The Best That You Can Do Is Walk Away.

It’s pouring in NYC. I haven’t seen rain like this in years. And of course the city is falling apart. Streets are underwater. The LIRR, Metro North, some of the subways (D, F, E to name a few), and all the major airports are barely functioning. The BQE is flooded. The Long Island Express is flooded. The FDR is flooded. The Cross Island Parkway is flooded. I should probably try and mention what roads aren’t flooded because the list seems to get longer by the minute.

We saw rain, world. Rain. And things are failing miserably. I can’t even begin to imagine what would happen to this city should we ever see a hurricane. We’d lose countless people, I’m sure. And public transportation would be destroyed. It’d be complete and total chaos. And I wish I were joking.

I’ve had a tough time with New York City as of late. Yesterday, I tried to get a new social security card at a branch close to my house. The Web site didn’t mention anything about NOT being able to get a new card at that specific branch so I went. I stood in line for almost an hour only to be told I had to go to the ghetto (yes, it’s in the ghetto) to get a new card. There’s no subway near that particular office and finding parking on (or near) Flatbush Avenue is like trying to find an honest politician in America’s current political arena. Looks like I won’t have a new social security card anytime soon.

Today is one of those days where I’m honestly questioning why anyone would want to live here, including myself. I’m frustrated and pregnant, it’s true, but the amount of work that goes into living here far outweighs the amount the city gives back. Granted, I guess I could get out more, see more exhibits, visit more art shows, see more films, but I don’t. I don’t because it takes so much work to get the basics taken care of (registering a car, getting a license, buying a week’s worth of groceries, finding Pedialyte Popsicles, living) I’m exhausted by the time it’s over.

Our cable, which we spend a bloody fortune on, doesn’t work. We’ve called. They’ve promised. It still doesn’t work. And our Internet access drops constantly. I have no idea what we’re paying for.

My mother donated a car to us recently. It’s in near perfect condition. It’s been with us for three weeks and its bumpers have already been torn to pieces because people can’t seem to parallel park or they just don’t give a damn about what other people own.

The other night at 4 AM a Daily News delivery truck driver decided that he could not wait a couple of minutes for someone to pay off a cab driver and instead laid on the horn for minutes on end. The noise was so loud and intrusive and right outside our window. (In fact, the guy paying off the cab lives on the second floor of our apartment building.) The driver may have been up at that hour and working, but the rest of us were trying to sleep. I actually laughed about the interaction. I had to laugh, crying at 4 AM was far too depressing an option. (Why am I not surprised it was a Daily News driver and not the New York Times?)

A few weeks ago, an online commenter on a very large New York Based Web site suggested that couples that stay in the city after they have children are selfish. The commenter suggested that no child should have to be raised in a city like this one – without a backyard, healthy air quality, or a safe place to run around. As expected the person was blasted for what they said but he (or she) never once backed down. The commenter insisted it was selfish and that anyone who was indeed a parent and disagreed with what he wrote was in denial and merely trying to justify their actions. I stayed out of it, chose to lurk instead. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what the commenter wrote.

Is there something selfish about raising a child in a place like New York City? Because on days like today I feel a little conflicted.

BREAKING NEWS: Reiterating my point about the infrastructure and this city...


  1. i hear ya sister. we live in a town that is two square miles and is surrounded by detroit. we’ve had our house up for sale for two years and no bites. it’s so frustrating because all i want to do is live in the suburbs and have convenience while others who live here, because it’s the arty thing to do, think we’re sell outs for wanting to leave the city. you can’t win either way. what’s important is what’s best for your kids.

    sigh you sound about as stressed out as i do lately. hang in there.


  2. “you can’t win either way.”

    of course you can! the trick is looking the folks calling you a sell-out in the eye and tell them to FUCK OFF.

    if other folks are so threatened by you leaving that they act up, they’re obviously aware of the questionable nature of their decision to stay.


  3. if other folks are so threatened by you leaving that they act up, they’re obviously aware of the questionable nature of their decision to stay.

    Never a truer statement seen on


  4. Autumn- I sure hope you weren’t referring to me and J because you know we don’t live in Hamtramck because it’s “arty.” We live there because he inherited his grandma’s house and it just happens to be in Hamtramck. We also don’t have kids or need to think about right now though. ;)

    I think people choose places like Hamtramck and other cities similar because it is afforable and rich in diversity. Not that the suburbs aren’t. It’s just that usually people gravitate to these places before they have had children and then have to reevaluate their situation afterward.


  5. Me being me, I don’t think I could ever live in a big city… let alone NEW YORK! Yikes. The idea even scares me.

    I don’t know if it’s selfish or not, because I’ve never experienced New York and I don’t feel like I can really comment.

    All I know is that I will choose to raise my children with excessive amounts of outdoor time. As a kid I spent as much time outdoors as I could, surrounded by trees, grass and my friends. I can’t think of a more amazing childhood… one where kids can just create things out of their surroundings.

    You need to do what you need to do. Forget everyone else. Your kids (or kid!) are your kids and you need to raise them where you need to raise them. It simple, right??

