NEW YORK – It was laundry that broke Mary Shell. Or rather, the lack of an in-unit washer and dryer in her Brooklyn apartment where Shell, 37, a field producer for reality television, could barely afford her half of the rent before the novel coronavirus pandemic because work had been slow for months. Times are even tougher now that her roommate, also unemployed, has had to move back in with her parents.
Shell was so financially strapped that she began inquiring about various night-life gigs, only to see covid-19 close all the bars and clubs. (“So that’s another job you can’t do in a pandemic.”) Still, her situation might have been bearable if the nearest laundromat wasn’t four blocks away.
“I just want to be able to do laundry without having to drag it up and down a four-story walk-up or pay someone $40 or $50 to do it for me,” said Shell – echoing a gripe of New York City’s apartment-dwellers so timeless that “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “Living Single” and “Broad City” all have episodes about the indignities of shared laundry facilities. But throw in a pandemic and Shell said the stress has been “exhausting,” noting how she recently showed up to her laundromat to find that someone had handled all the clothes she had just washed.
“Everyone deserves space and basic amenities,” she said, lamenting how, in New York, many landlords deem a washing machine a “luxury” item. “It’s just insulting to come at us and be like, ‘We’re going to charge you an extra thousand dollars a month for this standard appliance that’s been in American households since the 1970s.’ ”
It’s enough to make her contemplate leaving, for good.
Welcome to the Great Reassessment.
New York City is a shadow of its pre-pandemic normal. Like Shell, many residents are out of work, out of money, out of patience and out of sorts. Reassessments are happening throughout the country, but nowhere else are they as sharply focused as here, in the nation’s most populated, most dense, most diverse metropolis – where more than 21,000 have died.