Who’s Moving to the Suburbs? Alicia Keys, That’s Who’s Moving to the Suburbs!

Okay, as you all know, we have a recurring feature here at the Move to Suma breathlessly covering any news about celebrities making the move to suburban idyll.

And we’re doing pretty good.  Here’s our tally so far:

  • Tom Cruise
  • Elisabeth Hasselbeck
  • Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively
  • Usher
  • Jay-Z and Beyonce
  • Jonah Hill
  • Any Winehouse (before, umm, she died, but that was TOTALLY unrelated)

So we’re clearly not along in our decision to get out of the big city and move to the land of big lawns and rooms that we never actually use.

Now, we’re proud to add someone new to the list:  Alicia Keys!  From Curbed:

Grammy-collecting R&B singer-songwriter Alicia Keys and her producer husband Swizz Beatz have apparently had enough of the concrete jungle where dreams are made, having just dropped about $12M on the opulent (if flinchingly over-designed) New Jersey estate of comedian Eddie Murphy. Bubble Hill, in Englewood, N.J., is a seven-bedroom estate with all the benefits of being rich and in the ‘burbs; the 25,000-square-foot manse boasts a recording studio, two-lane bowling alley, indoor pool, billiards room, spa, and tennis court. Murphy had been trying to sell his 30-room mansion for nearly eight years before a mystery buyer (mystery until now, that is) made an offer in May. Keys, who was born and raised in NYC, seems to be rather fond of star-studded real estate, having picked up Lenny Kravitz’s SoHo duplex penthouse more than two years ago. (She recently listed it for $17.95M.)

Most importantly, catch that last part: she’s putting her Soho duplex on the market after only two years. In other words, leaving Soho for Englewood!  To paraphrase a popular song:

Let’s hear it for Su-Burbs!

Pick-et fences where dreams are made of.

There’s nothing you can’t do!

Alicia Keys — Welcome to the suburbs!

Who’s Moving to the Suburbs? Tom Cruise, That’s Who!

As part of my never-ending and desperate quest to validate my move to the suburbs, I’d delighted to report that we have yet another A-list celebrity who is thinking of making the move to the land of big lawns, chain restaurants, and SUVs:

Tom Cruise is house hunting in the New York suburbs. Or rather, mansion and estate hunting, according to both tabloids. He’s got Bedford, NY and Greenwich, CT to comb through–that’s where the celebs live. Ron Howard, who directed him “Far and Away,” is a long time Greenwich resident. “ER” star Anthony Edwards is up there, too.

This is a big one, ladies and gentlemen.  Regardless of the reasons — and apparently Mr. Cruise is going through some relationship issues that might bring him to the area — it’s quite the “get” for us to welcome the star of one of the great suburban movies of all time (talking about, of course, Mission Impossible 3 Risky Business).

So, as the self-appointed head of the Celebrity Suburban Welcome Wagon, let me be the first to say: “Tom Cruise!  Welcome to the Suburbs!”

Does Moving to the Suburbs Make You a Conservative?

Is moving to the suburbs a political statement?  The reason I ask is that I’ve become increasingly aware of this raging battle between the forces of sprawl and the advocates of density, one that actually polarizes along familiar political lines: suburbs = conservative, and cities = liberal.

Now, it’s not just about how the cities tend to be more politically liberal and the suburbs more politically conservative. Yes, that’s absolutely and obviously true — you don’t get a lot of tea parties on the Upper West Side, and you don’t see too many “Free Mumia” banners hanging from the windows of high ranches in New City.

But it’s more about how the suburbs versus the cities arguments tend to reflect conservative and liberal values:
  • Suburbs:  Big houses, big lots, big cars, big highways, assimilation, personal freedom, ownership society.
  • City: Dense spaces, walkable neighborhoods, community involvement, concern for the environment, diversity, public transportation, renters over owners.
For example, check out this almost comical “suburban manifesto” put out by L. Brooks Patterson, the supervisor for Michigan’s Oakland County, titled “Sprawl, Schmall…Give Me More Development”, and tell me it doesn’t read like something being shouted by a guy in a colonial hat in front of a picture of President Obama morphing into Hitler:

Sprawl is not evil. In fact, it is good. It is the inevitable result of a free people exercising their cherished, constitutionally protected rights as individuals to pursue their dreams when choosing where to live, where to work, where to educate, and where to recreate.


