I couldn’t live there without going nuts

A couple of articles about New York City have had me shaking my head in disbelief, to think of having to live in such a place.

First, there’s the cost of accommodation.  Please note the bold, underlined text, which is my emphasis.

Tourists have been booking rooms in the 665-room Pod Times Square — a micro-hotel with rooms averaging just 115 square feet apiece — since its January debut on West 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue.

. . .

The hotel’s collection of “Pod Pads” — 45 apartments available for long-term rents — recently debuted, making Pod Hotels the latest micro-hotel brand to dip its toes into residential development.

The units, which occupy the top five floors of the 28-story building, are one- and two-bedrooms, with sizes from 400 to 650 square feet. That’s considerably larger than their hotel-room counterparts.

“In a perfect world, I would have made [the apartments] even smaller, but this is as small as you can get to code,” says Richard Born, of BD Hotels, the owner and developer of the Pod brand.

Rates vary depending on the length of stay in the dwellings, which come with kitchens and living rooms. Shorter-term stays are a bit more expensive, with one-month leases beginning at $5,200 and three-month rents starting at $4,400. Six-month leases, meanwhile, start at $4,000. Though the prices may seem a bit high (the median rent for a Manhattan apartment is $3,495, according to Douglas Elliman), Born says that’s to be expected for furnished apartments. (At additional costs, there’s housekeeping for $50 per visit and linen fees at $25 per bedroom each time they’re changed.)

There’s more at the link.

The median rent for an apartment is $3,495???  That’s considered a fair to middling monthly take-home salary in large parts of this country!  The thought of spending that much just for accommodation is mind-boggling . . . yet it’s a daily reality for those who live in NYC and similar cities.  As for a property owner deliberately sizing his apartments as tiny as he can make them under the building code . . . that’s great for him – maximizing the return on his investment – but what’s it like for the people who have to live in the equivalent of a closet?

If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s the problem of getting around.

Driving in the heart of Manhattan has somehow gotten even slower, a city report revealed Friday … Average travel speeds for the borough south of 60th Street have plummeted from 9.1 mph in 2010 to 7.1 mph in 2017, while those in Midtown alone have sunk even lower, falling from 6.4 mph to a measly 5 mph in the same period, according to the Department of Transportation’s Mobility Report.

. . .

“You know it’s bad when you’re sitting in traffic and little old ladies on the sidewalk are going faster than you . . . And you know it’s really bad when they’re using their walkers and they’re moving faster than you.”

In Manhattan, the people movers are even more sluggish, with speeds down 21 percent since 2010, according to the report.

Queens has also seen bus traffic screech to a halt in recent years, with average speeds dropping by 2 mph or more across swathes of the borough from 2015 to 2017.

Meanwhile, private-car registration is outpacing population growth, hitting 1.9 million in 2016 and increasing 8.3 percent since 2010.

Officials say they need to turn these trends around to keep the city moving.

“Mass transit is what makes New York City possible,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said in response to the report.

“Reversing the downward trend in subway ridership, speeding up buses, reducing private-car usage, and helping every New Yorker — not just the able-bodied — move around the city aren’t optional, they’re crucial necessities for the city to thrive.”

Again, more at the link.

Once more I find myself shaking my head in disbelief.  Who would want to live in a place where getting from point A to point B was basically an exercise in frustration?  And what about authorities who regard private car ownership as a negative, not a positive?  Clearly, the needs of the broad mass of people – people considered not as persons, not as human beings, but as mere dots on a map, to be aggregated and moved as impersonally as possible – outweigh any consideration of the individual.

I simply can’t fathom why any sane person would live in such an environment.  Of course, they do – many of my readers are doubtless living in such conditions right now, and I’m sure they find it normal and natural.  They’re used to it.  For myself . . . no.  You couldn’t pay me enough to live like that!

I want to be able to get in my car and drive somewhere at a reasonable speed, without the journey being a drudgery to be endured rather than enjoyed.  I want the assurance that, in the event of disaster (for example, 9/11, or the impact of a major storm) I can “get out of Dodge” as quickly as possible, not be stuck in traffic for hours or even days trying to reach safety.  I want the assurance that essential supplies can get into town on an as-needed basis in such an event, not be held up by outgoing traffic;  and I want the freedom to ensure my own safety, rather than have the authorities deny me that right and insist that I do as they say, when they say it, and give up my right to independent action.  I don’t trust them that far.

I’ve lived in big cities before, for years at a stretch (several in South Africa;  Nashville is the biggest I’ve lived in here so far), and had extended stays for weeks or months in others (Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, etc.).  I’ve rented and owned apartments, ranging from a convenience studio to a four-bedroom unit that was larger than my present home.  However, that was in my younger days, when I hadn’t been exposed to all the things that can go wrong in a city.  Having endured them in several locations, I now have a less optimistic “all will be well” view.  Instead, I presume that Murphy’s Law applies as much in cities as it does anywhere else, if not more so!  I’d rather have a lower income, but a lot more space around me, and the personal freedom that space conveys in and of itself.

