Monday, December 19, 2022
Clear. High 38 degrees.
Our calendar has lots of local events! Click on the link or the lady in the upper righthand corner.
By Carol Tannenhauser
In the first summer of the pandemic, the word was that New Yorkers were fleeing the city for greener pastures in droves. WSR decided to find someone who had left and come back, to serve as a counterpoint. I can’t remember how, but we got the name of Maureen Cross, and I called her. While telling me about leaving New York City, she said the following words:
“So I gave up my rent-stabilized apartment…”
Maureen: “Yes. Clearly I was losing my mind. I had COVID brain. But, anyway, I did. I gave up my rent-stabilized apartment and went to Vermont and signed a one-year lease. For the exact same price as I paid for my studio, I got a three-bedroom apartment with a dishwasher and a backyard and lots of counter space and a driveway to park my car, all the things I thought I had to have. But after about a month, I’m like, ‘There’s no people here. There’s nothing going on.’ And after three times of drying my clothes in the backyard on the clothesline, I’m like, ‘This is wearing off very quickly.’ After a month, I started looking at apartments in the city.”
* * *
In 2023, West Side Rag will launch a new column called “Whatever Happened To…?” We will look at stories we covered in the past, like Maureen’s, to see where they stand today. Longtime Rag writer Joy Bergmann suggested we kick off the column by finding out “Whatever Happened To Maureen Cross?” Why? Because hers remains the most-read story in the 11-year history of West Side Rag, with 231,255 views and counting!
On Sunday, we emailed Maureen to ask her “what’s new?” Her answer took the form of a thank you note to the neighborhood.
“Thank you, Upper West Side, for taking me back two-and-a-half years ago, when I so foolishly and callously broke up with you for another state. You forgave me so easily, quickly, and cheaply. Due to the pandemic dip in rents, I got a big two-bedroom apartment with a dishwasher for not that much more than the rent-stabilized studio I gave up!”
And then Maureen shared some thoughts about life on the UWS today.
“I do not recognize my life in the headlines I read about you. I feel safe and go where I want when I want. I walk to a huge choice of grocery stores and bodegas and vegetable stands any time of the day or night. Lots of hairdressers — great bras at Town Shop. As a single woman you keep me endlessly happy exploring every block with your gorgeous, historic brownstones and cafes on Amsterdam and Columbus, displaying such a beautiful view of humanity. Families walking their kids to and from school. Bus stops and subways on nearly every corner. Lincoln Center so pretty dressed up for the holidays. World-class events at our fingertips. I’m not leaving you again Upper West Side!!”
Happy Hanukkah — and since they’ll be no bulletin before Christmas, Merry Christmas! Kwanzaa begins December 26.
I too love the Upper West Side and will continue to live here until I retire. At that point, it makes zero sense living in such a high taxed city/state, not to mention our high cost of living. I still want to know what NYC residents get in return for our high tax payments that our peers in lower taxed city and states (such as Philly and Austin) don’t have access to.
I’m retired, but I am glad to live on the UWS – used to live in NJ, though born here. I appreciate the culture, the research libraries, not needing a car, Central Park, shopping for what I need that day, the still overwhelmingly positive energy… Most of all, my network of friends. This is where my peeps are!
NYC is a great place to retire! Everything is at your doorstep and the transportation infrastructure is unmatched. Seniors in much of the rest of the country end up housebound once they can no longer drive.
I now live on the ‘Far West Side’ at 60th st. Terrible. No subways and infrequent buses… Very similar to being in the suburbs. .. That’s after I moved to San Francisco to be nearer to my family as I got older.. Huge mistake! Don’t ever give up your rent stabilized apartments in fabulous NYC!! You’ll never get over the loss.. The energy and excitement of this fabulous city can never be replaced.
I’m not sure why you people want to argue over this. NYC is expensive, of course. You either think it’s worth it or you don’t. For me, retiring in a walkable city full of unparalleled restaurants, theater and other culture sounds ideal. But if there are other places you’d like to be instead, that’s great. Enjoy retirement wherever you go.
We get the privilege of paying back the great city where we made our money, enjoyed the arts, used the public transport and so much more!!!
I grew up in Philly, and go back from time to time.
It’s a nice place to visit, but it always seems like a NYC wannabe. I’d rather live in the real thing.
Welcome back, Maureen!
If you live here and you don’t know “what NYC residents get in return for our high tax payments that our peers in lower taxed city and states (such as Philly and Austin) don’t have access to”…well, I have to ask, why you are even living here? To me, that’s a question that makes no sense!
Jerry I live here for employment reasons. With my background/skills I am much more highly marketable than in other cities. I was in between jobs about 10 years ago and did consider relocating but nearly all lucrative opportunities were here. So yes my question makes perfect sense.
Well said, Jerry. Long ago I read that someone asked Louis Armstrong: “What’s so great about jazz?” He replied: “If you have to ask the question, you wouldn’t understand the answer.” I guess we don’t need to ask Joanne “What’s so great about living in New York City.” 🙂
How about not needing a car to get around; world class museums and performing arts institutions; and medical facilities all over town? You have you pick of hospital and doctors.
It’s a good place to age–as my parents and many of their friends did.
Money is not everything.
Umm…what?! Philly?? Austin??? Those are excellent towns. To visit! We have far more opportunities/culture/excitement/etc on the upper westside alone than Austin and Philly have combined. If you want low taxes and a low cost of living, Texas has plenty of room for you. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, pardner! hehe
Jon, yes, I am fully aware of the museums and theaters in NYC and how they compare to the rest of the country. But you need to read my comment carefully before responding. These things are not free. We have to pay for them. You are implying that our taxes go towards museums and theaters, and if they do, that begs the question, why are our tax $s subsidizing these venues for tourists? Think about it.
