Automation will reshape America

From MIT Technology Review:

In These Small Cities, AI Advances Could Be Costly

It’s long been clear that urbanization and automated technologies are shaping society, but it hasn’t been obvious how the two forces affect each other.

Until now, perhaps. A new study from MIT’s Media Lab posits that the smaller the city, the greater the impact it faces from automation. The finding, they say, could encourage legislators to pay special attention to workers in smaller cities and offer them support services.

Other researchers have attempted to measure the effect of technology on employment in cities, but the Media Lab authors, who have identified which jobs and skills tend to be more prevalent in smaller cities and larger ones, claim to be the first to explain why different U.S. cities are more susceptible (or resilient) to technological unemployment. (Though the authors did not define “small” and “large” in their paper, they say that cities with fewer than 100,000 inhabitants will experience more disruption.)

They say that bigger cities have a disproportionately large number of jobs for people who do cognitive and analytical tasks, such as software developers and financial analysts—occupations that are less likely to be disrupted by automation. Smaller cities have a disproportionate amount of routine clerical work, such as cashier and food service jobs, which are more susceptible.

The five U.S. metropolitan areas that are expected to experience the least job impact from automation are San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, California; Washington, D.C., and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia; Trenton, New Jersey; Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. All of those regions have large populations and high proportions of skilled technical and managerial occupations, particularly technology jobs. The metro areas deemed most at risk (among them Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Elkhart County, Indiana; and Punta Gorda, Florida) rely on industries, such as agriculture and tourism, that have already been disrupted by technology and will probably continue to be.

“Big cities provide greater opportunities for synergies among creative, highly technical people, and that’s why they attract them,” explains Iyad Rahwan, an associate professor at MIT and the corresponding author of the paper. “The other dynamic is that cashiers and waiters are less idle in big cities than small cities, so large cities need fewer of them in proportion to their size.” As a result, he says, large cities have fewer routinized occupations that are more likely to be automated and relatively more technical and managerial occupations, which are less likely to be impacted by automation.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, National Real Estate | 4 Comments

If you can do it in Bergen?

From the Record:

Bergen towns can build affordable housing

Bergen County is recognized as one of the wealthiest counties in the country. Municipalities in the county helped secure this status by implementing exclusionary zoning practices that drove hard working families out of these towns – and by doing so, they helped create an affordable housing crisis. But we are on the precipice of change as more and more Bergen County towns are now taking proactive steps to expand fair housing opportunities.

The actions taken by these 14 towns will reverse decades’ worth of illegal zoning practices. These communities reached settlement agreements with advocates that will make affordable housing attainable for individuals and families that have previously been priced out. These agreements will result in the construction of hundreds of new homes for working families, seniors and people with disabilities.

They are joining more than 145 towns across the state who have signed fair-housing agreements to transition into an inclusive style of planning and zoning. Settlement talks with additional Bergen County municipalities are ongoing and should be announced in the coming months.

For example, Cresskill and Hillsdale are demonstrating how a municipality can partner with a nonprofit to build new affordable homes while leverage money from its local affordable housing trust fund and state and local sources to provide financing for new supportive housing options for people with disabilities.

Many of these municipalities – including Midland Park, Rochelle Park, Hillsdale, Cresskill and Ho-Ho-Kus – are working towards a significant amount of downtown redevelopment. These municipalities want to accomplish this through amending their zoning to allow residences over retail shops in downtown areas and encouraging redevelopment. These changes will help revitalize the community while expanding fair housing options for working families and people with disabilities.

An existing, developed site can be transitioned into housing without affecting a community’s green spaces. Areas such as former warehouses, office buildings and business sites are filled with opportunity. The properties can be brought back onto the tax rolls while functional properties replace vacant ones. These redevelopment projects are beneficial for the entire community.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 39 Comments

Unexpected increase in September Home Sales

From HousingWire:

Existing home sales reverse course, increase in September

After falling for three straight months, existing home sales reversed course in September, posting an increase, according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors.

Total existing home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 0.7% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million in September. This is up from 5.35 million in August.

This slight increase beat expectations which, according to one expert who served as Fannie Mae’s chief economist for more than 20 years, were expected to drop.

However, sales remain 1.5% below September 2016, and is the second lowest pace over the past year.

