Thursday, December 6, 2007

Is this a safe neighborhood PT1?

That question, while I understand it and really wish I could say what you want me to say, is against fair housing rules in this city. For those unaware of what this means exactly, read this definition of NYC's "Fair Housing Laws".

"It is unlawful for landlords, superintendents, building managers, condominium owners, cooperative owners and boards to discriminate in the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation or in the provision of services and facilities because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender (including gender identity), disability, sexual orientation, creed, marital status, partnership status, alienage or citizenship status, age, lawful occupation, or because children are or may be residing with the person."

This goes the same for brokers telling you an area is safe or unsafe based on any of those criteria listed above. I once had two listings, one in Murray Hill in a Full Time Doorman, white glove conceierge building and one in East Harlem in a townhouse right aroudn the corner from a methadone clinic. I did a crime statistic comparision for the two, guess which one had the higher crime rate?

Now it may seem like an innocent question, but let me just say this much. We may all have a different perception as to what "safe" means. Again, I am treading deadly grounds here and must still be politically correct with what I say. So I'll put it to you this way. I grew up in four of the five boroughs in this city, so when I hear gun shots, it would only scare me if I was a crook doing something wrong. I'll just leave it at that and save my other comments, so as not to offend any families of those who have lost their lives prematurely for unjust reasons.

The last time I checked, my cousin in Detroit lives in the most dangerous city in the country. I think my 91 year old Great, Great Aunt in D.C. is also in a more dangerous city than this place is now. Trust me, I have lived here my whole life and now rent and sell million dollar homes in what is now called a "neighborhood" known as Williamsburg. I can remember that area being nothing but industrial and very desolate and scary at night. People still fear Bushwick, but rent places there all the time now, as some brokers label it as "East Williamsburg". Harlem is another place where this same type of gentrification has taken place. There is a Ben and Jerry's, Bath and Body Works, Staples and a host of other higher end retailers other than the street vendors you would only envision when thinking of Harlem. Even where my company's corporate headquarters and training facility is, just off of Union Square, I can recall walking through that park 10-15 years back and hearing the crunch of crack vials beneath my feet! Ever see that Dave Chappelle skit about him being lost in a limo and a baby is selling drugs in the hood, on the corner at 4AM? That was a ten year old in the lower east side on Avenue A, riding up to you on a bike, offering a cornucopia of illicit substances ten years ago. Tompkins Square Park, which now is one of the best dog runs in the city, was once a haven for the homeless and all of the above shady activities.

To ask a broker if the area is safe, is like asking a car salesman if you will die by driving 100MPH or asking a lawyer if you will get sued for being a jerk. We can advise you on if we feel an area or place is safe based on OUR perceptions, but really think about it for a second. I've lived here my whole life and seen all sorts of really wild stuff go down, so not much fazes me. What is comfortable for a native, may be REALLY uncomfortable and scary for a transplant, tourist or a visitor.

Most brokers aren't even natives, so what can they truly advise you on the real truth of the matter? They will just pitch you that an area is safe as you walk past the cars on cinder blocks and burning trash cans. I will at least laugh about how "I haven't seen THAT in NYC in twenty years!" My bottom line is, I am honest as Abe Lincloln, so if I tell you a place is safe, I would mean it sincerely based on my experiences in said area. Now, if you go and do something silly to get mugged (like stumble home drunk at 4AM with all of your cash hanging out of your pockets, your iPod blasting and never once think "let me keep an eye out as I fumble around for my keys", or bring some dude home you just met at Dorrians, who is obviously the second coming of Robert Chambers) then DON'T BLAME ME! I have found that most criminals are all about seizing a low risk opportunity. So generally speaking, safety revolves around staying alert, aware, in well populated areas (according to police, watch out for well dressed pickpockets though!)

There really is no rhyme or reason to crime in this city any more, so I'll make one up right now, before I head out of the door. If you flaunt all of your rocks, in front of those who have not, then prepare to get got! This city is as safe as you make it, so stay aware and alert, or you just might end up half naked, dazed and confused and hurt!

All jokes aside, I know that this is an important and serious issue, especially for parents with female children coming into the city for the first time. If you are concerned with safety and crime rates, then you can find all of the information you need right here at this link.

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