One day in the mid-1980s while I was walking down 42nd Street near 5th Avenue I saw that someone had painted “New York City is a Marxist, Leninist Hell” on a piece of plywood outside a construction site.
I laughed out loud. I had recently arrived here, one of the thousands of young professionals elbowing their way into New York City every year like waves of soldiers storming the Normandy beaches.
What I found in my adopted city was a healthy dose of free market love on the corporate level, but a peculiar bias against free markets among all social classes on the local level.
For example, a highly compensated executive I knew lived with his professional wife in a rent stabilized penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side around 72nd Street that featured two bedrooms, two baths, and a wraparound deck with breathtaking views of Manhattan; all for a whopping $800! With the money he saved on rent, he invested in a country house in Connecticut where he retreated on weekends and holidays.
After growing up in a state where land and private property are revered, and only people with low incomes qualify for subsidized housing, I found the City’s rent control laws mystifying and extremely unfair, particularly to newcomers and young people.
With a salary of less than $30,000, my housing options were limited so I headed to the outer boroughs. For around $850, which included rent and electric heat, I landed a tiny apartment in the attic of a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Continue reading