The anti-American Dreamers would have you believe that suburban growth is at the root of all problems that beset our cities, both in Michigan and across our country.  They seem to believe that citizens left thriving cities, and that it was their departure that caused high crime, high taxes, invisible public services, and failing public school systems. Anybody who believes that line of thinking is taking denial to a whole new level. Sprawl did not cause the decline of the cities. Cities declined because they squandered their assets. High crime rates, high taxes, failing schools, foul air and a lack of open green spaces forced people to move.

It will probably not shock you that Mr. Patterson is a Republican.  But my point is that the pro-suburban argument properly articulated is inherently conservative: the individual over the community, assimilation over diversity, highways over public transportation, personal freedoms over environmental protection.
Conversely, the urbanist perspective is almost inescapably liberal, stressing how dense walkable neighborhoods foster a sense of community, reduce environmental impact, promote diversity, provide for affordable housing, and reduce transportation costs.  From the urbanist view,suburbs are ridiculously wasteful and hideously (and often subtly) subsidized.
All of this puts me in a difficult position, as a liberal who actually lives in the suburbs.  Does just living here make a political statement that I don’t value diversity, or the environment, or public transportation?  Am I betraying my own sensibilities to drive an SUV?  Do I need to get fitted for my tri-corner hat?
Maybe not.  As Allison Arieff points out in a response to Patterson in the New York Times, there’s a middle way between the glorification and vilification of sprawl, a movement to bring a more community-minded sensibility to suburban environments not as an act of governmental or political will, but simply a response to basic market demand:  developers who realize that many of their clients want those smaller, walkable neighborhoods, and people living in the suburbs who are finding ways to connect and foster a real community.  As she says, living “better and smarter shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
That makes sense to me. Like a lot of people who moved to the suburbs, I wasn’t making a political statement. I wasn’t taking sides in this battle, or foregoing my liberal sensibilities to adopt Mr. Patterson’s vision of the American Dream.
I just wanted more closet space.

Who’s Moving to the Suburbs? Elisabeth Hasselbeck, That’s Who!

One of the regular features of the Move to Suma is our breathless reporting of celebrities who have made the move to the suburbs, in what is an obvious and thinly-veiled attempt to validate my own decision to leave the city.  I mean, am I really so uncool to live in the suburbs if people like Jonah Hill, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, Beyonce and Jay Z, and Usher are making the move with me (not, of course, really WITH me, but you get the point)?

Those are pretty cool people, amirite?  So, in the spirit of fairness, I have to report this little nugget from the Daily Mail:

For one TV co-host, changing her view was as simple as moving to Connecticut.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who serves as co-host on The View, has purchased a sprawling $4million estate with her husband Tim Hasselbeck an hour outside of New York City.

The bubbly blonde had listed her condo on the Upper West Side in March for $3.3million earlier this year. It is now in contract to sell.

Ms Hasselbeck’s rep told TMZ at the time that the family was looking for a quieter and less-hectic lifestyle, saying: ‘Tim and Elisabeth have decided to trade in city living for the suburbs.’

I have to be honest. I would have thought that Elisabeth Hasselbeck ALREADY lived in the suburbs.

This is not quite the get we had with Beyonce, but, nevertheless — welcome, Elisabeth!

The Return from Exile in Reverse: Re-Creating the Suburban Experience in New York City

Jesse McKinley had a great piece in the New York Times last week about trying to recreate a stereotypical suburban experience within Manhattan. A native suburban, his theory was that the city is slowly becoming “suburbanized“:

 The ’burbs seem to be everywhere, from miniature golf in the Village to batting cages on the Upper West Side. There’s table tennis off Park Avenue South, an Applebee’s in Harlem and highway-style hotels like the Comfort Inn on the Lower East Side. Multiplexes are more common than art houses, and don’t even try to avoid trivia nights. If not for all the big buildings and honking, you could easily mistake Manhattan for Mahwah on some nights.

McKinley thinks that this might be the result of changing demographics, with people from the suburbs moving into the city and providing a target market for their “cultural traditions.”  Sort of like the way that an influx of ethnic immigrants create the need for more Pakistani restaurants, but far less spicy.  I would also add that, to the extent that his thesis is accurate — and I’m not quite convinced that a couple of bars offering ping-pong is a sign of the suburbanizing apocalypse — it might be that more couples deciding to stay in the city after they have kids might create a greater need for more “family-oriented” activities.

