Moved Out; Still Gentrifying

Tonight I finished moving out of my old apartment on St. Mark’s Place between 1st and Ave A. This building is a hovel of spoiled yuppies and NYU students, but there are a few exceptions: elderly, single ladies who have lived in the building for years and are now protected by law from skyrocketing rents. There are these holdouts in apartments throughout the city: next to the shoebox 3 bedroom that goes for $3,000/mo is a normal sized 1 bedroom where a 70 year old lady pays about $500/mo.

I ran into one of these ladies in the stairwell as I was carrying garbage down. As we chatted, I learned that the landlord has been negligent in repairs recently in an effort to coax out this stubborn tenant to make room for more spoiled yuppies. I could sense the struggle in her voice; she was hanging on desperately to her home, but felt increasingly lost and threatened in a changing city. “It’s too hard to live in the city these days,” she said to me.

Her story came as no surprise, as this scenario is played out time and time again in buildings throughout the city. But as we spoke, I couldn’t help but think: does she consider me to be one of these spoiled yuppies pricing her out of her home? Does she consider me an agent of gentrification?

She wished me best of luck as she moved slowly up the stairs (bad knee), and I have no doubt she holds no ill will towards me personally, but to a certain extent, I did feel like I was at least a small part of the tidal wave of change sweeping across the city and drowning people like my old neighbor.

How far will this go? Will Manhattan eventually become an exclusive playground for the rich? When will I be priced off of the island?

I do know how far landlords will go. Earlier in the day, a coworker sent me a link to this company which specializes in helping landords “relocate sub-market tenants so they can optimize their full potential of their investments.”

The tidal wave sweeps on.

“Are you an investment banker?”

Where: St. Mark’s and Ave A, East Village, NYC
When: 6:45 PM

Long story short, as part of my move, I had to do a lot of dry cleaning, and at 6:45 PM on a Tuesday night, I was walking down the street with my 3 suits wrapped in their obvious dry-cleaning wrappings (plastic and coat hangers).

A passer buy asks me, “Are you an investment banker?” At first, I didn’t think he was talking to me, so I just ignored him as I fumbled with my keys. But he asks again, “Are you an investment banker?”

“No,” I replied, sheepishly, “Just got a lot of laundry to do…”

“Right…It’s too early in the evening!” He replies as I enter my building.

For those of you who didn’t get it, the point of this little interaction is to highlight two nearly universal truths of New York City.

1. Investment bankers wear suits to work and do a lot of dry cleaning.
2. Investment bankers are almost never out on the street picking up their dry cleaning at 6:45 PM on a weekday due to long hours.

This obviously is not earth shattering news, but I thought it was funny that this guy called me out on the street for being so out of place.

And for those of you wondering, no, I am not an investment banker.

New Blog, upcoming trip to Seoul, etc.

Dear all,

For no real good reason, I’ve decided it’s time for a new blog. Maybe it’s the new year, maybe it’s the upcoming move to a new apartment, but whatever the reason, I’ve got the writing itch, and I intend to scratch it with you, my readers.

Many of you may recall my Seoul Blog, in which I documented my 3-month adventure in my mother country. When I got back to the states and eventually started anew in New York City, I couldn’t bring myself to write a public commentary on my life–too many issues, too much baggage at the time, none of it fit for public consumption.

Fortunately, that’s all behind me now. I think I have interesting things to say, and plus, more people these days are using Facebook and RSS feeds to keep up to date with their friend’s whereabouts. Also, I want to document my preparations for the big family trip to Korea coming up in late April, as well as that trip itself. It’s going to be a wild one, and I want to make sure I get it down in words like the last trip.

My last 3 month trip was actually supposed to be a 1 year stay, but it was cut short by unfortunate events back in the states. As a result, I keep telling myself I’m “going back” to Korea, rather than I’m “going to” Korea. There’s unfinished business across the Pacific Ocean; not necessary a particular task I need to complete, an object I need to retrieve, or anything of that sort. For lack of a better way to put this, I feel the need to close out an unfinished chapter of my life, and the way to do it is to just go there, come back, and get on with things.

About 3 months left till the trip. Let’s start the countdown. Stay tuned for more…

Opa! Opa!

If you speak Korean, you already know why it’s funny that a Greek restaurant in Astoria, Queens, is called Opa! Opa!

For the uninitiated, “opa” in Korean literaly translate’s to a female’s older brother, but can also denote other relationships between an older male and a younger female, both platonic and otherwise.

Now, can someone tell me what “opa” means in Greek?