“Home sales in recent months remain at their lowest level of the year and are unable to break through, despite considerable buyer interest in most parts of the country,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. “Realtors this fall continue to say the primary impediments stifling sales growth are the same as they have been all year: not enough listings, especially at the lower end of the market, and fast-rising prices that are straining the budgets of prospective buyers.”

“Sales activity likely would have been somewhat stronger if not for the fact that parts of Texas and South Florida – hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma – saw temporary, but notable declines,” Yun said.

The median existing home price for all housing types increase 4.2% annually in September to $245,100, up from $235,200 last year. This marks the 67th straight month of annual home price increases.

Housing inventory saw relief as it rose 1.6% to 1.9 million existing homes for sale in September. But inventory remains 6.4% below last year’s 2.03 million homes, and has fallen annually for 28 consecutive months. Unsold inventory decreased to a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.5 months last year.

Posted in Economics, National Real Estate | 27 Comments

NJ Republicans vote to increase your taxes

From the Star Ledger:

Senate Republicans just declared they want to kill your property tax deduction, New Jersey

Senate Republicans just voted in favor of killing your property tax deduction, New Jersey.

The GOP senators, whose states received $223 billion more from the federal government than their residents send to Washington, voted Thursday in favor of eliminating the state and local tax deduction.

The deduction helps mostly helps residents in states like New Jersey that pay more in federal taxes than they get back from D.C.

“It’s outrageous and patently unfair.” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said in an interview after the vote. “There has to be a fundamental principle of tax fairness, not just between low-income wage earners and high-income wage earners, but the tax fairness really has to be between the states as well.”

The amendment was approved primarily along party lines, 52-47, with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., absent because of his ongoing trial on federal corruption charges.

It was added to the Senate budget resolution, designed to trigger a parliamentary maneuver to block a filibuster and allow Republicans to exclude Democrats from negotiations on a tax bill.

The effort to end the deduction was led by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, whose state in 2015 received $2.07 from Washington for every $1 in federal taxes paid, more than 47 other states, according to the Rockefeller Institute.

New Jersey, on the other hand, got just 74 cents back for each $1, lowest among the 50 states.

Lance, along with Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., and Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., broke with their party and voted against the House budget resolution. Only two New Jersey Republicans, Reps. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., and Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th Dist., supported it.

Posted in Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate, Property Taxes | 116 Comments

Bet the letters stop now…

From the Star Ledger:

Judge throws out infamous Westfield ‘Watcher’ lawsuit

A Superior Court judge on Wednesday dismissed the remaining counts of a civil lawsuit involving the infamous “Watcher” house, ending years of litigation about the Westfield home that gained international attention for its apparent stalker.

Judge Camille M. Kenny threw out three counts of fraud in the civil lawsuit that claimed the home’s previous owners knew about an alleged stalker, who referred to himself in letters sent to the home as “The Watcher.” The sellers, the suit claimed, maliciously withheld the information from the new owners out of fear they would lose the house sale.

The judge said she dismissed the counts because there was no evidence the former owners, John and Andrea Woods, intentionally hid a letter they received from “The Watcher” from the new owners, Maria and Derek Broaddus.

The Broaddus couple, who have three children, bought the old Dutch Colonial house on Boulevard for $1.35 million in June 2014. Within the first two weeks, they received three letters from a writer who called himself “The Watcher,” claiming he had ownership and control of the house.

Days before the closing, the Woods received their first and only letter from “The Watcher.” Andrea Woods said she found the letter to be odd, not threatening, and threw it out in the process of moving out of the home, the judge said.

In her reason for dismissing the counts, Kenny said sustaining the complaint would have put a burden on future sellers to speculate about what they need to disclose to buyers. Since the Woods, who lived in the home for 23 years, received just one letter from the apparent stalker, longtime owners would have consider disclosing one-time issues with a neighbor, such as a loud party.

“We’d be putting uncertainty in real estate law,” she said.

Richard Kaplow, the Woods’ lawyer, said the judge made the right decision because state law requires owners to disclose physical elements associated with a property, not an off-site social condition, such as undesirable neighbors.

Posted in New Jersey Real Estate, Unrest | 69 Comments

Will big $$ make NJ more appealing?

From Bloomberg:

Christie Backs Newark’s Amazon Bid With $7 Billion in Tax Breaks

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is seeking to deploy $7 billion in potential tax credits to lure Inc.’s planned second headquarters to Newark, which has been struggling to stage a broad economic revival since it was devastated by riots in 1967.

