[Marxism] "Every time I get closer, the goal moves farther away
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 13 12:04:24 MDT 2006
Fredy Perlman, "The Reproduction of Daily Life""
The practical everyday activity of wage-workers reproduces wage labor and
capital. Through their daily activities, "modern" men, like tribesmen and
slaves, reproduce the inhabitants, the social relations and the ideas of
their society; they reproduce the social form of daily life. Like the tribe
and the slave system, the capitalist system is neither the natural nor the
final form of human society; like the earlier social forms, capitalism is a
specific response to material and historical conditions.
NY Times, July 13, 2006
Out of College, but Now Living in Urban Dorms
By JANNY SCOTT
Kelly Frances Cook is an editorial assistant, Ivy League graduate, aspiring
writer the kind of new arrival who has long been important to the life of
New York City. Young, educated and hailing from elsewhere, newcomers like
Ms. Cook have historically stoked the citys intellectual and creative
fires. But, these days, how do they afford a place to live?
Ms. Cook, age 24 and from Ohio, at first could afford only a rented room in
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., for $650 a month. Then she embarked on the archetypal,
hair-raising New York City apartment search: feckless would-be roommates,
outlandish financial demands, an offer of a room in a building with a
Then she saw an ad on Craigslist for space in a 60-unit building in Harlem
described as full of young professionals. The price was right; the woman on
the phone was friendly. Back in Ohio, Ms. Cooks mother had begun to think
like a New Yorker: Yeah, right, Kelly. Shes probably some mass murderer.
I dont trust her. Shes too nice.
This month, Ms. Cook is moving in. The woman on the phone, Karen Falcon
(not a mass murderer), calls the building a dorm for adults. It is a
community of the overeducated and underpaid.
There is nothing new about having roommates in New York City. What Ms.
Falcon has invented is a full-service dorm, full of strangers she has
brought together to share big apartments as a way to keep housing costs
down. Her approach is a homegrown response to the soaring rents bedeviling
desirable cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Ms. Falcon, an informal agent for the buildings owner, says she has placed
nearly 150 young people there and in two other buildings in the
neighborhood in recent years. A gregarious Californian with rainbow-colored
braids, she pieces together roommate groups like puzzles. Each tenant ends
up paying $700 to $1,200 a month.
Ms. Falcon says she screens for a combination of good credit ratings and
sweetness, looking for people who are respectful, considerate and
easygoing (and perhaps have a co-signer).
She mixes genders; all-female groups bring too much high drama, all-male
groups make too much of a mess. She has matched Ph.D.s with Ph.D.s. If
the combination is a disaster, she will arrange for a swap. Anyone can
leave before the lease is up as long as Ms. Falcon can find a replacement.
She says the tenants she has placed in the three buildings have included
chefs, actors, writers, people in publishing, a woman in public relations,
a production manager, an accountant, a paralegal, a program officer for a
foundation. There have also been plenty of graduate students and students
Our neighborhood is one of the last neighborhoods left in New York where
you have these big old Beaux-Arts buildings, built for wealthy families,
Ms. Falcon said, referring to the stretch of Harlem from 145th to 155th
Streets near the Hudson River. She said groups of adults, each
contributing, pay rents that families cannot or choose not to pay.
New York City has long been a magnet for the young, well educated and
ambitious. According to a report published by the Census Bureau in 2003,
nearly 132,500 young, single, college-educated people poured into the New
York metropolitan area between 1995 and 2000, more than into any other
metropolitan area in the United States.
Sometimes we underestimate how important that is in generating the citys
creativity, said Frank Braconi, chief economist for the city comptrollers
office. To the degree that housing costs become a barrier to that group,
it can in the long run sap us of that creative potential that we would
Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, a
nonprofit group, said young professionals get less attention than other
financially struggling groups because they are more mobile and have
options. Though they, too, are wrestling with the citys shortage of
lower-cost housing, they are seen as harbingers of gentrification.
Mr. Lander said a well-known strategy among landlords of buildings with
rents regulated by the city is to seek out tenants who they imagine will
not stay long, because they can often increase the rent when a tenant
leaves. Students as well as professionals, he said. Plenty of landlords
find this group an attractive set of folks to rent to, believing theyll be
out in a couple of years.
Marieke Bianchi, 23, a junior account executive at a public relations firm
in the Flatiron district, moved to New York from St. Louis last year after
graduating from college. She started out on a friends couch, then sublet
for six weeks in Hells Kitchen, where she had to move a giant exercise
bike to get into bed.
I cant believe it, a grown woman in a trundle bed, she said with
Ms. Bianchi, earning $25,000 a year at the time, found one of Ms. Falcons
ads. Now she lives in a large room in a four-bedroom duplex apartment in a
brownstone in Harlem. Her roommates are a bartender, a woman in information
technology, an art historian, two dogs and two cats. Her rent is $900 a month.
Adult dorm living is not without its complexities.
Ms. Bianchi feels she should check first before inviting friends into the
backyard, since they have to pass through another roommates space. And
when one of her roommates brings anyone home for the night, Ms. Bianchi
invariably knows. Its that level of intimacy from Day 1, she said.
Like Ms. Bianchi, others ponder their next move.
Wil Fenn, a 29-year-old program officer for a foundation, has been trying
since college to save money to buy a home. He lived in Westchester County
for six years, in order to pay less rent. Then, last year, he became bored
and decided to move into Manhattan. He, too, happened upon one of Ms.
Now Mr. Fenn pays $850 a month for a large room in a four-bedroom apartment
in what he describes as a beautiful building with exposed brick walls,
mosaic tiles in the lobby and a garden on the roof. His roommates include a
New York City teaching fellow, a chef and a German student studying in the
United States on a Fulbright scholarship.
Ms. Falcon first placed Mr. Fenn in a two-bedroom apartment with a woman
who he said worked for a large bond firm. One night, Mr. Fenn said, she had
a fit after he left his mail on top of the microwave oven. It was downhill
from there. So, at his request, Ms. Falcon moved him down to the
four-bedroom apartment on the second floor.
Everyone talks about free-market solutions, he said, speaking of the
citys shortage of lower-priced housing. But the solution now is the rich
get richer and for everyone else its the equivalent of being a
sharecropper in the city. Ive been working five or six years now, trying
to save up and buy something. Every time I get closer, the goal moves
Asked how adult-dorm life differed from college-dorm life, Mr. Fenn said:
Youre not really at the same place where you were psychologically. Now,
for me, Im kind of wondering: When does this end? When do I get to be able
to buy a place and settle down?
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