Coffee Thoughts: On Real Estate from Third Rail on Sullivan

Sullivan Street, Greenwich Village

(I’m starting the coffee thoughts series as a way to switch up between reviews.)

The Third Rail Coffee on Sullivan Street in the Village is simply par. It lacks everything that would merit a good review. No wi-fi. No plugs. No bathrooms. So, instead of rating it a three and weighing it down with a review as bitter as their coffee, today I’m thinking and writing on New York real estate.

I’ve lived here about four years, and right now I’m on a sub-lease in Harlem until July. As I look around the village, I know that it’s not worth my wages. In the 70’s, Greenwich Village was an area for starving artists and now it’s a place for working moms and dads.

And of course, as the world population grows and the New York City dream becomes more and more coveted, more people will move to Manhattan into $2100/month shoe boxes and efficiencies. And my more savvy friends will more to Harlem, like me, or to Brooklyn.

We will steady the blood flow to and from the heart of midtown.

And, the ivy-educated will be so consumed with their 70k salaries that they’ll forget that mothers and fathers are also the people making their macchiatos or green juices. Wage gaps are sticky.

Today, on the C train I saw a sign from Governor Cuomo’s office that said “If you think you’re not being paid the proper wage, then call this number.” And I thought to myself, what if we calculated minimum wage based on need? So the bare minimum living wage could be paid to a mother providing for two children, or a living wage paid to a 19-year-old with no other commitments. Hiring, of course would be need blind and participatory businesses would be given government benefits. Maybe that won’t work or maybe that’s too socialist to be a palpable option, but at least I’m asking the questions.

I’m no Cuomo or de Blasio or Morgan Stanley Gucci-clad investor, and I didn’t study Econ. I studied politics and ethical philosophy. But real estate here in New York reflects money issues and population issues. And, as I do know politics on a very real level, I know that politicians are more reactionary than proactive. I also know that capitalism is unsustainable. 

There’s a great book by Harvard’s Fred Hirsch called Social Limits to Growth, I’ll link it here. It’s pricey because it’s out of print, but it really reasonably and calmly explains the social scarcity of goods in terms of desire and need.

It’s worth reading.

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— Fred Hirsch, Social Limits to Growth

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