The proposal would offset state and city taxes, including an incentive through New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority that could reach $5 billion over 10 years, the governor’s office said Monday in a statement. The remainder of the tax breaks would come from a $1 billion city property tax abatement and a wage tax waiver of $1 billion for employees.

A reputation for crime and poverty has kept the state’s largest city, just 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Manhattan, mostly on the sidelines of the urban revival that’s transformed swaths of blight into trendy neighborhoods across the U.S. In recent years, though, Prudential Financial Inc. has built a new office tower in Newark and has backed several real estate projects.

Seattle-based Amazon last month solicited proposals for the second headquarters, a project expected to cost more than $5 billion and create 50,000 jobs during the next 15 to 17 years. Politicians across the U.S. and Canada have eagerly expressed interest. Newark has competition from big cities such as Boston and Chicago and smaller markets including Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Memphis, Tennessee.

Posted in Economics, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 186 Comments

Homes shrink, but they are still bigger than 10 years ago

From Bloomberg:

Homes Are Shrinking in the U.S.

In a reversal of a three-decade trend, U.S. homebuilders are cutting the size of the American home as margins are being squeezed by a shortage of land and labor. The average floor area year to date of a new house is 2,420 square feet (225 square meters), down from a record high of 2,520 set in 2015, according to a Capital Economics Ltd. analysis of federal data. Before the decline, the typical size had grown by a third since 1990.

Posted in Economics, National Real Estate, New Development | 76 Comments


From CNBC:

Boomers worry they can’t sell those big suburban homes when the time comes

Jeff Swaney is worried about selling his 5,600-square-foot home one day.

In his neighborhood south of Atlanta, demand and prices for large ranch houses like his ave declined over the last decade, as more young professionals move to smaller abodes in hipper areas. He doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon.

The 51-year-old real estate investor and owner of Swaney Consulting Group has personal reasons to hold on, at least for now. He may eventually move to a condo at the beach, but wants his future grandchildren to enjoy his pool, yard and basement. For these amenities, he spends about $18,000 annually in lawn maintenance, taxes, insurance and utilities alone.

The housing market, on the rebound since the Great Recession, is increasingly being driven by millennials and first-time homebuyers who “are hungry for starter homes and efficient layouts,” said Javier Vivas, manager of economic research for

The trend may leave some older homeowners in a lurch if they want to retire, downsize and cash in their nest egg.

Large single family homes — defined as the largest 25 percent of all listings on and about 2,900 square feet to 4,000 square feet — receive 12 percent to 45 percent less views on than the typical home in each market.

This year so far, large, single family homes are selling up to 73 percent (or 50 days) slower on average than the typical home in each market.

“The McMansions that soon-to-retire people purchased in the 80s and 90s are a very difficult sell right now,” said Melissa Rubenstein, a former real estate attorney who now sells luxury properties with Re/Max HomeTowne Realty in Bergen County, New Jersey. Many are outdated and may not include a first floor bedroom and bath suite for aging in place or in-laws.

Listings of large homes are also up two percent from last year, suggesting owners are dumping them faster, while listings of all homes are down 10 percent from last year, according to the data.

“We’re finding these homes are an albatross for clients,” said Michael E. Chadwick, a financial planner and owner of Chadwick Financial Advisors in Unionville, Connecticut.

“We’ve got several right now who have been trying to sell them and move south, and they’ve cut the asking price by over 30 percent each and they’re still not going anywhere fast,” he said.

“People look at purchase price and sales price and think they’ve made a lot, but once you factor in repairs, maintenance, taxes, insurance, upgrades, renovations, they lose money most of the time,” Chadwick said.

“The taxes and insurance are outlandish. The younger generation doesn’t want to own or take care of these homes. It’s all about free time not being tied down to a property.”

Posted in Economics, National Real Estate | 39 Comments

Why Trump’s tax plan will make housing even more unaffordable

There appears to be some thought that home prices on the coasts are elevated or subsidized through the use of the Mortgage Interest deduction (MID) and State and Local Tax (SaLT) deductions. These two deductions, either alone or together, artificially increase the price of homes making them less affordable. Without the “subsidies”, prices would fall, increasing affordability, which is better for everyone (except the people that currently own the homes).

