Thursday, May 31, 2007

What it means to be a New Yorker

Kitty over at NY Portraits has a great site, writing about life in New York. Her recent post "On Being a New Yorkers" is a great account of how to judge a true New Yorker. Her claim: no one can live here a year and be considered a New Yorker. I'll always consider my dad a New Yorker, despite the fact that he hasn't lived here for 40 years or so.

Here are a few reasons of why I claim the title:

  • Since 1995 (when I moved from Long Island) I've had 9 different apartments
  • 7 of those were in the first 5 years
  • I've lived on floors 6, 5, 2, 1, and two basements.
  • I've lived in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. My wife holds the Bronx card. I'm pretty sure that covers all bases.
  • With a misty eye, I recall my very first roach (and the girlish squeal that followed)
  • I've done Times Square on New Year's Eve enough to know it's not worth it more than once.
  • First night out drinking was in this great city, followed by my first hangover
  • I've had a bedroom that fit a bed and not an inch more
  • I never use shopping carts
  • I never buy garbage bags
  • I've eaten my weight in recession specials.
  • I can't get enough of the brunch
  • I've got my bar, with $7 pitchers of Stella
  • I have seen shops replace shops that replaced shops in my neighborhood. (ie. 73rd and B'way: Food Emporium -> Gristedes -> Loehmans).
  • I know that my stand-by restaurant (West Side Brewery) will close one day and I will go into a serious depression.
  • I can't look at NY photos and films without trying to find out from where they were shot
Why I might not be a New Yorker:
  • I do have a driver's license (yet I'm a lousy parallel-parker)
  • I rarely pay for coffee
  • I don't go to clubs
  • I haven't seen many plays or musicals
  • I avoid art galleries
  • I'm not political
  • I don't go to the gym
  • I don't have a small dog in my bag
  • I've never been mugged or hustled
So I guess I've still got some work to do. What qualifies you as a New Yorker? Tell all in the comments.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tumbleweed houses — Now there's a small kitchen...

Living in New York City, we renters are used to cramming our lives into tiny spaces, but this guy wins the price for smallest diggs. It doesn't hurt that they're beautiful as well!

Jay Shafer designs houses that are "smaller than many people's bathrooms". Some as small as 100 sq feet, the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company creates homes that look to be sitting on trailers. Floor plans show how the spaces are laid out, and they really are a sight to behold. They're beautiful, clever, serene and I'd say as functional as a small hotel room would be. I could see these being perfect rental quarters for a home in the country. I think most city folk would pay $100 a night to stay in one. Nestled into some lilac bushes with mountain views or a babbling creek nearby... Or it could just be me babbling.

If you've been thinking about an addition to your three-bedroom, you might want to skip this one!

Link: Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Friday, May 25, 2007

Clean your fans!

If today was any indicator of what we're in for this summer, we're in for some serious heat. Our cheap-o little "Lasko Breeze Machine" felt like it wasn't pulling its weight, so I took it down and got out my screwdriver. I was hesitant to even spend the time, since there was almost no accumulation of dust. But unless the Yanks got a surprise visit from a different type of angel, I could afford to take my eyes off the game.

I took it apart (as much as possible -- if you have the oscillating type, it's even easier), washed the front, wiped the blades and the back and turned it on. Now, this appropriately named device is back to its former glory, flinging breeze like no other.

The moral? Clean your fans! You're paying the same to run them dirty or clean, even when they're not pushing air around. Get them funk-free and enjoy the early days of air conditioner season without the crazy bills.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Manhattan-Henge Next week

(Looking for July 2009 info? Click here)

Marie Winn, author of Red Tails in Love, reminds us that Manhattan-Henge is coming up. Two days a year the sun sets over NY in perfect alignment with the (30° off-kilter) Manhattan street grid. The sun appears to drop straight down between the buildings. Two winter days annually have the sun rising in the same fashion.

