What is middle class income in NYC

Are They Dying Out?

“Manhattan has serious affordability problems,” said Mr. Braconi, the economist. In the last decade, the percentage of people who are paying “unaffordable rents” (defined as more than 30 percent of their income) has increased significantly, according to a report issued in September by the city’s comptroller.

If that trend continues, it will feed the perennial panic that Manhattan’s middle class is on the brink of extinction, no longer able to cope with the city’s prices and fast retreating to its natural habitat, the suburbs.

It is true that the middle class here is smaller than anywhere else in the country. It is true that price pressures from both real estate and the cost of living are not slowing down anytime soon. But it is also true that calamity has been forecast for over a century now.

“Soon, there will be no New Yorkers,” proclaimed the Sunday magazine of The New York Times in 1907, in an article that detailed how families making $1,000 to $3,000 a year — $24,000 to $72,000 a year in today’s dollars — were being pushed out because of increasing rents, and servants’ wages, as well as the crushing cost of ice and coal. Adjusted for inflation, laundry alone for a family cost $115 a week. A pound of chicken? $8.08. Rent, on the other hand, for a “small, middle-class flat in a decent, but unfashionable locality,” would seem to be a bargain in today’s market, at the price of $272 per room per month.

In 1968, New York magazine documented the mad scramble for affordable apartments in a cover article detailing the extreme lengths to which average people went to secure one. “Surgeons have postponed operations, housewives have gone back to work, hippies have cut their hair and families have destroyed their pets,” the magazine reported. “Little hope is held out for the middle-income ($15-20,000 a year) people, career girls who do not want roommates and couples with more than one drawer-sized infant.” Brownstones that had sold for $125,000 in 1958, according to the article, were selling 10 years later for twice that much (in today’s dollars, a jump from $827,000 to $1.65 million).

Reports of the middle class’s demise also appeared in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2009, when The New York Observer chimed in with “City to Middle Class: Just Not That Into You.”

But members of the middle class remain, scattered among the elite and the growing numbers of the working poor, in that place where lucky deals and tiny kitchens converge, wondering, just as they did in 1910 and 1968, how long they’ll be able to stay put.

Ms. Azeez in TriBeCa is pondering the question. The only young people she sees moving in around her are often buoyed by parental support, given an apartment at graduation the way she was given a Seiko watch. As her own friends and neighbors age or die out, she wonders, “who is going to take our place?”