Recession Stories

Monday, May 18, 2009

We take an intimate look at how the recession is impacting New Yorkers with Devin Dwyer, producer of We’ll also talk to Jong Min, an undocumented immigrant, and with sports reporter-turned-waiter John Walters.


Devin Dwyer, Jong Min and John Walters

Comments [13]

The Recession Wall from New York

Please share your story at The purpose of this site is to document the recession and serve as a historical record of the times.

Please share your story and tell us how it has affected your life and the lives of those you know.

Dec. 15 2009 09:22 PM
Ro from SoHo

Many people are self-employed freelancers. Where do they go when their freelance jobs dry up? They are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Mayor Bloomberg says he's going to solve this problem. Any ideas how?

May. 18 2009 03:06 PM
NABNYC from Southern California

The attitude that a person who is thrown out of work should refuse unemployment compensation is absurd.

We have an actual unemployment rate of 16% when we include people who have exhausted their unemployment compensation benefits but still haven't found a job, and people who have been forced into part-time work.

In the manufacturing sector it's even worse. Many of these people are over 50, worked their entire lives under grueling conditions, long hours, often with no overtime pay, hoping to survive long enough to get a pension -- then they are thrown out of work at the first downturn, and see their savings eaten up just in trying to survive.

Yes, it's nice if some people have a for-now job that lets them pay the rent. But having a good attitude is not a solution to the problem, which is that our country is engaged in a long-term process of sending most of our better-paying jobs to other countries, and crushing the American worker. The motive is partly money (businesses like to hire third world child, prison, and slave labor because it's cheap).

But the overall problem of unemployment, frozen wages, disappearing benefits and pensions, won't be solved by somebody getting a job waiting tables. We need to take a good look at what's being done, and start demanding jobs and benefits for working people, not for the millionaire Wall Street Criminals who seem to own Congress.

As for law school, I've been an attorney for over 25 years and the job market has never been this bad. I'd say it's a highly risky investment right now.

May. 18 2009 02:09 PM
Jane Parkerton from Brooklyn Heights

I left a well paid (by my standards) but highly demanding job in May 2007. I blurted out, in a stressed and frustrated moment that "this is not the way I want to live my life." Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my boss was not happy to hear this. I had just celebrated my 60th birthday and the economy was beginning the downturn. My friends told me I was crazy; my daughters supported me.
Although I wanted to change the way I earned my living, I think the words I used were to harmonize my work life with my values, I grew increasingly anxious as unemployment ended and I still did not have a job. I was depressed and full of despair but determined to find my next calling (after raising our daughters). I started a support group for other out of work folks at my church and now a year later our membership has grown. In my discernment process I found my way to the Brooklyn Public Library and became a volunteer tutor in the Adult Literacy Program. Almost immediately I realized that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So now I am matriculated at City College in the Language and Literacy Master's Program - I am an English major. I live on the edge, from small short term job to other small short term jobs, something I have never done. (My husband died when our daughters were young and I have always worked, 9-5 for a paycheck and benefits.) And I am happy.

May. 18 2009 02:05 PM
suzi from manhattan

is this chap on drugs? not everyone is young, ?brilliant, able to look good in shorts. he seems to be way way out of touch with the real world.

May. 18 2009 02:00 PM
RJ from brooklyn

I meant to say that people who end up on these programs are "stigmatized" for allegedly not having the inner strength etc.

May. 18 2009 01:57 PM
RJ from brooklyn

It makes me sad that people who end up on unemployment or other public help programs are somehow not "resilient." That these people have less internal strength.

Those in European countries who have a safety net that ensures they have health insurance, a basic standard of living through some amount of unemployment income, don't suffer the enormous strength, guilt, feelings of lower self-worth that this "bootstraps" sensibility perpetuates.

Meanwhile, those who are taking jobs that are optional for them--waiting tables, driving cabs--are taking jobs from those who truly have no other options. It's not just "experiencing a different line of work" for them--it's survival.

May. 18 2009 01:55 PM
jane from brooklyn

People should really look at Grad as an opportunity to immerse themselves in a discipline that they are passionate about, not something that they will make money at... the money will come if you have the passion.

May. 18 2009 01:54 PM
Chris from New York

I have a masters degree and it has not helped me one bit. Also, I don't think becoming a lawyer will guarantee a job like it used to. I work with law school graduates/once practicing lawyers and none of them are not finding jobs and/or had job offers rescinded. They are totally unemployable, as the market is EXTRA saturated with lawyers. Also, many firms are down sizing and/or outsourcing work. I think people want to be lawyers because they still believe they are guaranteed high paying jobs. This is no longer the case.

May. 18 2009 01:53 PM
jane from brooklyn

Agreed with Nico, as a former server, the tips were never enough to fully support a life, even at a very low level.

Agreed with John, I am in a white collar job now, but as challenging as my current position is it is not anywhere as challenging psychologically and physically as the service industry

May. 18 2009 01:50 PM
Judith from New York

UK terminology is MADE redundant. Lots of less polite terms

May. 18 2009 01:49 PM

I understand the writer's choice/journey. I too went through a period when I left professional/administrative work behind and waited tables. After years of dealing with office politics and long commutes and drycleaning bills, I enjoyed the change. It was honest work -- I went home physically tired but with a clear head and my moral compass intact.

It's important at times to learn who you are BEYOND what you do.

May. 18 2009 01:48 PM
Nico from Crown Heights

John's story seems inspiring, but it seems all too easy. How can he survive on his salary/tips? Does he rent an apartment in NYC? Does he have mortgage payments? Children? Does he have lots of savings? A trust fund? Or has he radically changed his former lifestyle?

May. 18 2009 01:46 PM

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