As I walked past the Apple store on Fifth Avenue Friday, I found myself blocked by a string of young 20-something male success stories. Rather than weave my way around the hedge fund manager set in their Hickey Freeman casual wear, I took the opportunity to listen to their banter. "I'm going to buy downtown, yeah soon, I'm going to buy..." His two friends jumped in -- "Really?! After Sandy, who'd make that investment, yo?" And of course they were right...
My mother's sentiments on real estate hovered around me as flashes of earlier pictures of cars submersed like bathtub water toys in the East Village swam around my head. "Location, location, location!" She used to quip when I threatened to buy an apartment with river views downtown by the Hudson. Yes, she has always lived between 55th and 100th streets in the middle avenues, out of flood zones, always lived no higher than the fifth floor in case of fire, always had inward facing windows in a section of her apartment in the building. She had of course also lived through World War II in England. She had a sense that real things happen, disasters happen to good people. She believed in renting by the water and buying inland with the greatest water feature being a small pond away from the basement.
Last weekend I was living in her former apartment and I was grateful I had power. I had electricity. I was almost ashamed of the ease in which life moved on around my 20 block radius on the Upper East Side. We had every home comfort and Equinox was on fire with human physical traffic off loading stress. We were plowing out news updates and stories for nynatives.com for an audience who didn't have television but sometimes had Internet and Twitter. I was grateful to host some evacuees -- a small gesture in this crisis, but it was something.
My concerns that these disasters might become the norm were reconfirmed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's comment in a NY Times article that week: "For us to sit here today and say this is a once-in-a-generation and it's not going to happen again, I think, would be shortsighted," he said. "I think we need to anticipate more of these extreme-weather-type situations in the future, and we have to take that into consideration in reforming, modifying, our infrastructure."
Later that Friday, the power was still out downtown. While people were freezing and at end of their sanity below 39th street, a celebratory dinner of 30-somethings on the Upper East Side went forward as planned at Maya.
The birthday girl who had been hunting for New York apartments to buy in East Harlem and on the Upper West Side lamented her new real estate fate after Sandy, "Now everyone will want to be up here. The prices are going to go even more through the roof!"
My Facebook feed was already flooded with messages from dowtowners looking for rentals and sublets uptown while their homes, schools and infrastructure dried out and were rebuilt. So, I mostly nodded in agreement and sent the birthday girl packing on Sunday to an open house uptown to close on a place that was infrastructure ready and out of storms' way for now.
Would you buy downtown now?