$300K Too Little for NYC Family?

Feb 29, 2012 1:40pm
ht andrew schiff tk 120229 wblog $300K Too Little for NYC Family?

(Image credit: Courtesy Euro Pacific Capital Inc.)

With lower bonuses this year, even those in the finance sector are feeling the pinch from the expensive living costs of New York City. Bloomberg News set tongues wagging today with a story about rich New Yorkers whining about their shrinking bonuses and high expenses.

Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York, said in the story, ”People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” and “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

Also featured in the story was Andrew Schiff, marketing and communications director for Euro Pacific Capital Inc., a broker-dealer.  He told ABC News the story has provoked a lot of comments but he’s not looking for sympathy. His point is that it’s “difficult” even with his $350,000 salary to live in New York with a family.

“I realize that I am privileged and I make a lot of money. I totally understand that,” he said. “It’s my choice. I could leave New York, but I choose not to. ”

Schiff and other working professionals, mostly in the finance sector, told Bloomberg News about the challenges of living in expensive New York City, even making hundreds of thousands of dollars or more a year. Some have tempered their expectations of high-living amid lower Wall Street bonuses this year, which decreased compensation by 25 percent at some firms.

“The city is priced as though Wall Street was enjoying a boom, but it’s not,” Schiff said.

Mark Levenfus, managing partner of  Marks Paneth & Shron, Dlugash’s company, said the firm “understands that these are difficult economic times for everyone and every community, not just some of our clients, but also their colleagues, employees, former employees, as well as many of our own stakeholders and their families and friends. We empathize and are committed to finding solutions for everyone we serve.”

Schiff said his family of four are “crammed into 1,200 square feet. I don’t have a dishwasher. We do all our dishes by hand.”

His family rents the lower duplex of a brownstone home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, in which his two children, ages 10 and 7, share a room. His daughter attends Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn at $32,000-a-year, and his son will apply in a few years.

He said he would ideally like 1,800 square feet so “a room for each kid, three bedrooms, maybe four.”

“I’m not complaining about my salary or my lifestyle,” he told ABC News.  ”A lot of people would be pretty shocked to see how I live, which is not elaborate by any stretch of the imagination.”

While U.S. home prices ended 2011 at the lowest levels since mid-2006, the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed on Tuesday, Schiff said many real estate prices in neighborhoods of New York City continue to rise. The index showed home prices in New York City fell 1.2 percent from November to December, compared to a 3.8 percent drop nationally, and 2.9 percent for the year through 2011 in New York City, compared to a 4 percent fall in the U.S.

Schiff points out that he does have a washing machine but does not have a microwave, nor has he ever flown first class.

In response to the Bloomberg story, readers from Gawker criticized the interviewees saying, “It’s ok for you folks whose dishes are porcelain, or even plastic: until you’ve had to hand wash an entire solid gold dinner set you don’t know stress or real exhaustion.”

Others sympathized with Schiff, pointing out that having an apartment dishwasher in New York City is a “luxury.”

Schiff said he has read some of the critical comments to the story.

“The story came out like a “poor rich guys” story, but I’m not complaining. I’m just saying it’s shocking to see how much money you need to have to live in New York the way I thought you were supposed to live, growing up,” Schiff said.  ”I grew up in New York and saw how my parents’ generation lived. In order to get those things now, you have to have half a million or more, or maybe a million.”

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