Thursday, January 12, 2006

New York Times' Bigotry Towards Suburbia

Excerpted from today's paper - with neither permission nor expressed written consent of the NY Times. Red denotes my emphasis.


Published: January 8, 2006

...those plotting a hasty exit to the suburbs (the space! the schools! the space!) may want to consider the experience of others who went before them, only to double back within a year.

"I'm never leaving the city again; I'm terrified of leaving the city," said Anna Hillen, 42, summing up the prevailing sentiment among the repatriates interviewed for this article.

Ms. Hillen, her husband, Gerry McConnell, 42, and their son, Duncan, who was 1 at the time, vacated their TriBeCa loft in December 2001, shortly after 9/11. They bought a 6,000-square-foot newly built McMansion on three acres in the upscale, semirural Westchester enclave of Pound Ridge, N.Y., not far from the country homes they had rented before.

"It was just a giant, echoing space," Ms. Hillen said, adding, "It was great to have all that room, but we never used it," except to put up extended family on holidays.

Once settled, Ms. Hillen, a stay-at-home mother, embarked on a fruitless hunt for companionship. "Out there, you have to work at being with people," she said. "In a year, I got one play date for my kid. We joined the Newcomers Club, and the day we put our house on the market, they finally called. You'd go to the library for a reading and there would be no one there." She added, "You're a lonely, desperate housewife with nothing to do."

Even the playgrounds were desolate. "And on the rare occasions there was somebody there and you struck up a conversation," she said, "they would literally move away. And they didn't encourage the kids to play together. We were so shocked."

After nine months, she persuaded her husband - who was enjoying his truncated commute to his financial services job in Greenwich, Conn. - to sell the house. "Summer had come and gone and I was looking at another winter of being completely alone," she said, citing frequent power failures as another concern, along with the so-so restaurants and lack of food delivery. "He was very supportive, the poor man."

By December 2002, the house was sold at a loss and the furniture stowed away, and the family was tucked back into their old 1,800-square-foot, two-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment in TriBeCa, which they had never got around to selling.

It's worth noting that the suburbs are populated by plenty of satisfied former city dwellers harboring few, if any, regrets. Fully expecting to join the ranks of the contented, most of the couples interviewed here said their motivation for moving out was linked to a vague understanding that it was a prerequisite for raising children - a normal transition from one phase of life to the next, and one in which they would find plenty of company.

"Everybody says when you get the baby, you leave the city," said Ronn Torossian, 31, the president and chief executive of 5W Public Relations in Midtown Manhattan. In July, he and his wife, Zhana - who have a 1-year-old daughter - sold their large one-bedroom on West 68th Street and Broadway and moved into a 3,500-square-foot split-level house in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., near friends. With the help of Ilan Bracha, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman, who had sold their apartment on West 68th, they moved back in December to a three-bedroom rental a block south from where they started.

It's like death out there," said Mr. Torossian, a fast-talking Bronx native who resisted the comparatively tempered pace, like food delivery that stops at 9 p.m…..

“…..I go home and there's, like, people doing their lawn every five minutes. They seem like normal people but they spend, like, hours working on their lawn."

"You go to these little towns and they are very charming and sweet and have all these cute little shops," said Brian Lover, who put his West Orange, N.J., house back on the market just three months after moving there. "But I think when you live in these areas full time, those neighborhood shops aren't so cute. And those neighborhood restaurants that look so great, you know how bad they really are."

Mr. Lover, 42, a vice president at the Corcoran Group, and his wife, Kristina Rinaldi, 41, an interior decorator, decided to give up their one-bedroom rental on West 55th Street when they had a daughter, Tallulah. They wanted to live in Montclair, N.J., a popular magnet for exurbanites. Outmatched in bidding wars, they expanded their search to neighboring West Orange. There they became besotted by "an old English Tudor with a slate roof, character, an acre and a half of land," said Mr. Lover, who worked as a fashion advertising director for Esquire magazine at the time.

In July 2001 they bought the house for $480,000; it came with a tinge of unreality. "Every day when I came home, I would say to myself, 'I really am a king and this is a castle, and who do I think I am?' "

With their baby in tow, the couple stalked the parks and Gymboree classes in nearby Montclair, figuring "that's where we'll find the city people and the cool parents," Mr. Lover said. "But there wasn't anyone we could find a core to. It was all air." As for the city people they'd hoped to meet? "They were city people, not anymore," he said. "The suburbs have some way of sucking the city out of you."