    Some people choose to raise their kids with a bottle of antibacterial hand cleanser in their hands. Mine? They will be rolled in the dirt.


  6. Yeah, it’s crazy how back and forth one can go when a child is involved. My b-friend and I go back and forth on the idea of raising a kid in the city. Often we talk about having two homes (since our current is already paid for) one in the city and one in the burbs. I often say we can make our current Hamtramck home our “vacation” home. Ha! Ha! That way we can get the best of both worlds. ;)

    Unfortunately neither one of us is making enough money to get a house in the suburbs….so we’ll probably be in the city for a while. Whether a baby comes before we leave or not. We’re definitely not sending him/her to school in our current city.

    You gotta do what you gotta do. Indeed.


  7. Glad you guys are safe and sound.


  8. Is there a universal right way to raise a child? I think we all could agree that the answer is ‘no’.

    That said, I find myself constantly surprised and delisghted to see what this city has to offer, things I could have never dreamed of having an opportunity to take part in when I was a kid and, as an adult, wish desperately that such things were available to me or my brother. One example that leaps to mind is the group of kids I saw on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art sketching Frank Stella sculptures.

    My unsolicited opinion, one that I will adhere to until I die, is that children are not exposed enough to the arts, given meaningful ways to explore their creativity, and, ultimately, learning to trust their bodies and their ideas. While living in New york city is certainly not a prerequisite for that, neither is having a backyard.

    What I’m saying is, there are those who treasure what this city has to offer its residents just as much as you seem to shun it. And those who choose to raise a child here, in general, have no less legitimate reason for staying as the reasons of those who choose to leave.


  9. Heh, Missy, I told Toby last night that I’d bet him money you’d have a comment to leave for this post.


  10. But I do take a bit offense to this statement:

    What I’m saying is, there are those who treasure what this city has to offer its residents just as much as you seem to shun it.

    Just because I have days where this city frustrates the hell out of me doesn’t mean I “shun” it or am unaware of what it has to offer its residents. That statement a bit unfair and I want to make it clear how incorrect you are.


  11. I imagine when we get out, we won’t be going too far (for a while, at least). So our monkey (and myself) will be able to lazily lay in a backyard that doesn’t ooze oil-spill poison AND hop on a train and be at any museum, game, show, movie, or awesome restaurant within an hour. Sticking around Brooklyn, we actually limit the options for some additional important things: wandering in the woods, breathing without fear of environmental asthma, eating dirt and not having to follow it up with chemo, backyard BBQs, gardening, tree climbing, lightning bug make-up, and safer bike riding (among so many others).

    Most everything cool is available to commuters, but it doesn’t go both ways, unfortunately.


  12. I would totally raise a kid in the city, but the main setback I think for many people-including myself– is financial. I agree with Missy about the necessity for exposure to high quality arts and culture. In addition, exposure to the diversity that can be found in a city is vital.

    However, as much as I support public education, I would be hesitant to place my child in most of my city’s public schools and good lefty quaker schools are damn expensive. While I don’t feel a need to move to the suburbs, I would want to move to a safer neighborhood than where I am now, which is also more expensive.

    I think mihow may be strugging with these issues as well as just general urban annoyances.


  13. oops – I was not crossing out “including myself”! A typo. I’m broke! [perhaps that is a sign that cash is coming my way…maybe I should play the lottery.]


  14. ;[[[[[[[[[p (Murray typed that)

    Nico, you’re right, I am frustrated that with the issues you mentioned above. I’m frustrated that there’s even a waiting list for the decent public schools here in brooklyn. I’m frustrated with the fact that we make decent money and still can’t afford to stay here and raise a child unless I go back to work right away and (I have admitted to this before, I am old fashioned and would like to raise him for the first few years of his life). I’m frustrated that we’re sitting on the largest oil spill in US history. That’s where the selfish bit comes in, for me, that’s where I can agree to some degree, about what that commenter stated. How can I knowingly raise a child in a neighborhood where the following can be said of the neighborhood’s air quality?

    “and in some parts you’ll find benzene vapor, a known carcinogen, at concentrations as high as 1,560 parts per million. That’s more than 100 times the short-term (fifteen-minute) exposure limits set by OSHA for industrial workers”

    (Taken from This article.)

    Sure, this city is filled with more art than any other place on earth, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to see that happen for a single-income household here in New York.

    I’m about to explode with child. My thoughts have changed DRASTICALLY over the last 9 months. I am no longer making decisions on what I want or Toby may want. I’m thinking about the life I’m about to be in charge of. That’s the source of my frustration. I want the best of both worlds. I want to be able to give him a safe place to play and all the benefits the city has to offer.


  15. Did murray just give us a raspberry? well, I never!


  16. He winked at us, too. See what happens when you raise children and cats in Brooklyn? They end up creative and independent, sure, but they show you NO RESPECT! NONE!


  17. yeah – frickin city kids are smartasses. watch yourself young blood! don’t you make me come up there!


  18. all i know is that i do live in a weird, dysfunctional city and in my neighborhood there are hundreds of kids that play and go to school and ride bikes and pray at the mosque. sure, we have our share of drug dealers and gun fire and people dump trash in the alleys, but i figure if we raise our kids muslim and liberal on halal meat then they’ll be just fine… right?