I would argue that this would not be the case, that eliminating SALT and MID would cause the opposite. Not because removing the deductions wouldn’t cause prices to fall, they would. But because removing SALT and MID right now, would cause a seize up in the housing market, further removing inventory from the market, reducing supply. This would likely be the unexpected consequence of eliminating those deductions. With home prices remaining at current levels, or even increasing as supply is restricted, along with the elimination of deductions – housing is now even less affordable.


If prices fell, owners would continue to sit on properties until values recovered. We are seeing this phenomenon across many real estate markets in the US. This shouldn’t be a surprise, we’ve only been talking about it for the past 5 years. Because values have not recovered, sellers either financially can’t sell the properties (under water, near negative equity, not enough equity to move), or psychologically (I’ll never sell it for less than it’s worth). In many regions we’re finally starting to see markets start to move again as values recover. Should prices stall, or fall, this impact of restricted supply will continue to impact the market for many more years (until prices recover).

For-purchase supply may also transition to for-rent supply as investors purchase more homes, due to the fact that corporate tax structure would favor corporate ownership of housing over individual ownership of housing. As investors purchase these homes and convert them to rentals, you further constrain housing inventory, pushing prices up as supply dwindles.

This would also create a strain on move-up buyers, causing them to remain in place as they now find that the marginal increase in housing costs to upgrade is no longer affordable or realistic, so now you have a large portion of owners who would have previously moved-up staying in place. You might also see a follow-on trend of expansion and renovation of existing housing stock in lieu of moving to a larger house. This has the overall negative effect of increasing the average cost of local housing stock (through renovation you turn a less expensive house into a more expensive house, that less expensive house is forever gone).

In places like NJ, where a very large portion of older/retired owners no longer have a mortgage and don’t claim the MID, these individuals would see no significant increase in housing costs that would cause them to sell their homes and downsize. This means a big chunk of current inventory does not see any precipitating factor to put their homes on the market. In fact, if the standard deduction increases, retirees might find it less expensive to remain in place, further amplifying the impact of reduced inventory.

We may also see an impact to increased rental prices as renters who don’t currently itemize see benefits of the increased standard deduction, this may manifest as increasing rental rates in areas with high rental demand. So, both sides of the affordability picture are impacted.

So there you have it, eliminate the MID and SALT, and housing becomes even more unaffordable. Believe me, the unintended consequence will prevail here. You cannot evaluate these types of scenarios as an either-or situation, even though logically you might want to. The problem is, the cat is already out of the bag, the deductions exist. You are not comparing two hypothetical situations, one with the deduction and one without, you are looking as a third situation, one where it existed, and now no longer exists – the outcome here will be very different than if it had never existed at all.

Elimination of these deductions without major short-term impacts would require removal of these at a slow, measured pace – for example, a 10 year phase-out based on income, with the income-based limits falling every year. I completely don’t understand why we have discussions involving broad changes rapid one-time events when we know that implementing these kinds of changes in a measured pace results in significantly easier to manage situations, without the risk of unintended consequence.

But hey, what do I know?

Posted in Economics, National Real Estate, Politics, Property Taxes | 124 Comments

Is it even possible to make NJ affordable?

From NJ Spotlight:


New Jersey’s next governor faces daunting housing problems that are widespread and complex, ranging from a lack of affordable homes in walkable communities to a glut of McMansions in suburbs that are no longer in vogue — and little available land on which to fix the imbalance, a new report warns.

The fifth in The Fund for New Jersey’s “Crossroads NJ” series of reports aimed at informing public debate during this election year has a long title that sums up a good portion of the state’s housing problems: “Communities of Opportunity: New Jerseyans Need More Affordable, Convenient, and Safe Places to Call Home.” (The organization is a funder of NJ Spotlight.)

“There are just simply not the resources available to build the homes that we need and the reason for that is a completely out-of-balance housing market,” said Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “There’s lot of development that builds very large homes for very wealthy people but does not build starter homes and homes that are available for working families, seniors, and people with disabilities. And we certainly have a huge problem with the availability of rental apartments that families can move into.”

There are economic benefits to resolving the crisis, according to the report. . The construction of multifamily homes brings in millions in taxes and creates jobs. Affordable-housing development and community revitalization work done by the state’s community development organizations added $12 billion to the state’s economy over the past quarter century. And the $200 million the state invested in permanent supportive housing beginning in 2005 created both one-time and permanent job and increases in state income and sales taxes and local property taxes.

The report does a thorough job in explaining the depth and breadth of the housing problem.