The first sunset is coming up next week. I saw this last summer (looking west on 79th street from the museum) and it was amazing.
  • May 28 at 8:10 PM
  • July 11 at 8:27 PM
Ahhh, the wonder of it brings to mind this lyrical ode:
Finally, at 7:37 early Wednesday evening as the sun was setting
in the Minnesota sky...
Out in the distance, on the horizon, it appeared to me like a vision
before my unbelieving eye...
I parked the car and walked with awe-filled reverence towards that
glorius huge majestic sphere...
I was just so overwhelmed by its sheer imensity,
I had to pop myself a beer.
Get out your cameras and find an open street, New Yorkers. And pop yourself a beer.

Link: American Museum of Natural History's Page on Manhattan-Henge

[photo used under the CC license. photo links to photographer]

PS 87 street fair around the corner, literally, figuratively

Please note this is the 2007 school fair! For the 2008 fair, click here.

In an effort to highlight more local events, here's an annual favorite.

PS 87 Just Kids Street Fair
West 77th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus
Saturday, June 2nd 2007 (Rain date: 6/3)

I'm off to find a good community calendar and see what other local events are in store for us this summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Free outdoor movies this summer!

If you're down for some outdoor movies this summer, here are some popular options. You could see a few movies a week this summer and not pay a dime. Most start around July, but check the links for specifics. Scroll down for the rules of engagement.

MONDAYS: 2007 HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
I used to go to the Bryant Park HBO film festival years ago, but it's been a while due to work or neglect (or poor offerings). Remember to be firm: "No! You may not put your Birkenstocks on my organically grown hemp blanket!" There are some classics this year -- Annie Hall, Psycho, Casablanca. Looks better than in years past.

WEDNESDAYS: River Flicks for Grown ups
On piers on the west side, riverflicks for kids and grown-ups both have great offerings (and different locations -- check the link). Adult version is a "no-loser" theme, with Gladiator, Rocky Balboa and Superman Returns in the line-up.

THURSDAYS: Brooklyn Bridge Park Movies with a View
Cross the river for this one, it's got some great shows. Currently, you have search the calendar to see they'll be showing The Princess Bride, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Muppets Take Manhattan, and more.

FRIDAYS: River Flicks for Kids
The kids menu ("life is an adventure!") features Back to the Future and the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so adults may enjoy them too.

And now, the rules of engagement (at least for Bryant Park):

  1. Plan to get there at 2:00 to get a great spot.
  2. Pack a delightful picnic basket with a bottle of wine and some nice cheese.
  3. Bring a balloon so your two best friends can find you.
  4. Get there at 2:00, and realize all the great spots are taken.
  5. Aim bad thoughts at the person sitting by himself using a 40-ft parachute as his blanket.
  6. Realize you brought the wrong book/forgot your crochet hook/dressed too warmly.
  7. Appreciate this beautiful park, get over the little things, and take a 5-minute nap.
  8. Wake up an hour later, drenched in sweat from the sun, finding your neighbors' blankets overlapping yours on every side. Your cheese is melted all over your grandmother's picnic basket.
  9. Call your friends and find out they won't be as early as they expected. One mentions he/she might bring a friend. You look at your shrinking real estate and suppose it's okay. The more the merrier, right? Eat the cheese off of the picnic basket with your fingers, since you brought neither crackers nor a knife.
  10. Pass time till sundown trying not to eavesdrop on the nearby tweens, all shouting on separate phone calls. "Well, he wasn't hot anyway. [pause] his brother! OH MY GOD! [pause] HAHAHAHAHAHAH [pause] Oh, I'm so sorry... when was the funeral? [pause] HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  11. Observe that your friends have no idea *which* balloon is yours in this helium minefield, which is fine since your friends brought a 10 person entourage anyway.
  12. Use the empty bottle of wine as a pillow and sleep until there's enough room to leave. Who's idea it was to watch this stinker in the first place???
  13. Finally, wish you'd brought an umbrella...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Free Movies this summer!

Get out of the heat this summer and watch a family-friendly movie on the house! Here in Manhattan, it looks like the E-Walk is your only option (and not a bad one -- it's a great theater), but there are more in the boroughs. I have friends at Rising Sun Pictures who worked on the effects for Charlotte's Web, so I may get to see that one on the big screen.

