Seven-Figure Starter Homes

Jack Young

When my maternal grandmother died suddenly during the early summer of 1962, my family was cloistered in our two bedroom bungalow 50 yards from the wood planked on ramp of the Beach 33rd Street boardwalk in Far Rockaway. This quaint summer rental was our home for eight summer weeks. It housed my mom, dad, younger sister, aforementioned grandmother and my maternal great grandmother. As an aside, I should mention that my great grandmother was a holocaust survivor. I can’t imagine what summers on the beach with her family meant to her in retrospect to her earlier life.

I was told by my parents that it was my mom who refused to return long term to our year-round apartment in the Bronx. 1190 Shakespeare Ave. was a six-story, pre-war building. My grandmother and great grandmother shared an apartment on the second floor. My family had an apartment in the building on the sixth floor. With my grandmother’s passing, my mom had witnessed her dad and now her mom die within five years of one another. The memories that existed in the building at 1190 Shakespeare Ave. were too much for her to bear. My parents loved the summers in the Rockaway’s and decided to look for a year-round home.

My dad told me years later that he borrowed money from almost every relative he and my mom had to afford the $3,000 down payment for the two-family house they bought in Far Rockaway. Eighteen-thousand dollars and change was what my parents paid for the remodeled annex to a hotel that sat across from a grass lot facing Jamaica Bay. Three years after my parents bought the house, my mom’s sister’s family would move into the second side of the home on Waterview Place. Twenty-two rooms, 11 per side; my dad shared with me as a young adult that his original mortgage was written at an interest rate of 3 percent. I guess we could calculate what the monthly payment would be on the 30-year loan.

As the southernmost outpost of the New York City five boroughs, the taxes on the property were relatively minuscule. With all that, my folks were scared to death that they could never pay the monthly nut on the house. In 1962 they owed $15,000; let me type that again, $15,000. When my aunt and uncle moved into the house on Waterview Place, they became equal owners and split the monthly mortgage payment with my mom and dad. Eureka, we were rich!

My dad did get to see Audrey and I purchase our “just married,” $100,000, two-bedroom, one-bath co-op apartment in Bayside in 1986. He simply shook his head incredulously at the absurdity of the price and the fact that we weren’t even buying an edifice, but shares in a building we didn’t own. Unfortunately, my dad didn’t live to see the wonderful home that Audrey and I purchased in 1994 here in Plainview. While the taxes were “crazy” back then, they now stretch to the heights of shear insanity. Audrey and I shuddered no less than my mom and dad did back in 1962 as to how we would ever afford our $200,000 investment.
Sitting each morning with my regular cronies at my favorite town bagel store, we commiserate back and forth with each other as to the affects of the economy on our businesses and lives. A part of the regular crew is the well known local realtor Lenny Rosenfeld. We are constantly peppering Lenny with questions about what homes are selling for, are there a lot of homes for sale, who are the buyers that are looking for homes in our area?

I don’t know what is more unbelievable to me in terms of the current state of residences in Plainview-Old Bethpage. Is it the fact that new construction, “spec builds” are selling for $900,000 and more, and not on Washington Avenue? Or the fact that my friends, neighbors and bagel store buddies are moving into the massive Country Pointe complex, purchasing two-bedroom apartments for upwards of $800,000. I’m told “it is a lifestyle.”

I know I am typing a familiar refrain for many baby boomers with millennial children.How are we going to keep our millennial children, and God willing, grandchildren, commutable to us? How frightened will my children be when they go to closing on their seven-figure “starter home?”

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Jack Young is a columnist for Plainview Old Bethpage Herald.

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