“For New Jersey’s nearly 9 million residents, housing costs are among the highest in the nation, evictions occur at an unprecedented rate, and residential foreclosures outpace the rest of the country,” the report states. “Development over the last several decades has brought the state close to build-out and the resulting sprawl has separated economic opportunities and affordable homes. Today, too many New Jerseyans struggle to find an affordable, convenient, and safe place to call home.”

More than three of every 10 renters spend at least half of their gross income on rent and utilities, making New Jerseyans the second most-burdened in the nation by that measure. Last year, there were only 29 affordable apartments available for every 100 families with less than $30,000 in income.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 84 Comments

What does your soul get you in NJ?

From the New Yorker:

What a Faustian Bargain Gets You in New York’s Real-Estate Market

In the New York real-estate market, where stratospheric prices continue to climb, a pact with Satan just doesn’t get you what it once did. Sure, when you forfeit your soul to the infernal dominion of Lucifer, you might end up with limitless knowledge and sensual pleasure—but don’t expect a Tribeca loft as part of the bargain! Here’s what you can get in all five boroughs in exchange for the everlasting damnation of your very spirit.

Manhattan – You’ve always wanted to live in New York, New York, and, now that you’ve inked a contract with a demon, you finally have the means. So, what sort of place can the Devil offer you? Turns out, nothing good. Ten years ago, the market for mortgaged souls was strong, and the archfiend was well capitalized, but now all the subprime lending he did for what was left of everyone’s integrity has left him cash poor. Plus, the toxic deals he made with certain New York real-estate families have significantly downgraded his credit. Nevertheless, it’s not totally hopeless. (Well, in terms of your soul’s eternal rest, it is absolutely hopeless, but, re: your mortal living situation, there are slivers of hope here and there.) With an underworld guarantor, you can rent a completely livable studio in the Financial District or on the Upper East Side.

Brooklyn- Brooklyn is a big borough with diverse real-estate offerings, many of which are way outside your Hell-derived resources. Even with Satan’s institutional backing, don’t expect to get much in brownstone Brooklyn. If you find a place in Cobble Hill that’s underpriced because it houses a known plague omen, you’ll still need your parents to chip in on the down payment. However, if, deeper in Brooklyn, you’re willing to price out some veteran locals who haven’t leveraged their mortal souls for decent apartments—in, say, Brownsville, or Bensonhurst—your Hell-cash will go further. The commute to Manhattan will be a bitch, but note that Satan has recently been allowing more and more people to do his bidding remotely.

Staten Island – The New Jersey of New York City is cheaper than the other boroughs, so if you cash in your Faustian bargain there, you can move into a pretty nice one-bedroom. But do take note that if you buy or rent in Staten Island you will be required to live in Staten Island. Of course, eventually you’ll reside in actual Hell, so living in the only borough with a majority of voters who chose Donald Trump might not be a bad transitional phase.

Posted in Mortgages, NYC | 159 Comments

Nerdwallet? More like Emptywallet.

Insanity from Nerdwallet – clearly the housing market is getting bubbly:

Posted in Housing Bubble | 73 Comments

Where will Trump’s tax policy hurt most in NJ

From NJ Spotlight:


The loss of the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes paid would mean a loss of about $21,500 in write-offs for the average New Jersey taxpayer.

An analysis of the Internal Revenue Service’s 2015 Statistics of Income data, which counts all tax returns filed in 2016, the vast majority of which were for the 2015 tax year, shows that the amount New Jerseyans subtracted for state income and sales taxes and for local property taxes comprised nearly 70 percent of their total itemized deductions of $31,185. Other common deductions include home mortgage interest, medical expenses, and charitable contributions.

Congress on Thursday took the first step toward advancing the Trump administration’s proposed tax reform, which would eliminate the federal estate tax, cut corporate taxes, and reduce the rate paid by the highest earners, as well as streamline tax brackets and increase the standard deduction. Republicans are saying it will provide middle-class tax relief.

But several studies indicate it will do the opposite for a significant proportion of taxpayers in states like New Jersey, where people take large deductions for state and local taxes or SALT, especially the notoriously high property tax.

An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, for instance, found that more than a quarter of New Jerseyans would pay higher taxes — $2,400 annually on average — under the GOP plan, although the wealthiest 1 percent would get an average tax break of $74,000 a year. Most in New Jersey would receive a modest tax cut, the analysis found. Those who would pay more in taxes would be filers with incomes between $78,000 and $329,000.

