from my house and pick up public transportation, which brings me to Hartford in about 20 minutes - more museums, colleges, good food, theater, movies, etc. Or I can take the bus over to the mall area with stores and movies and more restaurants, although of the Applebee's/Friday's variety.

Cities are great, and I think they can be a great place to raise kids - my mother and all 5 of her siblings were raised in Brooklyn, and they have a great deal of pride in their hometown. But don't write off the suburbs as the place where souls go to die - there is good and bad everywhere.

March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermaurinsky
This is really late and I stumbled here from LOD's site. I've always lived in the suburbs, I'm not married and I don't have kids, so you can totally disregard this comment if you'd like. But, I am a student and I've noticed that college towns tend to be a bit more diverse than other suburbs. Currently, I'm in grad school at Northwestern,which is located about 20 mins. from Chicago and it has a more urban "feel" than my hometown. I commute everyday so this difference is more apparent. Of course, I doubt you're planning on a move across country, but this should be applicable around the college towns in NY. =)
March 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterenygma
Did some idiot just suggest that you move to fucking Syracuse? I live in Williamsburg and have no idea about babies or whatnot, but I can tell you what a soul-less pit o' suck Syracuse is. I did time there. In fact, I grew up on an organic farm about 1 hr away (there's an option for you. Get back to the land). Syracuse is horrible. There is a decaying downtown with a block of sub-par bars that think they are awesome. The most polluted lake in the country is also in Syr. People who live there are seriously the ugliest, worst dressed people I have ever seen in my life (and I travel a lot). There is all this needless attitude (yeah, Manlius is so fucking rad! Get back in your SUV and go return some stuff to the Children's Place) and awful, subpar conspicuious consumption (at least the conspicuous consumption in NYC is the real deal). I could go on for hours about what a horrible place Syracuse is. Oh, and the weather. The sun never shines.
March 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterIvy
I grew up in Oslo, which was kind of a smallish town, being only about 800,000persons back in tha day. Today, its over a million with what Americans would typically consider suburbs popping up.

Now I live in Canada, first Vancouver, then Toronto (huge metropol) and now, a smaller city. The burbs never appealed to me. So, we chose country living when it came time. WHY?? Well, I have many children, not just one. We had a row-house (in NY you call them brownstones, but not as nice...) and that didn't do, then a proper townhouse, which I frickin' resented beyond words. Especially when ingratiating neighbours would 'swing' by with conversation and then politely drop in a comment about loud Barbeque parties! F**K you.

However, why we decided??!?! OK...here goes.....our daughter knew Toronto, we lived on a very urban street right off of Yonge St. (very busy hub of Toronto) Bookstore at the end of the road, one of the first Starbucks in Canada, right up the lane. Restaurants etc. But I would be terried when I left the apartment, like if I lost sight of my daughter during a summer night when we went for a stroll, that I would never see her again. That the vagrant who slept and urinated in the lobbey would stab me with a needle one day, or my kid. When my son (second) came along, that was basically it. I had had enough of anxiety.

So....we up and moved ourselves out. I didn't want my sons going to St.Joseph's catholic, inner-city school, with chain link and spray paint and no basketball, frick' not even badminton. Also.......and this will hurt. But I am a complete nudist. In the summer, I love to sit around the house in skivies and tanks, listen to loud music, stroll around my deck, work on my melanoma, drink, think about working etc. I just couldn't ever do that in the city...OK, well I could have if I had wanted to pick up some extra cash.

So. Now....I live about 20 minutes out of the city via car in non-rush hr. I commute but sometimes its crap, others its bearable. I indulge my (partial) nakedness, even when my kids tell me, "MOM....put some clothes on...." I blare my music when it suits me and I pick apples from my trees and we eat everything apple for months a year!

Best of luck with your decision to stay a brooklynish lass.....I saw your more recent post!
March 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterUma Andersson
I live in the suburbs. I have one thing to say about that:

B-O-R-I-N-G.



March 30, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Has any one mentioned this?

I don't know what part of Brooklyn you live in, but my sister lived in Park Slope for fifteen years. It seemed suburban for the city (if that makes any sense.) I loved it.

And I know I will get a lot of shit for saying this, but my other sister lives in Staten Island. You can't smell the landfill and actually there are some very beautiful neighborhood and parks there too. I actually preferred riding the ferry instead of the subway.

Good luck.
April 3, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterbeth
I don't imagine this is actually helpful to you, and New York is just such a different category of city from almost anywhere else, but it turns out that what I like best is the third-tier city. Not the big city (though those are good too, and I would not turn one down), and definitely not the suburbs (except in the sense that some smaller cities are vaguely suburbs of their closest big city). Think Providence, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Berkeley. The last of these is not for everyone for reasons of its own, but otherwise it fits the model.

In the best third-tier cities, there are plenty of old, mixed-use areas; a nice assortment of houses, duplexes, and smaller apartment buildings; public transit; a neighborhood-based layout that means good things are always in walking distance; good food, affordable housing, and plenty of movie theaters; and universities. These places also tend to have inferiority complexes, which should be ignored or enjoyed, as the mood takes you.
April 5, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterredfox
I agree with halloweenlover. Hubby and I moved from the Slope to Portland, Oregon in August. A big reason for the move is that, tho we talked about all the great things in NYC (for me, mostly art museums), we only took advantage of them three or four times a year. We wrote down all the things we did regularly and found we could do them in Portland, too. Plus, we could do other things like have a house where we each have a study and like having a vegetable garden without hauling five HUGE bags of steer manure (Yes! Steer manure!!) on the F train.

Of course there are things about NYC that I miss--there's no perfect place. But I think that where we are works for us.

One other thing to consider is that there are 'burbs and then there are 'burbs. It's not all one big homegenous scary Desperate Housewives thing. Start exploring and see if there's something that might work for you.
April 6, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterPDXchick
I thought that perhaps Tamar's comment that the town she was alluding to was not one where there are "mallrats" was a clue that it was Redbank. Or maybe I am just reading way too much into her post. Anyway, I'd be curious to find out where you're considering. My husband and I rent in Hoboken and are trying to decide if we should move to one of those 2 M-towns or Redbank possibly. Our apt. is not big enough for a kid, so we must move before we have one. But do we put all our savings into a 2 BR condo here in Hoboken or move out to the 'burbs? Decisions, decisions...
April 6, 2005 | Unregistered Commentercraige
I haven't been reading long enough to know what you guys do for a living so this might not be a possibility. Now don't laugh but have you considered Albany? Yeah, I know, you are rolling on the floor in hysterics right now. The schools are terrible. It's dirty. The winters are brutal. You would still get the crazies trying to get money from your windows. BUT you could own an entire 19th century brownstone in downtown Albany or Troy for less than the price of your 2 bedroom in bkny. No it ain't brooklyn but it is a city and one on the rise I have been told. Oh, and I know someone else posted a rant about Beacon but I love it there. If I could find a job in the area I would move there in a heartbeat.

I am an Ex New Yorker living in Los Angeles right now where I can't afford a house in a neighborhood where drive by shootings happen with some regularity. I actually love it here and would gladly stay if it wasn't so damn expensive. In my current neighborhood I get the best of both worlds (urban convinience and a quiet house in the hills with a huge backyard) The husband and I are planning a move to Albany some time next year. So yes, my motives are someone selfish as I try to populate the area with cool people while I dream about them building a high speed train from Albany to New York.
April 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

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