Heidi Reinberg is tired of worrying about money. She’s 53 years old. She’s gotten by as a freelance documentary producer in New York for 30 years. But she told me her coffers have dried up just when her landlord is selling. She’s losing her apartment — one that's just six doors down from Mayor Bill de Blasio's house in Park Slope.
Heidi made her choices, she knows that. But as her own neighbor came to dominate the mayoral race with his tale of two cities — one of the ultra-wealthy vs. those near the poverty line — there's been another group in the middle that is quietly losing ground. Median rents have increased seventy-five percent in New York City since 2000, while incomes have declined by 5 percent. Heidi is one of those people in the middle: a college-educated professional who's finding that the life she's used to now comes with a heftier price tag.
This is the story of one woman whose optimism couldn't hold up against financial realities.
We're collecting your stories, too: when was money the deciding factor for you in a major life transition? Tell us below, in the comment section.
Heidi's apartment, in the brick building, is just six doors up from Mayor de Blasio's house in Park Slope.
Money is hard to talk about:
I think you can talk to your friends about sex. You can talk to them about depression. You can talk about health things — what are the other taboos? You can’t talk about money. Money is the last taboo. And maybe I'm underestimating my friends, but nobody wants to hear that you're having a hard time making ends meet.
Heidi (second from right) remembers her social life being less expensive when she was younger.
Defining a decent life:
I don’t want much. I just want a decent place to live and a decent neighborhood with people that I enjoy seeing in the morning, that I can have relationships with. I want home.
Dating when you’re broke:
I met somebody who’s going through pretty much the same thing right now, and things were going pretty good for a while although nobody could afford to fly to meet the other person. I think, for me at least, the stress of being optimistic all the time — there’s just not much to be happy about. I like being positive around everybody else, and I feel like I’m walking around in this constant — I’m gonna burst into tears any minute.
There’s definitely a shame factor to it. I mean, I’ll say that. You feel like a failure. There’s just so much shame attached to money and to not making a living.
Heidi and me in her apartment of 18 years, just weeks before she's being forced to leave.
Over on The Brian Lehrer Show, we've been talking about rent. How do you feel about the place you rent, and has your apartment ever really felt like home?