Recession Hits the Hard Streets of Brooklyn Heights

OK, we get it.  There’s a recession going on.  Many of our friends have been laid off.  It sucks not to have a job. It sucks even more when that happens during a downturn and those doing any hiring at all or making the big decisions freaking out and making it harder for anyone to dig out of the hole.

That said, shouldn’t this passage from Crain’s New York Business be filed under “Fancy Problems”? Perhaps more to the point, shouldn’t you have been embarrassed before the recession about $2K kids parties and $500 exercise classes for toddlers.

Crain’s New York Business: Stress and the City: That gloom has resulted in shifts in behavior, both sharp and subtle. The city, long high on the boom times when two-bedroom apartments went for $2 million and preschool birthday parties cost $2,000, is rapidly becoming a different place. Natalia Gedanke, a mother of two in Brooklyn Heights, now sees a lot more moms than nannies at pickup at P.S. 8, because the moms have been laid off. When dads appear at the school, everyone wonders if they, too, have been fired, but no one dares to ask.

A new toddlers’ gym, where semester-long programs cost more than $500, recently opened in the neighborhood. But it had to drop its prices because classes weren’t filling up. “A year ago, there would have been lines trying to get their kids into these classes,” Ms. Gedanke says. “Now, even the moms who were the most upscale in the neighborhood are saying, ‘It’s too expensive.’ ”

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  • Amanda Clayman

    Shadenfreude, a no-cost pleasure in the best and worst of times… ;-)

    In the spirit of “can’t we all just get along,” though, I would argue that it’s always easy to judge as frivolous the financial woes of those just up the socioeconomic ladder. Sure $2K for a kids party sounds like a lot to everyone — except those for whom $3K is the norm. Here’s the thing: it sucks for all of us, all human beings, to experience financial distress. One definition of poverty I’ve read is the “discrepancy between perceived necessities and the ability to obtain them.”

  • Matt

    Why does a toddler need to go to a gym? Why does a little kid need to go to a “day spa” (there is one, check out Montague street)? Treat your children like children.

  • joe

    I don’t know about 2K b-day parties but as a parent of two small children living in an 1000 square apartment with neighbors below me and to the side of me, it makes a lot of sense to send my kids to gym class especially in the winter when its too cold for the playground. I’m sure my neighbors are grateful.

    The next thing someone is going to complain about are all these overweight kids in BH.

  • AEB

    But we, Americans, have been for years now drunk on product, whether it be a new condo, the latest ipod, or even a fast food plat du jour.

    Times like these allow one to ask a question hitherto unspoken: do I need it?

    A “condition” of getting older, I find, is the recognition that one requires–and does much better for having–less.

  • Beavis

    I’d like to complain about all the overweight children in BH. Shouldn’t they be going to the gym?

  • ABC

    Parents have been enrolling in mommy and me classes for a generation. You can take a 10-week Music Together class in a local church basement for about $240. You can take any of the semester-long classes (music, gym, dance, etc) for about $440 at New York Kids Club. That’s for about 17 weeks and you get to use the gym during their drop-in times too. I’ve done both over the last couple of years. I’ve met other new parents in these classes and have been thankful for these relationships. My kids have enjoyed them. I don’t really enjoy sitting at the playground for an hour every day in the dead of winter.

    Homer Fink thinks I should be embarrassed by this? Good to know.

  • Andrew Porter

    I went to get take-out at 7pm at Fortune House on Henry Street tonight, the first time I’d eaten Chinese in over a month — yes, I’m cutting back, too, in many small ways — and I noticed the place was mostly empty, only one person was at the counter taking phone orders, of which there seemed to be far fewer, and during the 10 minutes I was there, only one other person came in to order take-out. The death of a thousand cuts, I suspect…

    No BH kids getting fat on Chinese take-away *there*, anyway.

  • E G

    I saw a friend of mine coming out of the bagel store with a cup of coffee instead of his usual Starbucks. It was an awkward moment for both of us. I tried to pretend I didn’t notice but my eyes by default kept gazing down at his coffee cup as did his. I could sense that he felt, Knew, that I was looking down on him. I did everything in my power to distract from my pity and his shame. But alas, between my friend and I, things have never quite been the same.

