Vanity Fair got real-estate expert Barbara Corcoran — co-founder of the Corcoran Group, and the woman Jessica used to call "The Corcodevil" — to weigh in on the most pressing question that confronts any viewer of a New York-set sitcom: how the fuck do those people live there? Unlike on Friends (which is unfortunately missing from Corcoran's round-up) you are not issued a 6,000 square foot downtown apartment with panoramic views, a roof deck, a subway station on the corner, and a pricetag you can afford on your barista salary. Step into the world of fictional real estate.
A lot has been said about the realism of Girls, but looked at through the narrow lens of real estate — how does the show score? Not too badly, says Corcoran — financially insecure post-college types could live there, with room-mates, and get by. But where Lena Dunham's character Hannah errs, says Corcoran, is in having entirely too high an opinion of her corner of North Brooklyn:
Hannah mentions a big difference between Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents, implying the former to be better. Corcoran disagrees: "It's not as nice. The only people who feel that way are the people who can't afford the rent in Williamsburg."
Only poor people think Greenpoint is a livable neighborhood, oh ha ha ha! It isn't clear whether Barbara Corcoran said this while, or shortly after, adjusting her monocle. To be fair, Greenpoint — though perhaps unparalleled as a source for kielbasa and doughnuts — is a Superfund site with the dubious distinction of having some of the fastest-rising rents in all of New York City; last quarter, the average asking price for a Greenpoint apartment hit $3,424. (Which is insane, considering everyone I know who lives in Greenpoint has to walk 15 blocks to get to the nearest train, and once they get there, it is the G train. That is not a funny joke! Poor Greenpointers. But then I am just another nose-in-the-air resident of central Harlem with my four express trains to keep me warm at night.)
I've never watched Two Broke Girls because I find mass transit much more entertaining than T.V., but apparently on that show the two titular girls have a pony? In their back yard? In New York City? Let's hope it doesn't ever eat the grass, because they too live in Greenpoint. But the soil-contaminating industrial oil spill is the least of that horse's problems, apparently:
"Are you kidding me?" asks Corcoran. "The neighbors would have them out of the apartment in the second week. Animal-rights people would be picketing out front. The health department would have notices on their door, and the eviction notice would be posted all over the front of the building."
Corcoran finds it unrealistic that Don Draper would have rented a West Village pied-a-terre/staging grounds for his numerous infidelities, even though in 1964 he could have nabbed one for a few hundred a month. The problem was crime: living around bohemian, heroin-addicted struggling artists seems great — until they break into your place and steal all your stuff. (Even a whole ten years later, Judith Thurman described living downtown thusly: "Everyone you knew had been mugged. Your television was kind of on loan until it was stolen.") And let's not even talk about Carrie Bradshaw. "66 Perry Street is now on the market for $9,650,000," says Corcoran. "Hardly something a newspaper columnist could even afford to sit on, never mind own." Do you hear that, ink-stained wretches? Do not even think about sitting on the property of your social betters.
Reaching back a little farther into the T.V. history of fictional New York, the Jeffersons probably could have afforded to live in apartment 12D of the Park Lane building on East 85th Street, which in the mid-70s rented for around $600-$800. But a real black family would not have been allowed to live there, because most Upper East Side buildings at that time refused to rent to black tenants. Corcoran would know; she was a rental agent back then, and says "only a few" UES buildings were integrated. A decade later, the Cosbys — an obstetrician and a lawyer — could have plunked down $700,000 for a Brooklyn Heights townhouse without much fear of real-estate discrimination. Today, that home would set you back about $6 million.
Prime-Time Property [VF]