memo to porter airlines passenger who needs lessons in new york city

Dear suburban GTA resident flying on Porter Airlines from Newark to Toronto:

Since you were not talking to me, I was unable to respond to your erroneous statements. But since you were speaking loud enough for the entire plane to hear, I was easily able to determine that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Here are some facts of which you clearly are not aware.

1. I'm glad you enjoyed your stay near the airport in Elizabeth, New Jersey. However, since you did not venture into New York City, you have no idea how the area near your hotel compares to any part of New York City. Elizabeth, NJ is Elizabeth, NJ. New York is New York. Proximity does not imply similarity.

2. Park Slope, where your friend lives, is not "a suburb of Manhattan". It is a neighbourhood in Brooklyn. Brooklyn and Manhattan have been part of the same city since 1898.

3. Park Slope is not a "typical suburb". It is not a suburb at all. It is an affluent urban neighbourhood, served by multiple subway lines.

4. Park Slope is not "a neighbourhood where nice families are beginning to move". Nice families have lived in Park Slope for hundreds of years. Wealthy white families thoroughly colonized Park Slope in the mid-1980s. In the 21st Century, "nice families" can buy a Park Slope brownstone only if two adults are each six-figure earners.

5. Your Park Slope friend does not live in a "townhome". She lives in a brownstone. Brownstones are historic, 19th Century structures characterized by artistic masonry, 20-foot ceilings, intricate wood mouldings, and other architectural details that make them some of the most desired dwellings in many US cities.

6. Your friend's brownstone is not "attached" housing. Your wealthy friend is not forced to live in a house "that is not even detached". I highly doubt that she shares your disgust for this shameful condition.

7. You were horrified, not so much as the high housing costs that your wealthy friend takes in stride, but that she pays so much money for an attached townhome. Your central question - "What do they get for it?" - is not asked or answered the way it is where you live, in suburban Markham. What do they get for it? They get to live in New York City, in a brownstone.

I hope this helps.


A former New Yorker, Park Slope nanny, and third-generation Brooklynite


allan said...

Why is it that the dumbest people also seem to talk the loudest?

johngoldfine said...

Awful to have to listen, I'm sure, but hilarious to read your beat-on this passenger. Were you writing this as you listened, taking notes, or was the stupid just burned into your nowhere-to-escape-to brain for our later delectation?

laura k said...

Burned in!!!!!



allan said...



laura k said...

Yes, clearly by "nice" she means "white, middle-class".

But "are beginning to move there"?

Allan, when you lived in Park Slope from 1987-1990, were the majority of residents something other than white and middle-class? Noooooo.

Amy said...

As you can imagine, I got quite a chuckle from this one, having spent the weekend in Park Slope with my "nice family" of daughter, SIL, and grandson (and grandson-to-be). Suburb? My kids would shudder at the thought. They both hated the suburbs and cannot imagine moving back. They love the urban environment.

They are one of those lucky affluent couples who can somewhat afford to live there, though it means renting a two (and a quarter) bedroom BROWNSTONE with no family room, no yard, or any of the other amenities of suburbia. They prefer to have the advantages of city life to the space and convenience of suburban life.

I once also thought that Park Slope was once a poor neighborhood, but a friend from high school has lived there since the late 1970s and has assured me that although it was not a rich, gentrified community, it was never poor. Mostly working class to middle class people who could not afford Manhattan. I only wish we had lived there then, bought one of those brownstones for probably 1% of what they are worth now, and been able to have a pied a terre in Brooklyn today.

laura k said...

I knew you'd appreciate this one, Amy!

Suburb? My kids would shudder at the thought. They both hated the suburbs and cannot imagine moving back.

I cringe when I read this, as it was me for most of my life. I hated the suburbs, couldn't leave fast enough, and swore I would never live in one again. And made good on that until I changed my mind in my mid-40s!

When you say 2-1/4 bedroom with no family room, does your daughter's family rent a floor, or two floors, or the whole house? Just curious. Sounds like a floor-through or maybe duplex floor-through.

Amy said...