Anyway, as part of testing his theory, McKinley wrote a funny travelogue of a weekend he spent sampling these suburban diversions throughout the city:

  • A trip to the Manhattan Mall, which he found disappointing insofar as the “mall” doesn’t have a food court. No food court!  What kind of mall is that?
  • Trivia Night at a bar on the upper west side, which is I guess representative of the average suburban night out.
  • Two nights at a cheap chain hotel.
  • Dinner at Chevys, a classic suburban chain.
  • Mini-Golf at some place down in the Village.
  • Brunch at Applebees, the great “neighborhood grill,” if you live in the worst neighborhood in the world.
  • An Imax movie.
  • A few swings at the batting cages.

Now, as much as I liked this piece, as a self-appointed champion of the suburbs, I’m a wee bit nettled by the reductionist approach to suburban living.  We will not be MOCKED!!!  Or, rather, we can mock ourselves, in the way that only, say, Italian people can properly make Italian jokes.  But it hurts to see someone practically put on “blackface” like this.  Seriously, Applebees?  Ouch!

More to the point, I’ve lived in the suburbs for almost three years now, and I don’t do most of the stuff that McKinley put in his piece.  I get the mall, and the batting cages, and I guess I can understand the trips to stereotypically suburban restaurant chains.  But why stay at an Econo Lodge? Suburbanites don’t stay in cheap hotels — we live in cheap houses!  And what about miniature golf?  I haven’t even seen a miniature golf course here in the Hudson Valley area in years — they were all closed down and turned into McMansion developments.  The only place you get mini-golf is down at the shore.  It’s really more of a vacation activity.

So I don’t know if he quite captured the true modern suburban experience. If you really want that experience, and I don’t know why you would, here’s what I’d add to the agenda:

First, you can’t rent some small little hotel room at the Econo Lodge; rather, you should get some cheap suite hotel, because you need a kitchen that you can cook in.  Here in the suburbs, we don’t go out every night to fancy places like Chevy’s and Applebees — we cook.  So pick up some groceries, cook up a meal, and eat it in front of the TV like the rest of us suburbanites.

Second, when you’re done eating, skip the miniature golf and the batting cages, and get in touch with your true suburban self:

  • Take a trip to Costco, because nothing says suburbs like picking up 400 rolls of toilet paper.
  • Rent a lawnmower and start mowing a section of Central Park.  You’ll probably end up in jail, but you can’t spend a suburban weekend without cutting some grass.
  • Buy a car seat, and try to install it in a cab. That’ll take up a good half a day. The cabbie will be thrilled!
  • Clog up a toilet, and fix it yourself.

Buying stuff, cooking a meal, mowing the lawn — now, THAT would be a suburban weekend.

More Census Data Indicating that the Suburbs are Growing

Wendell Cox of New Geography has an interesting analysis of suburban migration patterns coming out of some new Census data.  As we’ve discussed before, the Census reveals that the suburban population grew from the 2000 census, partly at the expense of urban areas but even more through migration from more rural areas:

Despite the higher gasoline prices and the illusions of a press that is often anti-suburban, both the suburbs and the exurbs continued to attract people from elsewhere in the nation. The core counties, which contain the core cities, continued to lose domestic migrants to other parts of the country, principally to the suburbs and the exurbs of the large metropolitan areas.

Cox also points out that current economic conditions have actually reduced domestic migration, particularly among young people who would be more likely to start moving around if they actually had somewhere to go — like, for a job.

We’ve commented on Cox’s work before.  He’s particularly vocal about challenging the prevailing assumption that people want to live in dense urban environments, arguing that the Census data simply doesn’t support that idea, and in fact shows increasing migration to the suburbs.  move

Some interesting charts and data.  Check it out.

Who’s Moving to the Suburbs? Pawn Shops, That’s Who!

If you live in the suburbs, and you’ve been wondering how you can offload that used Rolex for some walking around money, I have good news for you:

A slice of urban grit is moving to the suburbs.

Pawn shops are becoming increasingly more popular in areas outside New York City, and some residents aren’t pleased about it.

The sign of the pawnbroker, familiar in the concrete jungle of Gotham, is coming soon to a suburban street near you.

This is very exciting news, I think.  I’ve become a big fan of all those cable shows featuring pawn brokers buying up stuff, so I’m looking forward to something like “Pawn Stars: Westchester” on my basic cable lineup this fall.

And anytime that I find some antiques lying around the house, and am looking to get a good 20 cents on the dollar on my way to Atlantic City, I no longer have to lug them into the city.

Seriously, do people really need pawn shops anymore? Ebay is basically a big pawn shop where you can sell basically anything and probably get a better price rather than negotiating with a guy who probably knows more about what you’re selling than you do, and does this all day long.

