On Leaving New York…

Remember that time Moby wrote a letter about how he was leaving New York and everyone on the internet dunked on him for days? Well thankfully social media algorithms are so broken that no one will even read my version of that letter. But here we go…

In 2006 I was living in Richmond, VA after graduating college about a year earlier. I went to school for photography but I didn’t have any interest in doing photography as a career. I had wanted to work in the music industry since I was a kid and I decided to study photography because I thought it would be a good skill to have. I picked up a camera to photograph punk bands that were on the label I started when I was 15 and bands were 90% of what I photographed before moving to New York. I had always planned on moving there, but I was managing a band who were still in school so I decided to stick around a little while. I was working a temp job and they offered me a full time job. It was for $36k which seemed like a ton of money given that was paying $500 a month for a two bedroom to myself and I had this sudden realization that I might get stuck in Richmond forever if I took that job. Around the same time I ran into a friend of mine in NYC who was looking for a roommate. Two weeks later I had broken my lease and moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

As “cool” as Williamsburg was in those days, I still couldn’t afford to live on the Northside which was the hipster capital of the world those days. I had always wanted to live in the Lower East Side and I figured living two stops away on the J Train was my best bet, so I moved to the Southside which had somehow resisted gentrification outside of me and a handful of other white 20 somethings I would only see on the train platform after 11pm. Nearly 18 years later I am the one being forced out of the neighborhood by 20 year old white kids who can somehow afford to pay $5000 for a two bedroom. In 16 years my lease went up a total of $600 and then last year it went up $800 and now it’s about to go up $400 more. I could maybe afford it, but that is an untenable situation. I will continue to be broker and broker living in the same apartment I lived in in my twenties as a middle aged man. It’s unfortunately time for a change. 

I love this place, it’s my home. I’ve lived here significantly longer than anywhere else in my life and I am so fucking heartbroken leaving, but most of my work I don’t need to be in New York for and I am not hungry enough to deal with the rats and roaches and human shit on the streets and I used to wear like a badge of honor. My girlfriend does high end hair color and has made an amazing career here and she hates to leave herself, but we are just ready for an easier life even if it means giving up our home. 

It’s hard to admit that so much of your identity is tied up in being a New Yorker, but I think it’s impossible to live here for decades and not feel that way. I think it’s going to take a very, very long time for that feeling to go away. I really feel like I am giving up and that New York beat me. Everytime a friend leaves NYC I am a little judgmental about it, but when I talk to them after the fact they feel so much happier for it, that a weight has been lifted of them. I am hoping I feel the same weight lift off of me, a weight I might not even know exists because it’s so a part of me. When I moved here I loved the grind. I was working as a busboy in a hotel restaurant working a shift that started at 5:30am. I would go out and party and at four I would go home, shower and immediately head to work. I would sleep from like 5 to 10pm every day.

I would bring my camera out to parties, just because I loved taking photos but I was just there to have fun. At that time sites like Cobrasnake and Last Night’s Party were blowing up and everyone would ask me what my website was. I started Driven By Boredom in 2001, but by the time I moved to NYC it was mostly just an ad for the band I managed with updates coming whenever they would release a new record or go on tour or something, but since people kept asking I redesigned the site and started uploading my photos there. Just months after moving to NYC I was doing working as a photographer every night and working mornings four days a week. By the end of 2008 I was a full time photographer after grinding so fucking hard trying to live this new dream, as the band had broken up and my music industry goals slowly disappeared. 

From 2007-2011 I worked pretty much every day as a photographer. I was killing myself for a couple hundred dollars a night. But by 2011 party photos were becoming less of a thing and I was getting better paying jobs traveling, working event branding and shooting music festivals.  In 2012 I got into a serious relationship with a woman who lived in LA and when I wasn’t traveling for work I was traveling there, photographing models for adult magazines and the occasional event. By the time we had broken up a couple years later I had published my first book, had a ton of regular clients and was rarely working in New York, but my rent was so good I had no reason to leave. At times I felt like I was a prisoner of my own good housing situation. 

A few years ago my landlord sold the building. They fired our amazing superintendent and replaced him with someone who didn’t live in the building and was never around. My old neighbors were bought out or kicked out and the place got worse and worse. The giant corporation who bought it then sold it to a second corporation who according to their website are a”data–driven Multifamily real estate investment and services firm”, whatever the fuck that is. Apparently their analytics decided I should be paying 50% more rent and boom, I am no longer able to afford to live in my home.

Okay, so 1000 words into this post, where am I moving? Well, I could move to Ridgewood or something and live in a smaller apartment for what I am paying now, or, I could get the fuck out, move to some small city and live in a nice ass building and then actually be able to afford to buy a house in the future. My girlfriend is from North Carolina and lived in Wilmington for years. We visited her friend’s down there last summer and had a great time. The beaches are incredible and it’s a fairly progressive city for southern town and I always wanted to retire at the beach so why not start now? 

I can still travel for photography, and we are keeping my office her as a crash pad so we can visit regularly. My girlfriend will be back every month to take her old clients and I am sure I will be back a ton for work and to run my non-profit Dolfans NYC. Meanwhile we just signed a lease for a huge, nice apartment, that even with keeping the office is still $500 less than our current rent. We have a god damn balcony that overlooks a park and closets the size of New York bedrooms. Maybe I will get a boat and learn to scuba dive or something. Maybe I will start making my own hot sauce or like start wearing shorts. I have no idea, but I am ready for my weird retirement life, even if I have to get some shitty part time job to make up for the work I do get in NYC. Maybe I can take family portraits or something. Who knows? It’s gonna be interesting. 

I cannot tell you how mad I am at New York for allowing landlords to run this place and not protecting tenants. I cannot tell you how sad I am to be leaving my home for nearly twenty years and the city that completely changed my life. I feel like I am in mourning. Everytime I do something I think about how I might be doing it for the last time. But, even with all that I am so excited for my future. I am so ready to have hobbies and to relax a little and just be able to finally breathe. I am excited for my future with my girlfriend and seeing what is next for us. It’s such a weird experience to feel so sad and excited at the same time.

Anyway, this post is so much longer than I thought it was going to be and I am not even sure I said half of what I wanted to say, but I just started writing as soon as I signed my lease and here we are. I am moving at the end of February so if you want to see me or shoot with me before then let me know. I will miss you all, come visit me at the beach. 

New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

Goodbye NYC

Goodbye NYC

Goodbye NYC

Goodbye NYC

Goodbye NYC

 

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