As many will remember, I published an article last year about how the neighborhood I grew up in and love will not be the neighborhood where my husband and I find our “forever home” because of the price of real estate. I am not here to argue about the quality of life in KGH or “well, that’s the price you pay for living in a frum community with several kosher groceries, shuls, yeshivos, mikva’os, etc.” I simply stated a fact then, and I am stating it again. The prices of the houses in Kew Gardens Hills (and in New York City) make it difficult for a “young” family to plant roots here. I still consider myself young; but here’s a fact that I’d like all of you who sent in the hate mail to know:
FACT: My husband and I are in our early 40s. We have both been professionals in our respective fields of work for over 20 years, and, still, we can’t afford to buy a house in this neighborhood.
Deny it all you want, but the facts and truth won’t go away. The KGH neighborhood that I remember from my youth is no more. The entire Queens frum community appears to be getting older, because many younger families can’t afford its prices, plus yeshivah tuition or gas prices, for that matter. I’m not complaining. I’m stating a fact. For those families that have settled here and have been able to buy a house, I envy you. This is a wonderful, loving community, and your children will grow up feeling the love. I envy you.
I received this email and decided to publish it because it’s from someone actually going through what I wrote of and described. Her letter says it all.
I live around the corner from you. Except for a “hi” and “Good Shabbos,” our paths never crossed. At the end of June, we will be leaving Kew Gardens Hills. We bought a house and are excited about starting new in a new community. I remember when you wrote the article about “breaking up with the neighborhood.” I understood what you wrote because I was living it. My husband and I are both working and making more than decent salaries, but we wouldn’t be able to keep our family afloat if we bought a house here. I grew up in Hillcrest, went to YCQ, Central High School, Queens College. This is my home, but I can’t stay. With the amount of money that we are paying in rent, plus the cost of our full-time babysitter, plus yeshivah tuition and everything else, it isn’t realistic to stay. My parents and in-laws offered to help us as much as they could, but when we sat down with the numbers, it still was barely enough. Do we want to be house-rich and wallet-poor? No.
The kosher market in our new neighborhood isn’t walking distance. There isn’t a choice of a dozen shuls to attend (I mean what frum neighborhood outside of New York City and Long Island can offer that?). Shul will be a 15-minute walk for us. We are fine with that. We enrolled our two older sons in one of the two yeshivos in the new neighborhood (where tuition is less than it is in their current yeshivah). I have been interviewing babysitters for my toddler. Even the cost of the babysitters is less than I am paying now. Yes, I know what we are giving up in terms of accessibility to frum venues that makes it so easy to live as a frum Jew in KGH, but my husband and I see what we are gaining.
Our new house has more square footage than your average fully attached or semi-detached Kew Gardens Hills house. We have a large backyard and front yard. There are five bedrooms, plus a finished basement where guests will be able to stay in comfortably. We have a nice patio and our own driveway and garage. I will not go into the other “comps” that the new house and neighborhood come with, except for one, the price. We bought this house for a little less than what houses in Kew Gardens Hills go for, but it’s double the size. I didn’t find anything for less than $850,000 in Queens that I would consider buying because I didn’t have another $100,000 for renovations. Do you know how many houses we looked at that hadn’t been renovated since the 1980s or 1990s, but the prices made me think all was covered in gold leaf?
Our new block has a mix of frum and non-Jewish families and that’s fine. I’ll drive to the grocery and wherever else I need to go. We are willing to do this because we want to give our children a wonderful quality of life to grow up in. I’m not saying that the quality of life here is bad. I’m just saying that we got so much more for basically the same price. The sad part is that my two older sons will have to say goodbye to their friends, but they will, im yirtzeh Hashem, make new friends. My husband will commute a little longer than he is used to, but it doesn’t matter. Visiting grandparents will take longer and require E-ZPass, but now grandparents can come and stay with us for Shabbos and Yom Tov and be comfortable, in their own designated space.
I’m going to miss everything about Queens, but we’re doing this for our family. And I’m not the only one. Another neighbor moved two weeks ago to greener pastures that didn’t break the bank, and I have friends looking elsewhere for where they can put down roots. I understand everything that you wrote about in your article, because my husband and I have been discussing all of it and, no, your article didn’t convince us to move out. The prices forced us to move out, just as they are forcing my friends. I’m afraid that this community will only be accessible to the young, with PhDs (Papa Has Dough), and not for those who don’t have parents who can help pay for the majority or buy the house for them outright.
In the past months, I’ve noticed all the older faces in stores on Main Street, where once it seemed like it was a younger/middle-aged community. I’m not saying that only senior citizens live in Queens, but when my parents bought their house 30 years ago, the prices were in the mid to upper $200,000s. It was very affordable for younger families. Prices of everything, not only real estate, have gone up. Soon we will be charged for breathing.
I am telling the community that i am breaking up with it. And “it’s not me, it’s you.” You are a great community but are unattainable for the average middle class family. I don’t want to rent a house or stay in my small apartment anymore. We have paid over $125,000 in rent and don’t have a doorknob to call our own to show for it. We’re sorry to leave. But we are moving on.
Debbie, thank you for your letter.
Wow! You said it all. I chuckled when I read that my article didn’t convince you to move. Who in their right minds would read an article and think that the columnist is right, and they will move because the columnist said that she will! Many thought that I was advising people to move. I was just writing my opinion. Did I know it would wake up the community so that email responses came flooding in and people still talk to me about it on Main Street?! No.
I would like all readers to note that Debbie, not I, wrote that Queens seems to be a community of older, mature people and families. I’m not going to touch that, but I hear Debbie and agree that 30 years ago prices were affordable, allowing younger families the opportunity to buy a home. Regarding the statement about younger families buying houses only if they have PhDs, I don’t know what to say. On one hand, I know a few people who had their parents help or outright buy a house in KGH for them. And I know families with the spouses in their 30s who bought their own house and are taking the time to do renovations slowly. I do not want any hate mail regarding that statement. Remember, Debbie said it. I only understand how she was able to form that opinion.
I wish I knew who Debbie was. I pass so many neighbors and give them the hello nod or say “Good Shabbos” to. I can’t place her. But I wish her and her family hatzlachah. And I thank her for opening this can of worms again. I’m ready for whatever responses come my way. In a couple of weeks, I may publish a compilation of responses to Debbie’s letter so everyone’s opinion can be heard. I only ask that people really read this letter and my response. Debbie and I love KGH, but we can’t stay – and, no, I am not moving out yet. Please don’t write how wonderful the community is and how children play together and how decades ago there was nothing like KGH anywhere in the five boroughs. I know all that. We are talking how prices are now and, unfortunately, I’ve noticed more non-frum and goyim moving into the neighborhood now than I did years ago. Fact. I said it in my first article, and I say it again. I see the moving trucks and I see the families!
Hatzlachah to you all!