In the age of new media and anonymous commenting, controversies can blow up quicker than you can say "24-hour news cycle." An intrepid 22-year-old New Yorker found this out the hard way this week, after writing a column about her experience buying an apartment in the Big Apple.
The brouhaha began on Monday, after The New York Observer ran a column written by 22-year-old Polly Mosendz.
"I am 22 and I own a modest apartment in the Village," Mosendz wrote. "I am not an Ecclestone sister, fertilizer heiress or start up sell out. I am a normal 20-something. I don’t own a matching set of dishes, and I’m not entirely sure how to do laundry without ruining something."
The rest of the piece detailed Mosendz's travails in the complicated New York City real estate market. Mosendz writes how she shopped around for a broker, attended months of open houses and eventually obtained a mortgage. The apartment she finally closed on, a 418-square-foot abode in Greenwich Village, is worth $250,000 and was purchased with the help of her parents, as well as a frugal lifestyle that facilitated a healthy savings account. (The average cost of a Manhattan apartment was about $1.43 million this spring, according to The New York Times.)
On Monday afternoon, Gawker picked up the post and wrote a sometimes scathing, generally mocking piece of its own, asking how any "normal" 22-year-olds could possibly afford the $50,000 down payment Mosendz shelled out.
The word that best sums up this little tale: "Normal." A normal story of a normal 22-year-old, in this big city of ours, Manhattan, "where dreams are made of," as they say in the song. All of you 22-year-olds should be able to relate to this apartment-purchasing experience, lest you be considered abnormal.
While Mosendz's experiences may have resonated with the New York Observer readership, they were looked upon as downright sinful by the Gawker crowd. Hundreds of comments streamed in, many calling Mosendz spoiled, or at the very least delusional. (Check out this Groupthink article on Jezebel for a more profanity-laced version.)
But in an interview with The Huffington Post, Mosendz replied that she had never meant to say she was "normal" in a financial sense. Indeed, she said she knows she is in an incredibly fortunate situation for which she is very grateful. Admitting she was saddened by the critical comments on Gawker and elsewhere, Mosendz said she realizes now she should have perhaps chosen a better word.
"I completely acknowledge that this is an exceptional situation," Mosendz told HuffPost. "This entire article is about how difficult it is, and how abnormal it is, and how hard you have to work for it."
Addressing her critics, Mosendz said she worked hard to achieve this goal. She was able to earn merit scholarships while in college at The New School, helping greatly with tuition and books and allowing her to leave without the student loan debt that weighs down about 37 million Americans today. On top of that, she says, she has been working as much as possible since she was 14 and lives a lifestyle that prioritizes saving.
"I'm a homebody," she said.
And while she has a stable job in the marketing profession, Mosendz said she's certainly not making the $80,000 or $90,000 many of her detractors seem to assume.
Mosendz said some critics also seem to have missed one of the main points of her article: the ageism that she feels pervades much of the New York real estate market. As she wrote in the Observer, "Investing in Manhattan real estate is painful, time consuming and designed to exclude young people."
Gary Malin, president of New York City brokerage firm City Habitats, relayed to HuffPost that buying an apartment in the city is a stressful process requiring laudable perseverance. While he doesn't necessarily see a "deep pool" of 22-year-old buyers, Malin said there are certainly young people similar to Mosendz working to buy in Manhattan.
"Everyone's circumstances are different," Malin said. "But when you're talking about rents being as expensive as they are these days, if people have the financial wherewithal and mental wherewithal ... in many cases it makes financial sense."
Ultimately, the experience of writing the column may prove to be its own kind of lesson -- this one about the culture of the blogosphere.
"People on the Internet can be mean," Mosendz noted dryly. "At least no one has said anything bad about my writing."