At the beginning of the year Ayan and I set a few goals for 2017, the most daunting being moving to Brooklyn. We knew that it was going to be a lot of work but didn't really know how complicated and emotionally exhausting it was going to be.
The first step was to sell our Manhattan apartment. This meant finishing up the final few projects that we had left over from our reno a year ago. Once we got the apartment in ship shape selling the apartment ended up being surprisingly easy thanks to our good friend and amazing realtor, Nicole Flowers. She sold it in a week and slightly above ask. Even with a contract signed, the buyer still has to get board approval from the co-op, secure their mortgage, and then finally coordinate between us and the lawyers to finally close on the sale. Selling a house is one of the most drawn out complicated and expensive processes I've even been a part of.
Finding a Place to Live
We still need to find a new place to live. This is where things start to get emotional and really exhausting. I never realized how much finding the right house is like dating; you go on so many first dates, second dates, even third dates, and then it all falls apart. You may even get to a point where you think you're about to get engaged and then someone else comes along and it's over. Losing a house to a higher bidder is so much more emotional than I could have ever imagined. It really feels like the end of a relationship, where you think about all the good times you had planned ahead and then you think about how those hopes and dreams are now someone else's. The worst part of it all is that you never stop comparing 'the one that got away' with every house you check out.
So Many Bad Dates
And between the good dates that spur dreams of stylish, fun Brooklyn life are some really bad dates. And I mean really really bad. There was the dark, cramped Bushwick home with dozens of caged birds in the foyer, where the current tenants refused to even let us into the kitchen. There was the multi-family home with a basement straight out of a horror movie and a dead cockroach to human ratio of 10 to 1. And the Bedstuy brownstone with a Home Depot renovation and rowdy neighbors.
Our latest contender has made things even tougher. It's a good looking 1890s brick building with an intact cornice on a up-and-coming block with a coffee shop across the street and a subway station a block away. It's also in our budget (at least until we have an inspection) and seems to check off all the things on our list. However, there's a new factor that we didn't seem to come against until we found this house.
My White Guilt
There's a simple reason this house is on budget and checks all the boxes. It's on the frontier of gentrification. It's in a little subsection of Bed-Stuy called Ocean Hill. A predominantly black neighborhood that has been neglected by the city, banks, and business since it became redlined in the 1930s until now. And now Ayan and I, a pair of bougie gay men, one Asian American and the other white, are moving in and kicking out black families. Every time we come to see the house, the tenants inside have to step out, one of them a single mother of six. And the neighborhood doesn't hold back how they feel about our presence, with folks at times openly questioning our presence on their street.
My white guilt and extensive knowledge of the systematic government sanctioned history of racism in New York City makes the house buying experience feel so much more complicated and contentious. But I know that gentrification is bigger than both Ayan and I; if Ayan and I don't go with this house someone else will.
Finding the One
As Brooklyn housing stock becomes more limited, the pressure to make a decision feels more and more pressing whether it's perfect or not. There will always be another house to look at- but just like in dating, sometimes it's hard to know when to get out of a relationship, if there's truly something better out there, or if you've found your perfect match and soulmate. I guess when we find it we'll know. It didn't take me long to know I wanted to marry Ayan, so it must be the same for our future home, right?!