Mark (mhaithaca) wrote,

You Try to Live on 500K in This Town

[This letter to the editor of The New York Times evolved out of a comment on a friend's journal.]

( Read the original NYT article... )

Allen Salkin's feature on how inadequate $500,000 will be to those enjoying New York's good life is informative but misses the mark. Salkin should have stuck to talking about the fact that people living in New York City legitimately have a much higher cost of living, but instead started talking about leisure and other optional nonsense that will let the bankers feel like they're bankers. Those three-bedroom apartments really are modest by the standards of living anywhere else; something those of us outside Manhattan would consider reasonably priced would be a closet-sized dump. And I don't mean a nice walk-in closet.

Most of your readers wouldn't buy the weekend house in the Hamptons or have a car and driver, but once you have those things, they're legitimate expenses. Do you want to tell the driver he's out of a job because Congress decided his boss is only allowed a tiny fraction of his previous pay? How about the housekeeper or nanny?

Here in Ithaca, New York, hours from NYC, we're seeing a similar trickle-down problem with local cafes and restaurants that do catering seeing a huge cut in their business from the university (where I work) and local companies. "Oh, cry me a river," say some observers who don't feel sorry for staff whose lunch meetings no longer mean a free sandwich, and yet the people who were making those sandwiches, including a friend of mine, are finding their hours cut and wondering how much longer they'll have a job at all.

$500,000 sounds like a staggering amount of money to me, but cross out the more asinine parts of Salkin's article, like buying several dresses a year for thousands each and the high-ticket vacations, and there's a legitimate point to be made that mid-level executives working hard to support their families have a real cost-of-living concern when they're looking at that $500K ceiling. We're not talking about the arrogant asses at the top of the food chain here, just the people who work for them. We're not talking about thousands for a commode in a million-dollar office renovation, but a place for a family to live. Salkin should make the point that real people have real expenses that are just higher in New York, and leave the amused chatter about $8.50 hot chocolates and $16,000 vacations to Tom Wolfe.

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