Movies are weekday mornings (tuesday/wednesday in most cases) at specific times. Check the sites for specifics. Links below go to the participating theaters. [via Parent Hacks]

E-Walk Stadium 13
247 W. 42nd St.
New York ,NY 10036

07/03-07/04 Curious George (G)

Hoodwinked (PG)
07/10-07/11 Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (G)

Open Season (PG)
07/17-07/18 Everyone's Hero (G)

Happy Feet (PG)
07/24-07/25 March Of The Penguins (G)

Barnyard (PG)
07/31-08/01 Charlotte's Web (G)

Ant Bully (PG)
08/07-08/08 Trumpet Of The Swan (G)

Ice Age: The Meltdown (PG)
08/14-08/15 Babe: Pig In The City (G)

Flushed Away (PG)
08/21-08/22 Clifford's Really Big Movie (G)

Over The Hedge (PG)
08/28-08/29 Doogal (G)

Two Brothers (PG)

Link: Participating AMC theaters
Link: Participating Regal Cinemas theaters

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Homemade Yogurt

When I was a kid on Long Island, my mom used to take me to the beach with homemade yogurt. We'd sit on the boardwalk, and eat our yogurt mixed with jam, and I'd swing my feet thinking there wasn't a thing I'd rather be doing in the world.

DW loves her some yogurt, I've enjoyed a cup now and again. My rss feed for craigslist free showed that someone was giving one away. That sounds fantastic, and just my price! I never did hear back from the "seller", but after finding none we liked in the stores, and a fee+wait on amazon, I started to give up. I checked craigslist once more to see if someone by chance was selling one. And they were. Salton YM-9. $10. I heart the internets.

DW can't have dairy (cow's milk actually) but I can. The first batch I made was goat's milk (which she can do). It was runny and bitter -- not too good, but we ate it. Then we tried a soy batch, using a goat's milk yogurt starter, and that was pretty funky (but just edible). Then I made a mike-only batch -- skim milk + powered skim milk + a plain yogurt for a starter -- and it was awesome. Really tastes great and pretty easy to make. DW's latest batch comes from a recipe we found online (see link below) and this one came out great.

If you ever get the chance to try someones homemade yogurt, do it. A little jam or fruit (peach bits tonight were amazing) and granola -- it's delicious, and so nice to know that there's no added sugar, preservatives or junk.

link to yogurt maker: Salton YM9 [amazon]
link to recipe: Bryanna's Soy Yogurt Recipe Using Commercial Soymilk Only

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bringing the outside inside and the architecture to the yard

I sent these links to family and friends who are either with small children or expecting. The links offer a couple of fun ideas for decorating a child's room, and building the archetypal childhood fortress. Both links are from Lifehacker.

Build the Ultimate Tree House
I don’t know if this is the ultimate tree house, but it's a good starting point for anyone with a tree. And if you don't have a tree, it's not too late – operators are standing by.

Large Format Printing as Wallpaper
How cool would this have been growing up? If colors summon specific emotions, imagine what a photo could do. I’m keeping this one in the mental archive. My kids will have a picture of the vast and empty desert. If they don’t go fast to sleep, the gypsies might come out of the wall and take them back where they came from.

Friday, May 18, 2007

the dreaded lease renewal form...

We got our lease renewal form in the mail yesterday, and found a most unpleasant surprise. Our rent will increase by $175 per month starting in October.

A little back story... My last apartment (a studio) rented for $1100/month. The next year, my landlord raised it to 1144. Then I think it went to 1166, and then I never heard from him again. That was a good five years. DW and I moved into our current diggs in October 2005.

Last year our rent went up $75 a month. It wasn't too big a hit, so we bucked up and paid it. This year, it comes to us with a $175 increase. That's steep. I called and asked why, and the landlord said "that's the price the owners have determined, based on the market rate." I hung up, put my head in my hands and just stared at the paper for about 10 minutes. I called them back.