While I’m on the subject, why do people bring specialty items into pawn stores?Every week on Pawn Stars, some guy comes in with a Civil War rifle or something, and big bald Rick tells them he’ll have to bring an expert in to appraise it.  Why don’t those people just bring it to the expert in the first place?  And then why do they stand there and let the appraiser value it, only to then sell it for 60 cents on the dollar to Rick?  Those people drive me crazy.  GO TO EBAY!

All that said, as the honorary and self-appointed driver of the “Moving to the Suburbs of Manhattan” Welcome Wagon, let me just say to the owners of all these wonderful pawn shops — Welcome to the Suburbs!

Where Do Most New York Cheating Spouses Live? In the Suburbs!

Oh man, this is not good.

Lots of coverage this week of a report from Ashley Madison, a website apparently designed for people looking to have affairs, identifying the best places in the New York to try to cheat on your spouse.  Essentially, Ashley Madison looked at the overall population of towns and cities, and then calculated the percentage of people who were members of the site.

So, for example, at least 3% of the adults who live in Great Neck, Long Island are on the site, living in cheater’s paradise. That’s pretty alarming.  I mean, if you live in Great Neck, and you’re in a room with 33 other people, statistically speaking one of you is on Ashley Madison looking for some strange.  And one of those people might be your spouse…..

Indeed, the report showed that seven of the top 10 cheating areas were in the suburbs.  Here’s the full top 10 list:

1). Great Neck, L.I.

2). Park Slope, Brooklyn

3). Upper East Side

4). Forest Hills, Queens

5). TriBeCa

6). New City – Rockland County

7). Douglaston, Queens

8). Riverdale, The Bronx

9). Howard Beach, Brooklyn

10). Garden City, L.I.

I think that’s a little surprising.  After all, who would have thought that the quiet, boring suburbs would be such hotbeds of sweaty illicit action?  I mean, seriously — New City?  I’ve been to New City.  I don’t even think that the people in New City have sex with their spouses, much less other people’s spouses.  I need to get out more, apparently.

How can this be? Well, the methodology is a little whack, since it’s based on taking the total number of people who live in a town/city and then dividing it by the number of people on the site.  So I can see how smaller towns might be more likely to make the top 10 list, simply because they have fewer people and a relatively small number of members could forge a higher percentage.

But it also might actually be a reflection of the general atmosphere of the suburbs: more married people, more boredom, more free weekends with not a lot to do. And maybe people in the suburbs need a site like Ashley Madison to hook up, since you don’t have the urban density of the city to provide fresh new opportunities to destroy your married life and ultimately cut your life savings in half.

I have to be honest that I’m very happy that Nyack didn’t make the list, because I have enough problems at home.

Who’s Moving to the Suburbs? Ryan Reynolds, That’s Who!

Hollywood Life is reporting that movie star Ryan Reynolds is moving to the suburbs! And not just the suburbs, but the Manhattan suburbs:

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds want to escape city life and settle down in the suburbs, Us Weekly reports. We think they’re ready to take the leap!

The Gossip Girl star and her super-hot boyfriend of six months “have been looking around different areas of Connecticut” for a house, an insider tells the mag.

They were spotted strolling through New Canaan, an upscale town about an hour outside of NYC, on April 12, and checked out several home decor stores while they were there, according to Us.

Blake, 24 and Ryan, 35, “would like to live, as much as they can, like a normal couple,” the insider says. “They love getting out of the city and appreciate a slower pace.”

Hopefully the couple doesn’t plan to slow down their careers, though — we don’t know what we’d do without Serena on Gossip Girl!

This is a pretty nice get for us in the suburbs, although I have to be honest that I have absolutely no idea who Blake Lively is…….

Who’s Moving to the Suburbs? Usher, That’s Who!

First Beyonce and Jay Z, and now……Usher?

Could R&B singer USHER be prepared to settle down and make ANOTHER family???? Well he was out HOUSE HUNTING yesterday in Hudson, NY – a FAMILY FRIENDLY town outside of NYC.

Okay, so it’s from website I’ve never heard of, and no one else picked it up, and it looks like all he was doing was driving around Hudson County (hey! shout out to Hudson!), probably not for himself.

But I take whatever I can get. Sooooo……………

Welcome, Usher!  I don’t actually know any of your music, because I’m so completely lame, but you’re famous and all, so we’re thrilled to have you aboard!