Their Artistic Ambitions Are So Big, New York–Based Twentysomethings Have No Space

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Writer Tao Lin has to live in his fridge. Photo: NYM

The Times takes a look at a sampling of New York–based twentysomethings living in New York City today. That appears to be the entire premise of the story, though it just so happens that they all live for cheap in small apartments. But what do they really have in common? Ambition. A passion for the arts. Cuteness. And melancholy coupled with a vague sense of optimism. There's a lot of 'em, according to the Times: "New York City was home to nearly 1.28 million people in their 20s last year, up from 1.21 million in 1980." And their homes are smaller than ever: "Battered by the one-two punch of persistent unemployment and the city’s high housing costs, they are squeezing into ever smaller spaces and living in neighborhoods once considered dicey and remote," the paper reports, as if this is sudden. Stefan Rurak, a 26-year-old furniture-maker in Greenpoint, explains: "I came to New York after college. I never planned on staying this long, but I did various things. It's not that I like New York so much. But things happen here that wouldn't elsewhere."

The paper hones in on a 22-year old unpaid intern in Bed-Stuy, a 21-year-old with a passion for cinema in the Bronx, a 24-year-old who works for a nonprofit and lives on the Lower East Side, an FIT student, and a 28-year-old photographer. All of them boast of "tiny" apartments and rents under $1,000. "There’s always a compromise. And when I say compromise, I don’t just mean that you don’t have nice floors or good light,” explains Allison Gumbel, a 28-year-old artist who lives in a third-floor walk-up in Clinton Hill. Still, these kids seem to believe it's worth it: "They come to find work," the Times explains. "To find one another, and to hang out in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side that have become almost geographic extensions of college dorm life."

Not honed in upon in this story: Twentysomethings who work in finance. There's one concession to this group:


"Even young people in high-paying fields like finance have to make sacrifices. There’s the investment banker who can afford only a 450-square-foot studio, and the financial analyst who lives in a third-floor walk-up studio illegally divided into two rooms."

Yep, even two bankers. That's pretty disproportionate, given the long list of hipsters the story reports on. Where are the trust-funders? Or, you know, any of the non-artistic types with their heads on straight, living comfortably in doorman buildings with gyms? It's a one-sided portrait of New York's young and restless, but it is at least a romantic one.

The Price 20-Somethings Pay to Live in the City [NYT]