…if you think museums and theaters are “venues for tourists,” probably you don’t see the point of living in this city.
Why do you live here now? It’s much cheaper in Riverdale, Forest Hills, and numerous other places in the city.
Here? You get a place that’s never boring and always offers plenty to do, to see, And to experience. The data point that interests me is the fact that Manhattanites are, on average, 10 pounds lighter than the national average.
I’ve tried walking 5 miles a day for a week in other places and by day 3 it’s a bore. Mountains, beach towns, whatever. A bore. NYC? Not a bore.
If your goal is to sit by a pool, or to stay home and only go out for “major” movies, and you don’t care about the arts, diverse dining options, etc? By all means move.
By the way, your Social Security and first 20,000 of pension/401K income aren’t taxed by the state or city making NY’s tax burden on retirees quite reasonable.
Re the $20k NYS retirement exclusion, sure, and it’s great if you have a working spouse, since that’s a double to 40k + Social Security. One big problem, it is not indexed to inflation, so every year it’s a little bit less. Recently it’s a lot less. I did some research, the bill allowing this exemption was passed in 1981. $20,000 in 1981 is $6100 today, conversely, in order to maintain the same standard of living, the exemption should be about $65000 today. That’s actually enough money to live on, $20k is not.
I sent a letter to Hochul suggesting that this be fixed, since clearly the intent of the legislature in 1981 was to supply retirees with a standard of living = to $65k today. She said she would get right on it!
If this was fixed perhaps there would be fewer folks heading to Florida, Austin, and um, Philadelphia (?)
Something to look into.
So a couple, both retired, pension + social security = abut 100,000/year free of state and local income tax? Pretty good. And in a state that relies on property and sales taxes? Their tax bill could go up.
Outmigration is the most overrated scare word, ever. New Yorkers leave, and have been leaving since Horace Greeley said “go west, young man” about 150 years ago (yes, Billy the Kid was born here). I graduated HS in 1969. Of 625 classmates who reported in in 2009? Only 250 were in NY.
Working people head to places like Austin because jobs, and retirees head to Florida because weather. And talented workers in many fields, as well as richer retirees who like the arts move into NYC. It was ever thus, and thus it will continue to be.
If I’m wrong the canary in the coal mine will be real estate prices.
I hear you Maureen! My UWS is great and I would find it painful to leave. Glad you came back!
I’m glad Maureen’s story got a happy ending–though I worry her landlord in her new non-stabilized place may make it unaffordable soon enough!
I will never leave my rent stabilized apartment, which I’ve had for about 45 years (first it was Mitchell Lama). I love the UWS. I raised my girls here. I grew up in the suburbs/country and will never return.
I love and miss the UWS since moving to Arizona a few years back. I am considering retiring back TO the UWS. Convenient shopping, no need to drive, best healthcare in the country. Yes the $$$ is a concern, but Miami is not for me.
This is a great, heartwarming story. I have a feeling, based on conversations with a limited number of ex-neighbors, that more people were having second thoughts about their moves away from NYC during the pandemic. They just won’t acknowledge it openly. I know a friend who sold his two bedroom appartment on the UWS and moved to PA in August of 2020. He bought a gorgeous house in the middle of a town whose name I don’t care to remember. He recently rented a studio apartment in the city for his weekend escapades to bars and restaurants. He comes every weekend unless bogged down by something in PA. He is clearly a closeted “returnee” who wont admit that openly.
I left the UWS at the beginning of Covid, and was gone mostly for a year and a half until things improved. I was in the Midwest, and felt marooned. Yes, the people are nice, and the scenery is beautiful, but I deeply, deeply miss the energy and vibrance of New York City, and especially the Upper West Side. Anything one could want is here. The culture, the food, the creativity, but most importantly, the people. Savvy, curious, intelligent, well read, and people with a sense of purpose. My fellow performers in the arts are here on the UWS and they’ve always required me raise my game. The bar is relatively so much lower in many of the places that I have been and I have always felt the excellence of New York, I was so glad to come back. I am a performer, and even if I am gone for a few weeks with work, I deeply miss New York. I have lived here for over 40 years and cannot imagine living anywhere else.
Maureen, I am here to report the loss of another hair salon in the neighborhood. My own! I am an upper west sider too and am sad to say that my landlady asked me for an 85% increase in rent, which, of course, I cannot afford. Please stop by on December 30 and take something from my salon that you might want. See my website kathehair.com for the location. I too LOVE the upper west side and all it has to offer. I feel safe walking around where and when I want and love the conveniences of stores of all kinds. Danny’s Town Shop is fantastic. I hate seeing all the stores, like Laytners and Price Wise leave the neighborhood, I will survive, just not in the place I have loved working for 31 happy years. Welcome back!
I love NYC and will never leave. Tax me to hell and back, I don’t care as long as I can afford dinner at Old Johns, tandoori chicken at Angaar and a burger at Friedman’s, I’m in!
Austin??? New Yorkers don’t have to endure 110 degree weather + women have access to reproductive healthcare.
I grew emotional reading Maureen’s’ description of the brownstones and their impact on her. I often feel like I’m the only one who walks those townhouse blocks wide-eyed, head swiveling, trying to drink in every window, cornice and tiny garden (but never slowing down, of course!).
My born & bred NYC parents raised us in a very small town in Northern VT in the 1950s. Listening to nature is the art there. In NY, talk politics in the taxi, in VT, talk snowtires in the country store. “Local” is compelling! NYC ex-pats are Vermont’s conversationalists!! Seek and ye shall find lots to talk about amidst nature’s beauty!! From a Vermonter!! PS You should like indoor cozy living 4 months a year. And, you ‘ll need to learn to walk on glare ice. Really. Practice in the driveway. Wear layers.