Friends teased Joanie Kotick when she bought her Sutton Place apartment a few years ago. She was in her early thirties, and the formal co-op seemed better suited to her grandmother (who did, and does, actually live there). “I truly thought I was the only [person my age] there,” says Kotick. But lately, three units in the building have changed hands, and all went from elderly residents to twenty- and thirtysomethings. Kotick’s spotted other young folks in the laundry room, too. Now, when visitors stop by, they’ll no longer “run into four 90-year-olds in the elevator,” she jokes.
As parents stay in New York to raise children, buildings like Kotick’s are being transformed. Many of those changes haven’t gone so smoothly. Carol Burstein, a psychologist, says her Upper West Side building is livelier now that it has kids around, but she dislikes the strollers and car seats stashed in the hallway. “It just looks unseemly,” she says. (Some co-ops have added rules about common-space clutter; one Park Avenue prewar has a designated carriage area.) Bellmarc broker Julie Friedman, who’s a mom, isn’t surprised. “It’s as if public spaces have gone private,” she says. Doors papered with school artwork and kids running amok in lobbies are also the source of regular complaints. Graduate student John Franchak says every time he throws a party at his Stuyvesant Town apartment, he worries that he’ll be turned in by the noise police. “Everyone seems middle-aged or older,” he says.
Generational differences are only the beginning—the real strife is, inevitably, over money. John deBary just moved to Washington Heights, and he senses that his neighbors, mostly rent-stabilized immigrant families, have kept him and his roommates at arm’s length. “There’s no animus, but it feels like we portend the future,” he says. One board member in a Manhattan co-op that used to be very low-key says that ever since the building has welcomed wealthier types, she’s been been facing regular demands to hire doormen. “When they spend lots of money on their apartments, they feel more entitled,” she says with a sigh. “I watch this stuff coming in—the Sub-Zeros, the Wolf ranges—and I think, Oh, what have we wrought?”