[Marxism] "Every time I get closer, the goal moves farther away”

Louis Proyect 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.

full: http://www.spunk.org/texts/writers/perlman/sp001702/repro.html


NY Times, July 13, 2006
Out of College, but Now Living in Urban Dorms

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 city’s 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 
bullet-pocked lobby.

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. Cook’s mother had begun to think 
like a New Yorker: “Yeah, right, Kelly. She’s probably some mass murderer. 
I don’t trust her. She’s 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 building’s 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 
from abroad.

“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 city’s 
creativity,” said Frank Braconi, chief economist for the city comptroller’s 
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 
otherwise have.”

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 city’s 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 they’ll 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 friend’s couch, then sublet 
for six weeks in Hell’s Kitchen, where she had to move a giant exercise 
bike to get into bed.

“I can’t believe it, a grown woman in a trundle bed,” she said with 
humorous disgust.

Ms. Bianchi, earning $25,000 a year at the time, found one of Ms. Falcon’s 
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 roommate’s space. And 
when one of her roommates brings anyone home for the night, Ms. Bianchi 
invariably knows. “It’s 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. 
Falcon’s ads.

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 
city’s shortage of lower-priced housing. “But the solution now is the rich 
get richer and for everyone else it’s the equivalent of being a 
sharecropper in the city. I’ve been working five or six years now, trying 
to save up and buy something. Every time I get closer, the goal moves 
farther away.”

Asked how adult-dorm life differed from college-dorm life, Mr. Fenn said: 
“You’re not really at the same place where you were psychologically. Now, 
for me, I’m 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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