  19. Halal meat!

    Ain’t no Halal meat, girl. Ain’t no halal meat girl!

    Wow, that’s never going to leave my head.

    Gina, aren’t there a plethora of Pierogies in your hood? Can’t you raise them muslim and feed them Pierogies?


  20. Hey there. I have days I feel like that myself. Then I go hang out with my peeps who live elsewhere and I think, Well……

    Anyway, first about the raising-the-kid question. This is kind of an American question, in a way. As you know my wife grew up in urban Italy, and if you think New York’s air quality is bad, I recommend a week in Turin. Or Milan. Or even Rome. The air is, like, 30% soot. Can’t speak for the rest of Yurp; it prolly depends how close you are to coastal breezes. (Turin & Milan are waaaayyy inland.) Point being, there are kids raised in cities all over the world (Paris, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Mumbai, Sao Paolo, etc), most with worse water, air, and sewage quality than NYC’s. They come out OK. OK, sometimes they don’t come out OK. But sometimes kids in the ‘burbs don’t come out OK either. There are good things about growing up urban and bad things about growing up urban. America is one of the few places where suburban culture is well-developed (in Italy, for example, there aren’t suburbs as such; there’s the city and then there’s the country, more or less. There are towns, yes, but they’re pretty much like mini cities, with apartment buildings and such; the suburbs as we understand them don’t really exist). So our perceptions about this binary are unusual, human-historically-speaking.

    Which is no reason you shouldn’t do what you gotta do.

    I speak as one who grew up in the ‘burbs, and I will tell you that it is extremely unlikely that, should my wife & I bear offspring, we will raise them in anything other than a crowded, difficult urban environment. As I say, my wife grew up in such an environment; and I wish I had grown up in such an environment. I didn’t. I grew up in the ‘burbs. The comfortable, minor-town, middle-class ‘burbs. I will not deny it was easier. But I do not ever wish to go back, and I do not ever wish to inflict such an environment on my (as yet imaginary) kids. I know I am an NYC fanboy, but at the same time I regret not having that kind of crucible for my upbringing. Comfort is not necessarily a help for youngsters. Challenge just might be a good thing. At the end of the day I am a Darwinian, I guess. Talent needs opposition. Comfort is deadening. My adolescent world was just a little too easy. Had it pressed me further, I might have had to work harder to earn my successes when I was young, instead of having them come easily. And that might have set me up better for adulthood. That’s a highly personal take on the situation, I recognize. But then so are they all.

    As for “selfish,” this is perhaps the most debatable part of your quotation. My belief – and it’s an honest one, based on experience; you can call me wrong but you can’t say I don’t know a little something about what I’m saying – is that I would actually be doing my kids a favor by raising them in an urban environment. I’d be doing them, in my mind, a disservice by raising them elsewhere. (I can elaborate on that, but it’s better done in person; again, it’s based on experience, and close experience at that.) Yes, some things would be easier – but frankly many of those things would be for me. It’s easier to parent in the suburbs, in certain senses. It’s cheaper. It’s more convenient, if you’re willing and able to drive. (And I would point out that building your life around the car – an inevitability in any non-urban environment in America – is not exactly unselfish, globally speaking.) But those benefits largely accrue to me, as a parent, and are invisible if not meaningless to my kid(s). The benefits of backyards are debatable, IMO. Kids worldwide do fine without them (see above – my wife played on the highly urban grounds of her condo building as a kid; even an NYC street might strike you as more “green” than that). And as for schools, you’re just as likely to find a bad one in the ‘burbs as you are in the city. (South Bronx, meet suburban Mississippi, or North Carolina, or Maine.) In the US, not matter where you go, money equals quality; lack of money means you’re screwed.

    BTW to live in NYC is to be, de facto, far more environmentally efficient than your average suburban dweller, BTW—to be more reliant on public transit, to save energy by “sharing” heat with your fellow building dwellers, to walk far more each day than the average American. Is that not of benefit to future generations? What, exactly, is the meaning of “selfish,” after all?


  21. Wow. Well said Brad.


  22. this might be the theme song for this post:,,3997791-8350073-WMLO,00.html

    follow your heart and your instincts!


  23. Can’t you raise them muslim and feed them Pierogies?

    i am now on the lookout for Halal pierogies. Will keep you posted! there is a Halal pizza and burger stand that just opened down the street. Have not tried it yet, but it’s just a matter of time…


  24. I need to reiterate that it wasn’t ME who said it was selfish. I was repeating what someone else said. I did think about their comment, probably because of the frustrations I have had recently, but that doesn’t mean I agree with him/her.

    To be perfectly honest, I’d love to be able to find a small rural home within an hour of the city. I’d love to have a massive garden, some chickens and be near water (lake, stream, whatever). I want rural, not necessarily suburban.

    But that’s just me. I am not saying one is better than the other. i am saying that I was happiest in a more rural setting where I can hike, fish, and catch fireflies sometimes.

    To each their own, eh? The city is awesome, but I love me some fresh mountain air.


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