the rich hunt

Williamsburg Will Eat Itself

Complaining about the twentysomethings in Williamsburg whose incomes are augmented by their parents has become a storied pastime in that neighborhood; looking back, it actually seems like people started having attitude about “trustafarians” even before the area was gentrified, that’s how ahead of the curve they are out there. Anyway, everyone, even the trustafarians themselves, takes part in the bashing of the financially dependent, with the result that those with family money in their pockets are forced to play by an unspoken rule: Hide it, or suck up the teasing. In Williamsburg, more than anywhere else, this kind of hazing has always been socially acceptable, mostly because those being hazed seem like hypocrites: Why dress “like a homeless person,” as the trope goes, when you can afford so much better?

Now, it seems, they really can’t afford much better. According to a story in this morning’s Times, parents who have seen their savings mowed down by the financial crisis have cut off their spigots and are requiring their kids to get actual jobs. As one might imagine, their less-fortunate peers are already basking in the Schadenfreude:

Katie Deedy, 27, an artist, works two bartending jobs to shore up her designer wallpaper business. Gazing out from the bar at the patrons playing darts and sipping bloody marys during a Sunday shift at the Brooklyn Ale House, she described how refreshing it felt not being the only local resident trying to live on less. “If I’m going to be completely honest, it does make me feel a little bit better,” she said. “It’s bringing a lot of Williamsburg back to reality.”

This is the paradox of Williamsburg. What Deedy doesn’t seem to recognize is that there wouldn’t be a Sunday brunch shift if there weren’t trustafarians using their parents’ AmExes to pay for Bloody Marys. There wouldn’t be three faux-dive bars with darts and pool and jukeboxes playing Sunny Day Real Estate within spitting distance of one another at all, just like blogs that cover the indiscretions of twentysomethings wouldn’t exist without advertisers that target exactly that demographic.

The trust fund is to Williamsburg like the yin to its yang, the day to its night: One cannot exist without the other.

As a tutor and freelance writer whose income has shriveled in the past year put it to the Times Magazine this week: “When the recession started, I went down the list of people I know and realized almost all of us were employed because of the boom of riches in the city in the last few years.”

Williamsburg is ground zero for this kind of trickle-down economics. While it may feel good now to see all the kids who’ve had it so easy have to take up eight-hour shifts bagging groceries, we wonder how Deedy would react if real “reality” set in, and she’s stuck working in an actual dive bar, now that the mortgage crisis has abrogated the need for designer wallpaper. Who’s the hypocrite now?

Parental Lifelines, Frayed to Breaking [NYT]
The Self-Employed Depression [NYTM]

Williamsburg Will Eat Itself