  • weatherman

    yeah, before we rush to judgement over how people choose to spend their money, let’s just remember – it’s their $ to spend. sure, you can argue some of those hosting lavish b-day parties for the kids are evil bankers who derived unjust profits from all that sub-prime business. but, some of these parents posting about a gym membership for their kids seem pretty reasonable/normal folks to me.

  • Daddy Dearest

    I’m a regular reader of this blog although this is the first time I’m commenting. As the father of a 2 kids under 4, who’s job is hanging by a thread in this economy, I would hate to have to cut back on things like a gym or music class for my kids especially in the winter. We all make our choices regarding the lifestyles that we live. We live in an 1100 sq ft 2 bedroom apartment which feels quite small at times. I’d rather spend some money on my kids development rather than the newest Iphone, GPS or gadget. Outdoor play is not a viable option, especially when it is cold out and the kids need to burn off some energy and learn to interact and socialize with other kids. Also as ABC said, we have met other parents at these classes, that we have become friends with, that live in similar circumstances. As some of the comments here have shown, not everyone has the same POV when it comes to kids and not everyone you meet wants to discuss them.

  • Jazz

    Perhaps the real “sin” here is that actually wealthy people (not anyone posting here!) pretend to be broke during a recession.

  • GHB

    “Why does a toddler need to go to a gym? Why does a little kid need to go to a “day spa” (there is one, check out Montague street)? Treat your children like children.”
    Matt, why do you care? Seriously. Are you paying for it? Jeez!

  • hmmm….

    “Treat your children like children”

    Let them bounce off the walls in a tiny apartment or freeze their butt off outside in a barren playground? Which of these were you going for?

  • my2cents

    Put em to work on the treadle, for their daily gruel, methinks.

  • joe

    “Let them bounce off the walls in a tiny apartment or freeze their butt off outside in a barren playground?”

    or let them play in the common hallways of their building. Something being discussed on the Park slope parent board.

  • bhmom

    In my building the kids are not allowed to play in the common hallways (downstairs neighbors even complain about playing in the apt.)

  • No One Of Consequence

    E G, I can’t tell if you’re trying to be funny or not… either way, I find it humorous.

  • HDEB

    My son and I have great fun playing outside in ALL weather! IMHO outside is ALWAYS better then inside. There is a certain camaraderie when you arrive at the playground at 8am on a Saturday when it is 15 degrees and windy and find another parent and child on the playground. With appropriate clothing the outdoors can be enjoyed during all weather conditions.
    P.S.-Can’t wait to take my son on his first winter camping trip: )

  • bornhere

    HDEB- I heartily agree (although the 8 AM part is just a bit too enthusiastic for me). Unless it was pouring rain, I always ventured out with my little one: snowsuits and such were invented to keep kids warm. And the idea of having one’s children play in hallways strikes me as a very poor idea for everyone involved — parents, kids, neighbors. I don’t know what kinds of building some here live in, but hallways strike me as, well, hallways: narrow-ish, not particularly cheerful or airy, and fraught with “tsking” nonparents or others who, in all truth, need not be subjected to the antics of children. Plus, I don’t know that hallways are necessarily safe. It sounds sort of nuts to me.

  • ABC

    Well we were out today in the cold at Pierrepont Playground and didn’t see y’all. Methinks HDEB may be a weekender and not the caregiver/spouse who trudges out to the playground 2x a day. Outside in bad weather gets old.

  • hickster

    i think it all comes down to the perceived necessities definition of poverty that Amanda provided. If you perceive that a 3k party for a kid is a ncessity, you will feel poor. Just don’t expect those people who cant spend 3k total on 3 kid parties to feel sorry for you.

    I think the upside of this meltdown is perhaps a return to basic, decent values and a less distorted sense of what an acceptable, shoot, even happy reality is. I know it must be tough for some of the families with laid off parents, but I am sure the kids are somewhat enjoying seeing someone their folks for more than 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours at night.

    If poverty is defined by the discrepancy, peace is defined by the silver lining.