This is a dating article, believe it or not; it may not seem like it at first glance, but it is.
This is me prepping Kew Gardens Hills that eventually we will have to break up. No, I’m not breaking up with the Queens Jewish Link, but with the neighborhood I grew up in and know like the back of my hand. There is just something to walking into Shimon’s Pizza and being greeted by name from the same person who has been serving me for decades. I love seeing my daughter play in the same Shabbos Park as I did, going to the same library I went to as a child – before it was turned into a COVID testing center. I would love for my children to have the same memories that I have of this wonderful neighborhood that I grew up in, but I’m afraid that is not going to happen, and not just for me and mine, but for many others and for the same reason.
In today’s world, it is almost a given that husband and wife (or father and mother) have to work full time just to keep their heads above water. I like my apartment very much, but I’m paying much more than my sisters and brothers-in-law in Brooklyn and Monsey are paying in rent for a smaller living space. You don’t need me to remind you how I almost lost my sanity when we were in the first lockdown in March and April 2020 – not allowed to go outside, to stores, parks closed, and every mother pulling out her hair because she now had to monitor her child’s Zoom schedule plus his classes, have activities ready for when Zoom is over, and still hear “I’m bored,” cook more than she ever had to, because the kids don’t want a PB&J sandwich or pizza for lunch anymore – plus work. Yes, I did all this, plus worked full time.
Once summer came, I felt as if I was released from prison – but only temporarily. Soon enough, more talks about quarantining were happening, and before I knew it, my little princess was home from school again, but this time with four hours of Zoom per day. When was I supposed to work or feel sane again? The answer to all this wasn’t simple, but after many hours of discussion, my husband and I came to a decision: We need to move. We need a bigger space so that our kids aren’t within ten feet of us at all times when at home. Our children need space to run around, play, and have the space to do it in. This will not resolve all of our COVID- and non-COVID-related issues, but it will help with a lot of what was adding to our stress with and without COVID. We’ve been talking about moving for a while, but now we see that it’s a must. We need it for our sanity. I’m sure many can relate. My husband and I would love to stay in the neighborhood, close to family and friends, but with prices being what they are in this neighborhood and surrounding ones, we can’t move anywhere in KGH, or even the NYC area.
I know what my parents paid for their house 25 years ago and I also know the prices that are being asked for a house for sale on the same block and see the ads for houses on the surrounding blocks. Upwards of $850,000/$900,000 or more for a semi-attached or fully-attached three-bedroom house, with no backyard for the kids to run around in, and no front yard property other than a few feet of grass off the sidewalk without a fence. Where did I play as a child? In the community drive in the back of my house on the broken and cracked concrete. I want more for my children.
Right now, we play in the parking lot in the back or on the sidewalk in front of our apartment, dodging areas where people don’t clean up after their dogs. (I see you, have you on video, and went toe to toe with you. Pick up after your dog before my video ends up in the hands of the Department of Sanitation!) What does a million dollars get you here in KGH? Not much, when you compare it to other Jewish areas outside of New York City. Sure, grocery shopping is close, but the cost of food for a frum Jew is crazy! A brisket or roast for more than $70?! And don’t forget it shrinks when it’s cooked. I’m not buying first cut of Kobe beef or Cowboy steaks. I’m talking about a regular roast for a Yom Tov. Now add in the price of school tuition. Do you know that I have brothers and sisters-in-law living outside of New York City paying thousands less in tuition than what the yeshivos in Queens and the greater New York City area are asking/telling families to pay? I’m paying hundreds of dollars more per month than my sister-in-law for day care! And asking for assistance? Puh-lease: “Everyone was affected by COVID.”
What’s the alternative? I’m hearing it more often from people: Leave New York City/New York State, buy a three- or four-bedroom home with a backyard and front yard, a two-car garage for half of what my father can sell his house for. True, shopping isn’t within walking distance, and I may not have my choice of 15 shuls in a six-block radius to choose from, and I may only have two or three yeshivos to send my children to instead of the umpteen that New York City has – but I’m willing to sacrifice being part of the hustle and bustle of the rat race to give my children an actual childhood, especially now when going to school isn’t a given but a mystery from week to week.
How can I ask my five-year-old and two-year-old to be happy with our little apartment or to be happy in a house that costs close to a million dollars (that I probably have to update the kitchen and a bathroom or two) when I’m not giving them any more real room? I may get some negative feedback for saying this, but I blame the sellers for asking such a high price for their fully-attached 20-foot-wide house without a yard as much as I blame those who pay the prices for that same house.
I understand that KGH is a coveted neighborhood with yeshivos, shuls, shopping – everything a frum family could want – but it doesn’t have what a family needs – and that is affordable housing for a young family. My husband and I have friends who have moved their families from Queens and Brooklyn in the last year – primarily driven by the pandemic – and have relocated to towns where the cost of a house won’t force you to work until you’re 80 to pay off your mortgage. Their kids now have a yard and room to run. There are plenty of bedrooms for company to come and stay for a couple of days or for a Shabbos comfortably.
Many younger couples start out in Queens and then move away when it’s time to purchase a house because they can’t afford Queens prices and “you get nothing here for so much money. It’s a waste.” True, I hate change, but it’s a part of life. I would do anything for my children, and I may have to leave the place that I love in order for them to have the wonderful childhood that I had. It won’t be in the same parks and pizza shops, but it will be with room to run, explore, and be children. Take a look around: Young families aren’t moving in, unless they have financial help from family. It seems as if every few weeks a family is moving out – around the corner from me or on my block – because they are now homeowners, but not in New York City – and a young, newly married couple moves in.
How can two 30-year-olds, who work full time and pay yeshivah tuitions, car leases, and grocery bills, afford an $850,000 fully attached house? But I think the better question is why would they want to spend that amount of money on such a house? If they have the money, go to where you can really call it living. If you want to be squashed by neighbors and suffocated by city life, that’s fine. But more and more 30-something-year-olds with young kids are moving away because they can’t afford Queens/Brooklyn prices. And that’s not just me making a statement without proof. I can name dozens of couples that my husband and I have spoken with who feel the same way. Vibrant frum neighborhoods are popping up outside of New York City and young families are building a life for their kids.
KGH, I love you. I truly do, and sometimes hearing the truth hurts. But unless you change your way, you are going to be the one losing out. So I am warning you that I will have to break up with you, because it’s you, not me. I just can’t afford you – and the truth is, I don’t know why. Why can’t I afford a fully attached 20-foot-wide house with three bedrooms, galley kitchen, 2.5 baths, and a finished basement, as a 40-year-old who has been working for 17 years? I know that yeshivos, transportation, and shopping are a big draw, but KGH, they are costing you the younger generation. How long will this boom last of asking and getting $1 million for a house? I don’t know.
I wish you all well, but we’re going to have to move on and find another place to raise our family: whether it’s Monsey, West Hempstead, Baltimore, or Toms River. I’m just prepping you for our break-up, and the break-up of you and so many others.