Angry New Yorker

Friday, May 09, 2003

May 9, 2003 -- "HER husband hated the idea. Her kids had to be persuaded.
But next month, Barbara Ray and husband Clay Brown, along with their boys, Hans and William, are joining a feared middle-class exodus straight out of this city, and into the eager arms of New Jersey.

Service cuts, tax hikes and - most importantly - schools, conspired to make them downshift from the land of 24-hour delis and into the low-caffeine wilds of Maplewood. So, Mr. Bloomberg - will you ask the family aboard the last moving van heading through the Holland Tunnel to switch off the lights?

"We like living in the city," Barbara, a stay-at-home mom from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, told me.

"It just seems the time to go."
Clay Brown is a self-employed set designer. With Hans, 5, ready for kindergarten, and William, 3, close behind, they faced having to shell out nearly $40,000 a year for private school.
"If we figured we couldn't afford it, the class sizes [in public schools] are now threatening to go up," said Barbara. "You can't experiment with your kids. As far as services go, we have the Red Hook [public] pool," she said. "It's nice, but depressing, all concrete. The children can't bring in any toys."

That pool is now being measured for a possible padlock, as budget-cutters eye slashing recreation. But possibly the last straw came when the mayor threatened to shut down the Prospect Park Zoo. "That one really upset me," said Barbara. "And they just spent millions renovating it! They are doing cuts more in the boroughs than in Manhattan," said Barbara, who agrees something has to go to balance the budget. But even her firehouse, Engine Co. 204, is slated for closure, while Bloomy's Upper East Side house will be saved.

The Ray-Browns did the math. They got a healthy offer on the brownstone they bought in the mid-'90s for $360,000. They bought a six-bedroom house in Maplewood - without a mortgage.

Property taxes there total $11,000, far more than the $1,800 they paid in Brooklyn, before the 18.5 percent hike.

"Compared with sending two kids to private school, that's a deal," Barbara said.

Now the kids are growing excited, while the city grows poorer with their loss. As for Clay, "he's getting used to it."

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