"I don't really know how to ask this, since I've always been in a rent stabilized apartment, but is there anything that can be done to lower the increase? Can we request or petition the owners?" At this point I began babbling incoherently.
She replied, "Put it in writing, and send it to me, and I'll see what I can do."
So I did. I wrote about how we pay our rent early each month and planted flowers outside and floss twice daily and that we were good decent people and please can they help us out. I mailed it this morning. When I hear back, I'll let you know.

It really made me appreciate the landlord/owner situation I came from. I knew the man, he knew me, we waved hello on the street and it was a very normal (if nostalgic) relationship. With rent-stabilization, I was protected against unfair rent-increases. I miss that safety.

A few months ago I found a site that said a Japanese corporation had purchased our building. Here I am thinking two public school teachers stand a chance against capitalism. It really is disheartening. In those 10 minutes of stressing out, my mind flooded with images of being priced out, moving to Queens and having a yard and a beat up station wagon and a wife in the garden and having a workroom with shop tools and an easel. It was horrible.

If you've ever written to your landlord and have advice (or a good story), let me know in the comments. Meanwhile I'll keep my eyes out for empty boxes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ten steps to being less of a mooch

Here's a great "10 first steps" list to take some burden off mother nature. And who doesn't want to be mother's favorite? There are three I can't do as an apartment dwelling subway rider, but it's a worthwhile (and quick) read.

Ten First Steps [via lifehacker]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Red-Tailed Hawks - Manhattan and Queens

Those of you that know DW and me, know that we've got a fondness for nature. We used to birdwatch regularly, but those days are few and far between right now. It's okay though, summer is coming and a little outdoors r&r is in store.

Our birdwatching adventures were kicked off by Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk who made his nest at 5th avenue. We starting watching around the time the nest was taken down (the second time), and became hooked after reading Red-Tails in Love by Marie Winn. The PBS documentary Nature - Pale Male is dreamlike; it puts visuals to the stories in Marie's book.

These past three years haven't been good to the 5th avenue pair, as none of their eggs have hatched. While it is sad, nature (and the internet) finds life in place of none.

The NYC Audubon Society has a webcam focused on a nest in Queens, with two eyasses. Check it out now though -- they're growing fast.

If you're in central park, go to the model boat pond and check out the daily air shows.

link: Queens webcam (image from Audubon site)
link: Pale Male's site
link: Marie Winn's Blog

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My job in a past life

I've mentioned that I'm a tech staff developer for the NYC Department of Ed, but I haven't mentioned that the grant that funds my position (Title IID, enhancing education through technology) is at the end of its 3-year run. On top of that, I work for a region (there are 10 across the city), and the regions are being dissolved. This leaves our fair hero with an impending change of scenery come September.

My work now is mostly running the regional website, and occasionally training teachers to use various technologies. I learned a lot during the first two years of the grant, but this year I'd updated the site to give moderator-status to others. In doing so, I have basically put myself out to pasture in workload and mental stimulation. The programming thrill there is gone, and the prospect of new challenges is very appealing.

Prior to the DOE, I worked as a flash developer focusing on interactivity and animation. While I was pretty god at my job, my flash skills haven't remained competitive. Returning to the private sector has a number of pros (better pay being the main one) and cons (loss of DOE benefits and schedule). I don't think I'm ready to rejoin the 9-5, but I can't rule it out as a possibility. Of course, I've been out of the classroom so long I don't think I could return to that position either.

