The Mid-Range Gets the Short End of the Stick

“San Antonio makes sense for us, and has given us much that I’m grateful for … but Austin still feels like home.”

Phil pretty much nails my feelings about life these days with that statement, and I don’t particularly like it. The feeling, I mean.

For me, where we are in the Bronx right now “makes sense for us.” Financially, at least. In a really skewed sorta way.

On a genetic level, being born and raised in NY spoils you for anywhere else. Makes you predisposed to accepting the ridiculously high cost-of-living; the hyper-competitive job market; the ever-increasing gap between the haves and have-nots, and the reality that for many people, falling into that gap is as simple as a single financial setback.

Because, you know, NY is the greatest city in the world!


Dana posted an article last week, Big bucks or lofty lifestyle?, that had an interesting analysis on the correlation, or lack thereof, between salaries and cost-of-living.

Cost of living rankings for cities do not necessarily mirror their pay scales.

For example, on the Mercer 2004 Cost of Living survey, New York City was the most expensive city in the United States, but it ranked third in pay.

Miami is the sixth-most expensive city in the country, but it ranked twenty-sixth in pay. Other pricey cities include Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and White Plains, New York.

What was most interesting was the “quality of life” rankings, though, measuring things like school quality, climate and crime rate. NY ranked third on that list, behind Honolulu and San Francisco!

Statistics are malleable, and in many cases, subjective, so I take this with a grain of salt. Among other things, NY’s “quality of life” rankings are generally skewed by the extreme amount of cultural activities available here and the sprawling, if frequently inefficient, public transportation system – neither of which ultimately matters if it lacks that feeling of home.

School quality, in particular, is something we’re now having to deal with as Isaac will be entering Kindergarten next year. As a product of public schools, for better and worse, I abhor private schools the same way I despise people that abandon declining neighborhoods instead of contributing to their betterment1, and have zero interest in parochial schools.

Beyond meta-issues like what happens between 3pm, when he’d get out of school, and 6pm, when we currently get home, there’s the sad fact that most NYC public schools are…troubled. While I believe many of Bloomberg’s efforts will pay dividends in the near-future, and quite possibly get him re-elected, it seems like the best schools are either in the best neighborhoods, duh, or the worst ones.

As is typical in this country, the mid-range, like our neighborhood, gets the short end of the stick.

For all the feeling of home I get from living back in the Bronx, there’s something missing. Something significant and growing with each passing month. Part of it is the realization that we can’t live there forever. Especially if we decide to buy a house. It’s just too damn expensive and the sacrifices would be too great. Moving back to Hudson County, NJ is a more likely option, for the school system more than financial reasons, but that would come with its own emotional baggage and feel even more like a “makes sense” choice.

The thought of leaving NY completely, again, is still tainted by our Virginia experience, despite all of its legitimate disclaimers.

So what to do?

When I put in preferences for each of their criteria, Sperling’s Best Places suggests Long Island of all places, most likely benefitting from its proximity to NYC while lacking some of its baggage. When I narrowed things down to Economy, Housing, Education, Recreation, and Arts, LI dropped to 2nd place, behind Boston, and interestingly, NYC jumped from 25th to 15th. Dumping the Arts dropped LI to 6th place and lifted Seattle to the top of the list, while NYC, not surprisingly, fell out of the top 50. Forgoing Recreation finally shook things up completely, offering as unlikely a list of possible destinations as I could imagine:

1 Casper, WY

2 Cheyenne, WY

3 Jackson, TN

4 Bryan-College Station, TX

5 Knoxville, TN

6 Naples, FL

7 Columbia, MO

8 Nashville, TN

9 Baton Rouge, LA

10 Sioux Falls, SD

Besides Nashville and Baton Rouge, neither of which are legitimate options, I’ve never been to any of these places. Have you? Drop me a comment if so and let me know what you think. Keep in mind the wife and kids.

1This, of course, is not a blanket statement. Risking your child getting shot in broad daylight is not worth the possibility that your involvement on a community board might ultimately make a difference. It’s a tough decision to make. My issue is with those in borderline neighborhoods who simply believe the grass is greener on the other side and focus all of their efforts on climbing over the fence.


4 thoughts on “The Mid-Range Gets the Short End of the Stick

  1. I can say, with reasonable certainty, that you would not like life in Wyoming.

    Unless you’ve suddenly become a rodeo-watching Toby Keith fan.

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