“Myths can be comforting,” Ms. Purvis said. “Who wants to believe you can work your whole life and end up not being able to afford food? You want to believe those people had to have had something go wrong with them, in order for them to end up in that place. It’s scary to think you work two jobs and not be able to afford food.”
…From Brooklyn to the Bronx, in churches and community centers, she found a range of food pantries: from well-stocked, efficiently run operations to mom-and-pop outfits where good intentions exceeded capacity. What they had in common was need, with people waiting three hours or more for a bag of basic grocery items. Meat was a treat. In some places, baby formula and diapers were among the necessities handed out. Ms. O’Loughlin said that while most of the places she visited limited people to a monthly allotment, more resourceful people trekked to different pantries around the city. Following them home, she saw scenes where people huddled in building lobbies to trade food items or went upstairs to share with homebound neighbors.
The quote is from Margarette Purvis, the president and chief executive of Food Bank For New York City in Lens, the New York Times’s photography blog, which has images of food lines today. Thanksgiving and the December holidays are the times when donations to food banks and other charities that help the hungry and needy see big increases, and people are hyper aware of the places that are trying to help. It’s a good reminder that these food lines exist year-round. (See also: “How a Food Bank Changed a Community,” an excerpt from Melville House from earlier this year.)
Photo: State Farm
In our super-stratified society, we are used to a certain level of unfairness. If you pay more, you can board a flight first and sit in the increasingly luxurious first class section of the plane while everyone else squeezes into steerage. If you don’t have dollops of dollars, as Josh Michtom notes, there’s probably no hope for you as a consumer, period. But what if you, a middle-class tenant who pays her rent, find yourself living among the super-wealthy because they have invaded your building and then added amenities to which you are not allowed access? Or you’re allowed to live in a fancy-shmantzy new condo, but only if you enter through “the poor door” (!) and stay out of the gym?
In recent years, developers who have earned tax credits by promising to provide affordable housing have built luxury condos with separate entrances and lobbies for the affordable rental units. The so-called “poor door” makes it easier to restrict who gets access to amenities. Last summer, 40 Riverside Boulevard, a luxury condo rising on the Upper West Side, drew criticism for a design in which low-income tenants enter through a separate door and do not share amenities with owners. …
At the Windermere, tenants living in the nearly 140 rent-regulated apartments have been barred from using the new spa with a pool, yoga studio and gym. As part of a $10 million renovation, Stellar Management is also adding a sky lounge, a bar and planters to the roof. Rent-regulated tenants, who pay about $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom, had socialized on the roof for years, but will no longer be allowed to use it when construction is complete.
This brings out my inner banner-waving go-ahead-and-pepper-spray-me revolutionary.
Boulevard du Montparnasse near Rue de Rennes, Paris, France, €600/mo, September-December 2012 After two years of living in dorms designed to be their own sort of “village” that were vaguely reminiscent of Disneyland, I lived in a tiny apartment in Paris for three months with a 60 year old psychoanalyst (a pure Freudian, because, well, she was French). She regularly rented out her apartment to visiting students and was dismayed at my lackluster French skills. I slept in her son’s old bedroom and was given my own bathroom. It wasn’t a bad arrangement, as the apartment was centrally located in Paris and I wasn’t obliged to eat any meals with her. I was awakened regularly at 8 am by screaming French children being dropped off by their parents for appointments. When I asked my host mom her “spécialité,” it all made sense: she treated kids who were “hyperactif.” Hence the early morning wails.
University Drive near Melville Ave, St. Louis, MO, $740/mo (my third) January 2013-May 2014 When I got back to school, I moved into a nightmare of an apartment just across a busy highway from campus. For three months, we endured a nightmarish landlady who would drive by slowly in her white Lexus and drop by unannounced at unexpected times of day using keys she wasn’t supposed to have. While I’d been living abroad, my roommates had gotten extremely sick from the apartment’s mold, the existence of which she denied. We found a similar apartment two buildings down, moved out after finals, and lived on the exact same block with a saner landlord for senior year. The new apartment featured a handyman who was basically our fourth roommate, so often was he there. His name was Bob Obbin. Say it aloud.