"It's definitely someone's dream; it's just not our dream," said Andrew McCaul, a 37-year-old photographer who moved from Ridgewood back to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, in June - exactly one year after buying a $580,000 three-bedroom Dutch colonial, in walking distance of town, with his wife, Sarma Ozols, 36, and their son Aidan, now 2.

Their suburban sojourn started off promisingly in June 2004. "It was like a honeymoon period where it felt like we had a country house in the summer," Mr. McCaul said. But after three months, he said, "real life started setting in."

There was the commute, for one thing. "You kind of trick yourself into thinking the commute is going to be easier than it is," said Mr. McCaul, who only occasionally caught the express train for a 40-minute door-to-door commute. "I spent many depressing nights at the Hoboken station," he added, waiting more than half an hour for a connection.

"If you go out for a drink with friends, you're always watching the clock," he said. Adding insult to tedium, Mr. McCaul suffered through the suburban version of the Freshman 15, putting 10 to 15 pounds on his normally thin frame, which he attributed to his mostly nonpedestrian lifestyle.

Though the couple liked their neighbors, Ms. Ozols, a photographer at home part time with her young son, recalled feeling cut off. "I didn't have a community of moms, and I guess that would have come in time if my child were older and going to school," she said. "It's not as easy as being in Brooklyn where you just start talking at the playground and there's always someone to talk to."

She also found that the unaccustomed space - the house was roomy compared with the 850-square-foot rental they had left behind - "weighed on me," she said. And she developed an unfamiliar, unwelcome compulsion toward domesticity. "On Thanksgiving, I kind of felt I had to be Martha Stewart, with all the right plates and everything," she said.

They listed the house last Mother's Day and sold it for $60,000 more than they had paid. The couple, who now also have a 4-month-old child, Julian, put the proceeds toward a 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath condo loft in Carroll Gardens West. "The space is a lot smaller, but it's all we need," Ms. Ozols said.

Melanie Williams, 40, also determined that smaller can be better. In February 2004, she exchanged a $950-a-month, rent-stabilized two-bedroom apartment in a "decrepit" Hell's Kitchen building for a spacious $1,350-a-month four-room apartment in Riverdale, a suburban-feeling section of the Bronx, in part because of the good public schools available to her daughter, Dorothy, now 5.

"It was just like this land of no culture," said Ms. Williams, who owns Plain Jane, a children's home furnishings shop on the Upper West Side. "You never met anybody. There's one little street with a meat market on it. It was very bizarre but beautiful."

Petty crime troubled them. The family car was broken into several times while parked on the street - an unfortunate necessity, she said, because all the garages were full. And over the next nine months, she said, both she and her actor/carpenter husband, Andrew Finney, 44, came to realize that although they had moved, "our life was still in New York."

In November 2004, they rented a 900-square-foot loft in the financial district, in the well-regarded Public School 234 school district, which cost a third more than the Riverdale apartment. "It didn't matter," she said. "We had to get out of there."

Learning the hard way, twice, Mary A. Sweeney, an Upper East Side registered nurse, moved back and forth - then back and forth again - to Poughkeepsie. (The first chapter, beginning in 2000, lasted almost two years; she blamed the second, three-month-long episode, occurring in 2003 when Ms. Sweeney was newly pregnant with her third child, on "lack of oxygen going to the brain.")

Ms. Sweeney, 36, recalled the many disconnects she discovered between fantasy and reality.

"We had this beautifully landscaped acre-and-a-half of land for the kids to play in, but we were terrified of Lyme disease," Ms. Sweeney said. "We lived in a cul-de-sac and it was lovely but if we biked off the cul-de-sac, we were on these beautiful country roads that were curved so that bike riding on them wasn't so safe. We realized we were far safer going to Central Park, really playing with the kids and having our picnic, especially in the summertime."

She mostly stayed at home while her husband, Azeddine Yachkouri, 43, commuted to his job as a banquet manager at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Manhattan. "It was lovely for him to drive home to me and the kids and the house and then drive back to the city the next day and work and socialize," she recalled. "But for me, when this retreat is my everyday life, it became monotonous and mundane."