YMMV, of course . . .



  1. A lot of big city pricing is the result of rent control. If you keep shutting down the cheaper stuff, the prices only have one way to go on the rest.

  2. The target-market for subscription (really, "shared") cars lives in those cities, as does the target-market for all-electric cars.

  3. Dad29- what's funny to me is that while I work in NY (well, dock my boat there, which means I fly in and out and buy groceries there), electric cars are conspicuously absent, while at my house in south FL, very much NOT in an urban place, they're fairly common.

    As to the rest, yes, NY is insane. The insane rent, the rudeness, the VERY criminal immigrant underworld…. and the high salaries. I make about $30k more per year by working close to NY than I would doing the same thing in FL. People pay the price they do in order to have the non-monetary benefits that subjectively mean something to them. About the only thing I'd like about living here is access to good theater, the pizza, and museums. Not nearly enough to entice me from moving out of Margaritaville. There's a reason NY's rich live in CT or rural Long Island 60 miles away.

  4. Rents in San Francisco are higher, if you can find a place. Rent for what I would consider a decent studio apartment in a non-ghetto part of town begin at about $5K/month. If you add one small bedroom, add another $1K or more.

    When in NY, I usually stay at the Shelburn (boutique hotel at Lexington and Third) more because I don't like to stay in the "usual places". I'm not practicing tradecraft these days but it's one of those hotels where you can stay without attracting a lot of attention in the $350/night range, that I favor and there's a greasy spoon restaurant across the street that never closes. When I'm staying in NYC on business, I bill the client $500/day in expenses and it usually comes close to that number. If I'm staying in Mid-Town or the Financial District, I can lose money – and I'm not talking about staying anywhere swank. DC is the same. $500/day in expenses. $3,500/week, etc. London is $600/day, Tokyo is more.

  5. Having moved a year ago from a 3 bedroom house on a lot to a 540sqft apartment with an additional storage shed, well, it's kinda nice for me and the wife not to have all that extra space to worry about. Simplification of life and all that.

    But, 3.5K a month? To live in rat-infested NYC? Er, no.

    Not to mention, I can has gunz here, my preciouses…

  6. "I simply can't fathom why any sane person would live in such an environment."
    "Sane" is the key word here.

  7. I think I' generally pretty sane. And live in NYC.

    Yes — some of the thing mentioned are absolutely true. Rents are very high, the subways don't work as well as they did when I was a kid, etc.

    But they still generally work, and can take you long distances, 24/7/365, for cheap. And New Yorkers generally walk if it's short distances — a half mile or so is not something you'd take transit for. (And yes — driving in Midtown is an art form, since jaywalking makes dancing through traffic normal.)

    And food is cheap, whether you're looking for basic supplies, or the few hundred different beers my grocery store 3 blocks from my house carries, or restaurants at every price range (with 26,000 restaurants in the city, if you don't give good value for money — at whatever its price level is — it closes fast).

    And I got to graduate from a regular public high school that has 8 Nobel Laureates among its alumni (7 Physics, 1 Chemistry). Ay my high school's alumni weekend a few weeks ago, the discoverer of the p53 cancer gene (class of '80) gave a talk about how her graduating as a dance major ended up with a major advance in cancer research.

    And live music — pretty much most of the bands that Peter has mentioned since the 60s groups have played here.


    Yes — there are real downsides. But there are also some pretty wonderful upsides. It's very much tradeoffs, and different people make different tradeoffs, at different times of their lives.

  8. I don't know how much the rent is, but the population density must be something. Here is an overhead picture of New Delhi, India. I also don't think it would have the cultural items mentioned above.

  9. NYC grew up, not out. It's constrained by being, for the most part, on islands (Manhattan is an island, Staten Island is an island, and Brooklyn/Queens share one end of an island, with suburban communities on the other side. Even the Bronx, which is on the mainland, has cities just north of it (go north from my house in the Bronx, and you run into the Yonkers city line — and it's got 200,000 people in it).

    Manhattan started out as a small settlement near the tip of the island. Wall Street, which is all the way down at the lower tip, is where the wall marking the north boundary of the original settlement was. It's about 500 yards from the tip of an island that's a dozen miles long. ANd the population density there is high — 1.6 million people, in 23 square miles of land (there are some smaller islands in the rivers/harbor that count as part of the county, so that, drawing the county lines (NYC has five complete counties in the city boundary) you pick up another 10 sq miles of water.

    In total New York has 8.5 million people, and just over 300 sq miles. And a lot of that is urban parkland (the large park near me is over 1100 acres).

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