Sunday, September 16, 2007

considering motherhood, new york, and being environmentally responsible (but not neurotic)

Here's one for the personal files... having just gotten married last year at city hall and our church wedding this past summer, we're talking through starting a family. So, here's the things we are mulling over, most of which I'm concerned with: money and space, location, health and environmental quality of life, and noise.

Space: Simply put, we're going to have to move. We live in a studio in the East Village and if we bring another person (or any single thing more) into this apartment we're going to lose our minds. We need more space. We need more space where there is a door that we can close to a bedroom. We have two doors now, the one into the apartment and the one into the bathroom. If our family expands, we really want to have another door. And that brings me to the next point.

Money: We have no cash for a downpayment on anything. The economic and market conditions are not good for people in our financial position to buy something anyway. Interest rates are too high for us to be able to keep up with, and as I said we don't have any cash anyway. Prices in new york are so high right now and vacancy levels in Manhattan are around .5% to .8% That means almost nothing is available and it's all expensive. Every new construction/development is luxury in our neighborhood. And the few environmentally-responsibly architected buildings in the city are so completely out of our price range its frustrating. So we want to move into a place that has enough space, only one of our paychecks can afford (in case i decide i want to raise my own child for the first years of his/her life (blasphemy!), and dammit I want to keep shopping at Whole Foods in Union Square and the farmer's markets. I have such a love affair with Whole Foods (The layout, the products, the design, the food, the principles/beliefs, the wind power supply, etc). I actually think about how it's more expensive (sometimes) to do all my shopping at Whole Foods vs. how happy it makes me and so I secretly make that a requirement when pricing apartments. In fact, I've decided that becuase I believe so strongly in not using chlorine to bleach toilet paper, paper towels, flour (baking/cooking), paper products of any kind -- that I simply can NOT buy normal/cheaper toilet paper.

I must have Seventh Generation toilet paper and paper towels. I believe in the research they've done to prove the eco-value of their products. I must have ecover or Seventh Gen dish washing liquid. I must use 100% post-consumer, non-chlorine paper for my printer. I must be able to have all the extra money (even if it's not THAT much more) to keep these things in my life because I believe it is better. There isn't anything -- except reliable and credible research over a period of at least 5-10 years -- is going to sway me otherwise. And I must be able to have wind-powered energy supply from ConEd or another energy company. Now that I have it, I don't want to go back.

I'm not even going to buy my children baby food, organic or processed. They're getting fresh veg and fruits, and I'll mash them up in a food processor or by hand. I loath sugar derivatives in food. I'm known to buy plenty of products for my husband (like pop tarts) that are probably slowly poisoning his body -- but that's my personal line between being responsible and being neurotic. Sometimes the joy that something brings is okay in my mind vs. the environmental or social impact. Luckily, Pop Tarts aren't cigarettes. Don't even get me started on that in my home. I can't and don't want to control other people's personal habits, just don't come in my home with that one.

So where was I?

Location: I want to stay in New York City. Be that in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens (the Bronx and Staten Island aren't our thing). I spent most of my life in New Jersey and I'm not going back unless there is no alternative. I crossed the river, I'll go visit my family, I'm not living there... unless we start thinking about public school systems and then I'm likely to begrudgingly go back. I'd love to stay in our neighborhood, anywhere between West and East villages. And of course with all the luxury developments going on what's a couple (who needs to spend less than they make so they can save up to own something one day) to do? We've decided we're not going to spend as much as we can afford, otherwise we never get out of the renting race. I know we'll end up somewhere far away (subway-wise) from where we are now. I'll miss having Minca across the street (eco-friendly or not I LOVE MINCA. Ramen noodles rock my world!). I'll miss my favorite NYC pizza and fresh pasta at Luzzo, which is a few blocks away. There are 6 movie theaters within walking distance of our apartment, and Union Square a short bus ride (or 20 minute walk) away.

I'm a downtown girl. I sometimes wish I could plead with the NYC gods to make it 'not so.' Alas it is, and if I'm going to be someone's mom I should at least be a good one. And by good, I think that means making family most important. I'm working on figuring out a way to make ramen noodles and a healthy baby live on the same block. Is that asking too much? Do I sound too much like someone who has never had a child? Probably, but that's who I am now.

I'm going to jump ahead to noise now...

Noise: Anyone familiar with the East Village, or Manhattan, will be thinking: how can noise be something you care so much about -- you live in one of the nosiest-at-night places. True. I did score my studio on a street that is one-way, with a school on one side and low-income housing on the other. So the street doesn't have traffic that goes through. Our street is, therefore, a lot quieter than others above and below us. There are 3 bars and any drunk person who has ever walked past our building and spoken, yelled, sang, barfed, yodeled, became violent, had a fight, or did anything louder than a normal-office speaking voice. I heard you. You woke me up, and I half-asleep plotted violent ways to end you. My favorite are the car alarms.

Let me tell you car owners who park on the street overnight this: (a) if your car alarm goes off no one will call the police for you, mostly it's someone too drunk to stand up who set it off or a garbage truck going by in the morning, and (b) be in a place that is near enough so you can turn it off. The most torturous night of sleep I've had due to a car alarm was the night someone's was parked in front of my apartment building, it went off for 28 seconds every hour. I know this because it went off every hour and I could count it. I plotted so much violence against this person that when they appeared in the morning I considered throwing things at her. My neighbor across the street must have been equally livid since he came out of the building, yelling at her and telling her what her car was going all night. She told him to f-bomb off and he was a lying gay man. Insert your own derogatives and curses as she did. See? Not nice AND no one cared to steal her car, we just wanted it to stop making noise.

Otherwise, we're really lucky. My building is by-and-large quite. My neighbor likes to play his electric guitar badly but will stop around 10pm. Sometimes it's until 11pm, but whatever.

I guess I really am part of gentrified East Village life. I should probably not have the audacity to look for quite in this place. I do. I will. It's how people think, and I do a lot of that.

So in terms of moving, we're never going to live near Times Square, Columbus Circle, any of the tunnels, or anywhere on Broadway.

This brings me to quality of life...

Quality of life (environmental and health): Unless you have no other choice or the activity and noise makes you happy, I find it hard to stomach the idea of living (especially street-view) on a major through-way in the city. I love that so many of the busses along the UES or UWS are electric-powered. Quieter, less CO2 emissions, and lower to the ground so you don't have to jump up to get on there (I'm a bit short) and they don't have to make that noise when the bus lowers and raises by air-power. I don't particularly love the UES or UWS, but again I'm a downtown girl. I love vising up there, but it doesn't strike me as a place I want to spend so much of my time. (I work in midtown and I can assure you it's not a place I want to spend so much of my time. I did, however, discover a great new-to-me lunch spot called Kafi Roll on 39th Street at 6th Ave (a little in on 39th from the northeast corner, orange flag sign) Excellent roti filled with veg or non-veg. Like an Indian 'burrito'.)

Back to the point. I would rather live on the back-facing part of a building (especially if there was grass or a tree or two behind it) than street-side. I'm done with hearing every drunken conversation from the 2nd floor here. I also have a lot of allergies, or reactions like allergies, which is just exacerbated by living in a city. (We went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to do some consulting work for a month and I felt great. We came back and I realized how polluted cities are, even the 'cleaner' ones.)

And yet we both want to stay in New York City for now, so we will.

Stay tuned for the wearing down of all of my 'wants' into a single 'need' and how this all pans out...

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