Those who have left and returned sometimes share their wisdom with friends who are considering the same move. "When people tell us that they're thinking about it, I'm like, don't do it," Ms. Ozols said. "But everybody has to get it out of their system. If we didn't do it, it would still be in the back of our heads. Maybe I would tell them to rent instead."

Why doesn't the Times just hoist up a flag for all to see proclaiming,


They can't just say they like the city, they have to piss on suburbia.

Where is the enlightened tolerance? What about multiculturalism?

Oh yeah, I forgot. There is no "culture" in the burbs? How is that for untrammelled arrogance?

Make no mistake, this is the Times Editorial Board speaking here. These "random" people are simply the vehicular mouthpiece of Arthur Sulzberger and his degenerate minions.

Where I grew up, children came first. Whether it was soccer games or homework, my family revolved around what was best for the kids - and this applied to almost everyone I knew. But this article is full of self-centered parents hellbent on THEIR SOCIAL LIFE, THEIR FOOD, THEIR CULTURE, etc. But what about the kids?

No crap the food is great in Manhattan, but that is a FALSE COMPARISON.

Shouldn't they choose to live in the best environment for their children?

The government schools in Westchester County may be the best in the nation. Maybe these selfish whiners should elevate the education of their children over the alleged Third World takeout menus in Scarsdale and Pound Ridge?

The only complaint that superficially reflected the best interests of children was from the dolt who asserted that suburbanites don't "encourage the kids to play together".

This is anti-suburban propaganda, pure and simple. Out of 2668 words, and only these mere 21,

"It's worth noting that the suburbs are populated by plenty of satisfied former city dwellers harboring few, if any, regrets.",

...are not inimical towards the burbs.

This article reminds me of a Manhattan lifer that I know. When he moved his family out to Westchester, a light in his new house went out and he didn't know how to change a lightbulb. Seriously. He thought one needed a super to change a bulb.

So who really are the culturally deficient fools?

Those who think small talk with a doorman is socialization? Those who can't screw in lightbulbs and can't cook? Or the rest of America?

I already synopsized this article once (above) but this further condensation is all one needs to know about the Times' attitude toward suburbia.

giant, echoing space
fruitless hunt for companionship
lonely, desperate housewife
didn't encourage the kids to play together
completely alone
lack of food delivery
It's like death
seem like normal people but
tinge of unreality
all air
sucking the city
nonpedestrian lifestyle
compulsion towards domesticity
smaller can be better
land of no culture
lack of oxygen going to the brain
don't do it
get it out of their system

And if this is how they feel about tony Westchester and other uppidity Manhattan suburbs.....imagine what they think of flyover-country suburbia.


Anonymous said...

Captious doesn't see that almost all those words that he highlights are from quotes. And the Times doesn't say everyone in the NY area or in the country feels this way. They say there are SOME people that feel this way, who they've highlighted and quoted directly. Just like you might write a story about a growing trend for people to use their cell phones as their main phone line. Doesn't mean everyone does. And you don't need to get insulted if you aren't one of them.

You can then go on to evaluate whether these people should think more about their kids and less about their own lives, but that's a different story. And it doesn't involve the Times. As a matter of fact, Captious shouldn't be posting this story unless he's done a full search of the Times archives and been sure there were not just as many articles about the people who sing the benefits of suburbia as there are this type. Have you done this Captious?

Rest assured Captious didn't feel that necessary. He's a biased conservative who has a clear superiority complex toward anything non-conservative. Just like he CLAIMS the Times mistakenly does, it wouldn't be necessary to do the proper research or fully consider other people's points of view.

CaptiousNut said...


Your comment seems to be more about me than about the substance of the post.

"Captious doesn't see ..."

"you don't need to get insulted ..."

"Captious shouldn't be posting this story unless he's done a full search of the Times..."

"He's a biased conservative who has a clear superiority complex..."

If you don't think the Times is bigoted toward the suburbs, maybe you ought to articulate that instead. Your "full search of the Times' archives" has no legs.

If you possess an antipathy towards the burbs, please articulate that.

But don't tell me the NYT isn't patronizing to and dismissive of the non-urban lifestyle.