“Make no mistake: this proposal is not tax ‘reform’ – not by a long shot,” said Sheila Reynertson, a senior policy analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive think tank. “It’s merely a package of huge tax cuts for those who are already doing well in this rigged economy: the very wealthy and large corporations.”

Because tax filings are highly individual, for instance, whether a person itemizes his taxes and takes the SALT deductions or not, and because all the details of the Trump plan are still not available, it is hard to predict how individuals would fare.

It is clear from the IRS data, though, that these deductions are more significant to filers in some parts of the state than in others.

For instance, taxpayers in three zip codes — Short Hills’ 07078, Far Hills’ 07931, and New Vernon’s 07976 — took more than $100,000 in SALT deductions on average in 2015. Short Hills led all, subtracting nearly $155,000 in state and local taxes from their federal returns. The SALT deductions were 95 percent of the total deduction taken and it represented more than a quarter of that area’s average adjusted gross income, which is gross income minus adjustments for such items as health savings account deductions, some contributions to qualified retirement plans, college tuition, and other items, of nearly $580,000.

Posted in Economics, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics, Property Taxes | 119 Comments

Maybe we have a shot?

From the Star Ledger:

Metro area including North Jersey is top contender for Amazon HQ2, firm says

The metro area including North Jersey earned the top ranking among contenders seeking to become home to Amazon’s second headquarters and the potential 50,000 workers it would employ, according to a research firm.

The Anderson Economic Group, a Chicago-based research group focused on economics and public policy, ranked the New York metropolitan area as the top of the list, though it does have one main detractor, said spokesman Jason Horowitz.

“Despite ending up dead last on the cost of doing business component of our index, no city can compete with its labor force, business services, and transportation infrastructure,” Horowitz said. “If Amazon wants the talent pool, infrastructure, and services that a big city provides, New York (metro area) is very well-positioned to land HQ2.”

Amazon recently announced that the company is looking to open a second headquarters and dozens of cities quickly responded with plans to enter the running.

Horowitz said the Philadelphia metro area, including portions of southern New Jersey, ranks seventh in its analysis largely on the strength of its transportation infrastructure, higher education sector, and businesses.

Princeton-based business location consultant John Boyd, however, told New Jersey 101.5 he considers Washington D.C. at the head of the pack, followed by Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and New Jersey.

Posted in Economics, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 149 Comments

F*ck You New York Times

From the NYT:

Jared Kushner’s Entitlement Is New Jersey Born and Bred

Lots of explanations have been put forward as to why Mr. Kushner seems to operate as though the rules don’t apply to him. Perhaps there’s one more factor to consider: his New Jersey upbringing.

Anyone who has ever driven on the New Jersey Turnpike knows that, at a certain point in the road, the entire Manhattan skyline appears to rise from the surrounding marshland like a close-yet-so-far Land of Oz, both tempting and terrorizing with its mysterious jutting cutouts. To traverse this roadway, as Mr. Kushner surely did as a young man, was undoubtedly to exist in a constant state of aspiration and alienation. No matter one’s personal glories, for those who call New Jersey home, and especially those who reside in Northern New Jersey, it’s difficult to forget that one is still not from “the city,” as the landmass across the river is known. Overcompensation tends to follow. Blind arrogance is an occasional byproduct.

I know because I remember experiencing such feelings myself while growing up in Bergen County in the 1970s and ’80s. While Mr. Kushner was raised in Livingston, an upper-middle-class town of 30,000 in neighboring Essex County, he attended school in Paramus, a middle-class town a dozen miles from the edge of Manhattan that, with its surfeit of malls, has long held the status of a punch line. How an intelligent young man could have spent his formative years in such a place — never mind at an Orthodox yeshiva — and not come away feeling humbled in some way remains something of a mystery.

But then, while New Jersey has become increasingly diverse, it’s also a place where dollar signs largely determine status and conspicuous consumption is celebrated as an inalienable right. “Fast Cars, Women, Money!” read the poster that the guy from Alpine (an enclave of celebrities and multimillionaires), who lived next door to me in my freshman dorm at college, unabashedly pinned to the wall over his bed. Naturally, it featured a bikini model sprawled across a Porsche.

Posted in New Jersey Real Estate, Politics, Unrest | 235 Comments