10 March 2008

The Darling Buds Of March

Early Saturday morning I had to go out to South Brooklyn again, and for once the G train was actually running, so I took it to the R. But that still left me quite a few blocks short of my destination, so I had a pleasant walk in between rainstorms. It had been alternately drizzling and pouring all night, but now there was just a very thick mist in the air, one that hung low enough to obscure most of the upper stories of the Williamsburg Bank tower, the one that's being turned into high-priced condos that were supposed to be available in 2006, but don't seem to be yet.

The difference between South Brooklyn and the North Side is that there's only a new apartment building going up every couple blocks instead of two or three on every block. I'm wondering - a bit hopefully, I'll admit - who's supposed to buy all these apartments now that it's supposedly almost impossible to get a mortgage. Granted, there are an awful lot of New Yorkers who seem able to peel off a couple million in ready cash to snatch up a cute little studio in either of the Villages, but are there enough monied sorts to soak up the thousands of shiny new glass and steel apartments set to come on line in Greenpoint and Williamsburg sometime in the coming year?

It seems hard to imagine there will be, and the ads trying to flog these condos for what still seem like exorbitant prices are beginning to sound a little shrill, perhaps even desperate, which is where the hopeful bit (on my part) comes in. I'm betting (apparently quite a few people are, which makes it a bit less hopeful) that many of these unsold apartments are going to end up on the rental market at knockdown prices. Maybe not right away, but unless the economy picks up, which it shows no sign of doing, probably within the next year or two.

Only trouble with this theory is that if things are indeed as bad as they're made out to be, then why are developers still breaking ground on even more and bigger buildings? Either they know something I don't, or they're in a mad scramble to get their stuff on the market before the bottom falls out. Though it may already be a bit late for that.

Also, you need to be careful what you wish for: if too many developers go broke and too many developments fail to attract buyers or decent tenants, you could see neighborhoods begin to decline again, as they're reputedly doing out in East New York and the Rockaways, where foreclosed and empty houses line some blocks like so many missing teeth. Having already been through that once in New York, when even chunks of Manhattan were in danger of being abandoned, I'm not anxious to see anything like that unfold again.

Presumably one of our brilliant Presidential candidates will sort that mess out, right? And hopefully with something more constructive than the Idiot-in-Chief's plan to send $300 to every American taxpayer. Please note: I've never been one to jump on the "Bush is stupid" bandwagon. In fact I don't generally think he's stupid at all, and if you disagree, please explain how he dumbed his way into being President for eight years while all you smart guys are confined to gnashing your teeth and making impotent "Bush is stupid" jokes.

But while Bush may not be stupid per se, this particular idea - if I can so dignify it - is beyond idiotic. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on at least some of his tax cuts (I still don't see the reasoning behind giving the lion's share of them to people who have no need of money and probably won't even spend it), but a large part of our current economic problems can be traced back to the massive deficits Bush has run up by trying to run a war and give away money at the same time. If the war is as important as Bush has been claiming, doesn't it stand to reason that the country should be prepared to pay for it? And that the sacrifice necessary to wage war should be spread around to more than just the few hundred thousand enlisted men and women? For the other 299.9 million Americans, it's more like "War, what war? I'm going shopping, and dammit, why's my gas so expensive?"

A few weeks ago I was cautiously optimistic about this year's election, convinced that any of the three leading candidates would make at least an adequate President. Since then, however, I've soured on all three of them to some extent. Obama still seems like the smartest and most principled, but he's starting to look way too left wing, and his "solution" to the war is no solution at all, more like a kneejerk reaction to last year's problem. Clinton is still Clinton, unpleasant, annoying, apparently ready to say or do anything to get her hands on power. Ironically, she actually looks slightly better as the other candidates diminish in stature but not better enough to be acceptable. And McCain, well, I like some things about this guy, but just when I start to contemplate the unthinkable - could I actually vote for a Republican? - he comes up with yet another reaction Republican position on issues like the environment or health care and I'm reminded that even if his foreign policy should work, we'd be in such bad shape domestically that whether we'd won or lost the war would no longer make that much difference.

Anyway, I didn't want to talk about politics; I started out to comment on something more controversial, namely the weather. Specifically that on my walk the other day, I was shocked and pleased to discover that the first buds have started to appear on trees around Brooklyn. Only on certain select species, and only in rudimentary form - no bud in its right mind would try opening up in the face of today's wintry blast - but the fact remains that we're getting there.

There being the tail end, the home stretch of what's really not been that bad a winter, but is now in danger of outstaying its welcome. I must say, thought, that I'm going to appreciate this spring in a way I've seldom if ever done before, and in that sense, winter has done its job, to the point where I actually pity Californians and their lack of "real" winter.

And I'll appreciate it even more after last night's (mis)adventure. Lulled into a sense of misplaced optimism by the balmy temperatures and zephyr-like breezes that hung around for a couple hours following yesterday's monsoon-like downpours, I persuaded Aaron to accompany me on our first walk this year across the Williamsburg Bridge. A few sprinkles of rain greeted us as reached the incline, but nothing serious, and since we both had hats and umbrellas, we charged ahead.

As we neared the top, the rain got much heavier, but was still manageable until a howling, hurricane-like blast came roaring at us out of the south. The south, you say? Shouldn't that have made it a warm wind? Well, not quite; in fact the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in a few minutes, and the rain, now coming at us sideways and rendering umbrellas useless to the point of ridiculousness, was mixed with stinging pellets of ice.

I was actually concerned that we might get blown right off the bridge, though as you might surmise, we did not. But by the time we reached Manhattan, we were completely soaked, the temperature had dropped into the 30s, and the wind was battering us incessantly. "At least the wind will dry our clothes out faster," I said brightly. Or not too brightly, as it turned out; when I got home about six or eight hours later, I was still soaked in the parts of my person least pleasant to be soaked.

And this was after a long subway ride uptown, standing around at a very pleasant party at Chris A.'s well-heated Harlem apartment, and a 2 a.m. wait for the 1 train on the extremely unheated and elevated (to gain the full effect of the wind) 125th Street station. Thanks to daylight savings time, it was going on 4 a.m. when I finally pulled off my socks and wrung the water from them.

But no pneumonia so far, the winds have finally died down, and it's less than two weeks to the first day of spring! Which of course means little or nothing; I've been snowed in during April, never mind March, but we're getting there. And if the first few days of spring don't live up their promise here in New York, I can deal with that. Especially since I plan on spending them in Florida.


Brooklyn Love said...

Bicycling home from school in downtown BK to Park Slope on Bergen St., I counted at least a dozen new condo buildings going up within less than 10 blocks.

Every gas station, parking lot, and warehouse that can be taken down, is.

Apparently this endless march of yup/hipsters/whatever with money to burn and an lifestyle to act out is not going to end anytime soon. None of them seem to be having much trouble making ends meet.

Anonymous said...

If you cannot recognize the obvious fact that Bush is stupid, *you're* stupid.

Larry Livermore said...

Unless, of course, Bush is playing members of the self-appointed cognoscenti for fools by purposely playing the clown. Result: you guys spend eight years on your high horses sniffing impotently about how "ignorant" the President is while he and his henchmen are happily dismantling every social and environmental program you hold dear.

Then who's the stupid one?