So I delay and procrastinate, and wait for the sweet deal to land in my lap. Or I wait too long and end up a day-to-day substitute teacher. Either way, I'll likely get an ulcer in the process.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Five ways I've looked for apartment sales (or why I hope to laugh at this list in a year)

  1. Corcoran. I've used this site to send me out reminders for apartments since I was looking in 1999 (as a dot-commer). The sellers are charged a 6% fees by the realtor. 6% of 450k = $27k. OMG! What a racket!
  2. Halstead. They're on a nearby corner (79th & Amsterdam) with a tricked-out cell-phone-controllable LCD array in the windows. It is very visible though.
  3. Foxtons. 3% commissions, but I've had nothing but problems using their site. Maybe they should raise it to 4% and hire a webmaster.
  4. NYC's HPD Site. Affordable housing programs here are sometimes too good to believe. Most are not in the areas that I want to live, but they're a steal for someone with less nabe' loyalty.
  5. Obits. Okay, I haven't done that yet, but I can't say I'd rule it out. I've been thinking about my grandparents’ old house in Queens. It was sold shortly after my grandpa died, and I'm sure it was way under-market. It's sad when I think about strangers living there, but it's what had to be done given the circumstances.

Buying from a seller directly has got to be the way to go, though not without it's share of stress. I can't imagine paying $25k to someone to show my house. Especially when the money is going towards LCD displays and corporate corner real rent. Sure, it would raise the chance of a sale, but what a sick amount of overhead to be a part of.

If I get an apartment by any of the first three means listed, I’ll be very surprised. I'd love to know what experience with Craigslist or a more community-centered sales method. Word of mouth, Classifieds... I'm sure this is something where doing some legwork of your own, and having an open timetable will make all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Know Thyself

As the DW of this site, I have been told I have the privilege to post. I think my first post will sum up who this Home in the City's DW really is.

Two Important Tests to Better Understand Yourself

1 - Know Your Carbon Footprint
Whether you're making a better planet for your children or yourself, you can find out the negative impact you have on the Earth & how to improve it. While I've not actually taken the test, I'm sure this is crucial information for all of us to know.

2 - Know Your Real Age
After a series of questions about family, lifestyle & medical history I am happy to report that my real age is 1.3 years younger than my actual age. I've decided that if the site says I'm this young, this is the age I should tell people I am. The site also tells you why it's calculated this as your real age (-1.3 all due to clean living & a varied diet, the multi-vitamin helped, too) and how to make yourself even younger. I'm toying with the idea of flossing, but as long as the site says I'm 21, I thought I could live with the results. ;) Alright, alright, I'll floss.

Choosing a Green ESCO

Two nice Con Ed tips, from my most recent bill. I plan to use the 1st tip during air conditioner season.

A 7% Discount For You.
Receive a 7% discount off the Con Edison price for energy supply for 2 months when you purchase energy from an energy services company (ESCO) with PowerMove. To enroll with a participating ESCO, call 1-877-MOVE-234. (1-877-668-3234) or go to today.

Here's a cool idea to help stay comfortable, use energy efficiently and get more value for your money. Get a FREE programmable thermostat from Con Edison for your central air-conditioning system before summer begins. For more information and to receive a thermostat call 1-866-521-8600 or visit

What are my options?
Con Ed suggests the following. These are part of their program, and you are billed through con ed. Since you're going to get a basic service charge from con ed anyway, I prefer fewer bills.
  • Accent Energy (
    • Wind and water power from New York State.
    • GoGreen is a mix of 75% hydro (water) and 25% wind
    • GoGreen Premium is 100% wind
    • Fixed (1,2 and 3 years) and variable rates available. (I'll post rates when I receive info.)
  • Con Edison Solutions (
    • $25 Rebate - Sign up for GREEN Power and receive a $25.00 rebate.
    • Elimination of Sales Tax - the New York State sales tax on the delivery portion of your utility bill is fully eliminated (no tax) for purchasing energy from an energy services company, such as ConEdison Solutions.
    • Fixed Rate - Available - You can choose a fixed rate that is easy to understand and is guaranteed not to increase during your contract termEasy Billing - We include our electricity supply charges on your regular utility bill. You will still make just one monthly payment to your utility, but the bill will conveniently itemize your delivery charges and ConEdison Solutions’ clean electricity supply charges separately.
  • Econnergy (
    • About $3-15 a month to "Green" your power.
    • From the site:
      For as little as 10¢ a day, you can show you care enough to make a difference. Based upon recent statistics, 100 kWhs generated from fossil fuels creates 120 pounds of greenhouse gases, or is the air-quality equivalent of driving a gas for over a hundred miles, or cutting down 8 trees. When you sign up for 100% wind power from Econnergy, you may pay only an extra three dollars on your utility bill, but over the course of a year, you effectively walked instead of driving for 1200 miles, and planted nearly 100 trees!
  • Energetix (
    • You can go half green here. Probably saves you a little green too. Requires a call to get any information. Update tomorrow.
  • Sterling Planet (
    • From what I can tell, you still buy at con ed's going rate, but you pay a $10-15 supplement each month to Sterling to provide Green power into the grid. I'll get more info tomorrow.
  • IDT Energy (
    • I think this is the same deal -- you buy a block which is fed to the grid. More like "supporting green" then paying for the KWH that you use.

