Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Laura Hill
By Laura Lee Flanagan


Most New Yorkers have a real estate revelation at one point or another in their lives. It goes something like this: “If you don’t own where you live, your rent will likely increase so astronomically, you would be a fool to stay (even if you can).”

If you were born here, or lived here for more than a couple of decades, you’ve seen a few real estate cycles. Maybe you’ve lost some money at one point or made an absolute fortune at another. New York real estate is a very unique animal. It is unlike any other market in the country, and at this particular point in time, it’s golden.

Now more than any other time in my life, the cost of living in the City (even in places once uninhabitable without carrying a gun) is so high, New Yorkers who would be considered wealthy in any other place in the country (besides San Francisco, apparently) are struggling to buy and keep a piece of the pie. I guess it’s a byproduct of the new urbanism — and as far as NYC real estate goes, as one of the law partners I used to work for always said, “They’re not making any more of it.”

In my family, fortunes have ebbed and flowed. And when I entered my professional life, it was during an ebb cycle. I’ve worked hard and made a good living — but I still rent. For as long as I’ve lived out of my parents’ home, I have rented, and I’ve been OK with it for the most part. But as other renters I know keep reminding me, if you don’t own (sooner rather then later), you’re out!

Sound harsh? Yes, well, in New York we don’t fuck around. Win all, lose all — deal with it. Most of us are playing without a net and that’s what gives us our particular New York-ness.

Aware of my likely fate, with my New York native chip on my shoulder, I move blithely forward as if it won’t happen to me. And partial credit for that odd confidence is that when it’s all over (and I mean REALLY all over), I know exactly where I’ll be: NYC.

How is that, so you ask? Woodlawn, baby.

Yes, call me macabre, but my family has a ginormous endowed plot at the world-famous Woodlawn Cemetery, where a cousin (who shall remain nameless) came famously close to inflating a bouncy castle and calling it home when things were particularly financially tough for her years ago. It’s that big, yo.

Woodlawn Map 628x471 Offbeat: If You Dont Own, Youre Out!
Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Laura Lee Flanagan

I may not be able to pay the rent on that UES pied-à-terre, or that Williamsburg post-industrial loft, but when I spin off this mortal coil, I’ll be spinning with American moguls F.W. Woolworth, Jay Gould, Rowland H. Macy — and rocking out in perpetuity with Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Celia Cruz.

Woodlawn Cemetery  628x559 Offbeat: If You Dont Own, Youre Out!
Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Laura Lee Flanagan

Oh yes, I may be priced out of this town in the near future — but with God as my witness, at least when I’m dead, I’ll be back…FOREVER!

Woodlawn Trees 628x471 Offbeat: If You Dont Own, Youre Out!
Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Laura Lee Flanagan