To be honest, I harbor not-so-secret hopes that they, too, will eventually move from the city. It's so expensive and stressful, and going up three narrow, scary flights of stairs is, for me, really worrisome, especially if I am carrying a child or watching my parents maneuver the steps as I did yesterday. I completely understand why they love where they live, but it does make for a harder day-to-day life, especially with two young children. We shall see...

They rent two floors of a three floor brownstone. Their landlord lives on ground level and the first floor (where my kids' foyer is), and then my kids live on the second and third floor (if you count the ground level as basement). So to get to their foyer you go up one very scary concrete set of steps, then a flight to their main floor, another to the bedroom floor.

The "quarter" bedroom is a tiny office which can hold a crib and dresser and nothing more.

laura k said...

Be careful what you wish for, Amy. I moved to the suburbs... of Toronto.

There are plenty of stressors in the suburbs too - traffic, car accidents, not to mention the stress of living a life you don't want to lead. My parents thought it was better to raise kids in the suburbs, and we went insane from boredom, leading to some not-very-safe thrill seeking on all our parts.

Has anyone ever told you you worry too much? ;)

laura k said...

It's so expensive and stressful

NYC is expensive, that is true. But do they find it stressful, or do you? People always told me it was stressful to live in NYC, but I never found it that way. That seemed to be other people's - non-NYC people's - idea of NYC life.

Amy said...

What, me worry? :)

I know it is stressful for them, but they love it anyway. The financial stress is substantial. My SIL makes a very good living, yet he worries about how he will support his children and get them educated. They are always pressed for time, rushing around. They are NOT bored, for sure, but I do think that living at that pace, day in and day out, is very wearing whether you are realizing it or not.

I actually do not find visiting Brooklyn stressful. I love it there---a step down from the pace of Manhattan, which I can find stressful. But I don't live there.

And I don't really know what I think would be best for my kids. Suburbia has its problems, for sure, but it also has its advantages. Right now they are happy, and I am happy for them. We will see what happens as their sons get older and their needs change.

laura k said...

If they are pressed for time and always busy, chances are they'd be that way in the suburbs, too. I don't find that urban vs suburban makes any difference when it comes to busy-ness, except in the suburbs you have longer commute times (which can be vey stressful). Busy people lead busy lives no matter where they live.

Financial stress is real, of course. And people in the suburbs with huge mortgages have that, too.

You may be completely right about them, I'm just offering a different perspective.

Amy said...

Just one further comment: The commute they have is quite long. IT takes my SIL over an hour to get from his house to his office. It wouldn't be that different commuting from Westchester. In fact, the train ride from Westchester would be more relaxing than the subway ride from Brooklyn.

And, of course, if they lived as we do, the commute would be under 15 minutes!

laura k said...

I find the difference commuting within the city is that you aren't on a schedule. In the suburbs, if you miss a train, it can be a long wait for the next one. I found that difficult to get used to when I moved here.

Many suburbanites in the US have incredibly long commutes, and driving all the way, no transit. I'm thinking of places like Atlanta, Houston, etc.

I guess I just don't think urban life is more stressful than suburban life. I'm still an urbanite at my core.

laura k said...

Also Amy, off topic, I'm really enjoying my Nexus tablet. Feel free to email me if you are researching tablets.

Amy said...

I love cities, but I don't think I could live in one. I cherish quiet and space and freedom of movement without crowds. I would love to be closer to a real city than we are right now, but I think the noise alone would wear on me if I lived in one.

The tablet is something I am toying with---almost literally since I sort of see it as a toy. Having just purchased a new laptop, the tablet is on the backburner. Maybe for my birthday in August... Glad you are happy with it despite the keyboard issues.

laura k said...

I suspect that when people say that living in NYC must be stressful, that's what they're thinking of.

If the tablet is going to work for me, I must do something about the keyboard issue. It's horrendous.

Anonymous said...

Ha, we've been in this situation many a time. People take things in through their filters - clearly, in this case, the filter of GTA real estate. Attached housing: The horror!

PS Elizabeth New Jersey ... New York City ... sure, I can see you could mix them up.