Caveat Emptor:
If you decide to call any of these guys, be careful with your account number. Don't provide it unless necessary, or you wish to switch. It could be all you need, and some ESCOs require a commitment/contract.

Power to Choose

If you live in NYC, con ed is your electricity supplier (possibly gas too, but I don't have that, despite my wife's claims to the contrary). Con ed provides the energy and the bill. Those wishing to have a green energy supplier (wind/hydro/solar/etc) need only change their supplier. The bill comes still comes from ConEd.

Lets say you use 300 KWH in an average month. (normal for us, if the AC isn't on)

  1. You switch to a green energy supplier (ESCO) -- supplier "X"
  2. Supplier X delivers 300 KWH(?) into the grid.*
  3. Your electricity is delivered in the same manner as always. Turn on a lamp and it goes on. But you have to ask yourself, do you really need that lamp on?
  4. You pay con ed, who pays supplier x.
* The green power isn't actually delivered to your house specifically, but rather to the city -- it's delivered to "the grid".

The result: ConEd needs to produce less energy this month of non-renewably, polluting energy. 300KWH less, in our case. Imagine if 10 families switch... 100? 1000? The census says there's about 820,000 households in Manhattan. If 1% of Manhattan homes changed to green power, (assuming 500KWH monthly average -- our average across the last year)... let's see:

(Stats from the Energy Star Program site:)

General Conversions (Averages for the United States)

Energy to Carbon Emissions

1.55 pounds CO2 per kWh
(E.g.: 200,000 kWh x 1.55 lbs CO2/kWh = 310,000 lbs of CO2)

Carbon Emissions to Cars
11,560 pounds CO2 per car (I found this is a yearly stat. -Columbia)
(E.g.: 310,000 lbs CO2 /11,560 lbs CO2/car = 27 cars)

So if we figure:

1% of 820,000 = 8,200 families
8,200 x 500KWH = 4,100,000 KWH per month
4,100,000 KWH x 1.55 CO2 = 6,355,000 lb CO2 / month saved.

And to put it in perspective:
6,355,000 lb CO2 per month = 76,260,000 lbs CO2 per year
76,260,000 lbs CO2 (year) / 11,560 lbs CO2 per car (year) = 6,597

If 1% of Manhattan homes switched to green power, it would be saving the same amount of CO2 in a year as would taking 6,597 cars off the roads.

And the number of homes in New York City (vs. Manhattan alone)? 3.2 million, or 4 times the number of Manhattan alone. Is 1% too much to ask?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Our 8.6088 × 10-5 Acre Garden, updated

I'll have to add a new picture -- they've already started to perk up a bit. This picture is from just after planting. DW planted Pansies and a few varieties of violas. Our neighbor (a tremendous gardener - he really makes the building look amazing) has been helping to make sure they don't get thirsty.

In case you missed it, here it was before:

If these aren't the hands of an environmentally friendly DW, then I don't know what is.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Harsen House - Green in the UWS

Harsen House on 72nd claims to be the first LEED-Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) "Green" Condo in the UWS. Here are some grabs from the site: (site link follows)

link: Harsen House
(these similar real-estate flash-based sites are becoming a snore -- is there some new template for Word to make these??)

Why live in NYC?

When I talk to people about living in NYC, I sometimes think that we don't take enough of the city for granted. We don't go to clubs or Broadway shows, nor the art scene or nearly enough museums. So why do we want to stay so badly? Here's my list of why NYC beats the burbs.

  1. The ability to be car free. No car means no pollutants, no car insurance, car payments, gas costs, maintenance, etc.
  2. Access to great public transportation. You can't really have number 1 without this. Ours runs 24/7 and for the whopping total of $76 a month. Better for the environment too.
  3. Central Park. For running, bird watching, or relaxing, it's so close and so easy to spend 20 minutes or an hour. Our walk there is about 5 minutes.
  4. Typically higher salaries. Unless you're a teacher. Or a pair of teachers. Oh well. It is getting better though!
  5. Museums. No matter what your interest is, there's a museum for it: modern art, photography, skyscrapers, wax celebrities, sex, New York City itself, and one museum that's actually a retired aircraft carrier. Here's a list on wiki with a few hundred more nyc museums if you're looking for one.
  6. Proximity and convenience. DW points out that we can walk and within 5 minutes be at a hardware store, a drug store, a flower shop, two bagel shops, 3 supermarkets, a handful of schools, and an unlimited number of restaurants, doctors, and stroller mommas.
  7. Opening Night Movies. We just got back from Spiderman 3 in IMAX. Opening night outside of NYC never feels right. The psychotic energy fans bring to opening night in a packed theater is such a rush. Be sure to get there early!
I'm sure I'm missing a ton. I'll post a part two eventually. If you have additions, put them in the comments.

Friday, May 4, 2007

You call it (A)CORN, we call it amazing

We went to the ACORN housing seminar/workshop last night. It was really informative and uplifting, and I was amazed how great a resource it is. Basically, if you are low to moderate income, they help you go through the financial process of finding a home. Lower interest rates, free help, low closing costs... Basically, you need to make less than $118k per year combined to be eligible for either of the two mortgage plans they offer.

From their site:

With AHC you get:
  • Lower down payments and closing costs.
  • No Private Mortage Insurance.
  • Banks generally require 3 months of mortgage payments in the bank at settlement.
  • With our program, they don't, which allows you to buy a home sooner.
  • Most banks won't count public assistance or voluntarily child support in determining if you'll qualify for a mortgage.
  • With our program, all steady income counts.

It's a national program (not just NY), sponsored by HUD and participating banks, and there are grants available. If you are even thinking about buying, and make a modest income, it's definitely worth checking out.

link: ACORN Housing

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

20% of the time it works... Every time.

We have been waiting for the right time to buy. When I say it feels like years, it's no exaggeration. Waiting for a combination of the right time, the right price, the planets aligned, a good night at the tables, etc. The prices to buy in the city are insane -- minimum 650k for a no-frills two-bedroom in our neighborhood There isn't anything we could afford with our current salaries, and we've been spoiled by living in this incredible neighborhood. So we wait patiently and watch, like the mighty lion waits to strike his prey. Then, like the mighty lion, we will STRIKE!, signing on the x, in triplicate. And here. There too. And initial here.

Municipal workers for the city of New York (including we teachers) are entitled to some programs for low-cost housing. With two new buildings going up in the neighborhood, I was encouraged by the "20% rule" I'd heard about. The way I understood it, 20% of any new building project was designated for low cost housing for which there would be a lottery. Teachers get 5% of that lottery, and in some cases those already in the neighborhood get 50% (of the 20%). Sounds too good to be true. If you are willing to venture out of your sweet spot (still staying in Manhattan), there are deals to be had. We would benefit if I were more flexible, but I love this neighborhood too much.

It seems that the "Inclusionary Housing Program" is a tax benefit for those building new buildings. Since the apartments in the Linden are selling like hotcakes for millions a-piece, I don't know if they're too concerned over the tax breaks.

Tomorrow we go to an ACORN housing workshop to learn a little more about our options. I intend to dress the part to let them know who they're dealing with. Grrrroar.

Inclusionary Housing Program [from]