Full Brownstone Nests

When it comes to boyfriends, the Parsons take a very different tack from the Eisenbergs. Caroline is allowed to have boyfriends over, and she’s allowed to spend the night sleeping elsewhere, but boyfriends cannot spend the night at the Parsons’ house. Donna insists this is not an issue of morals but of comfort. “My thing is, I wouldn’t want to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and have to worry about running into some young man.”

“And my thing is, I don’t want guys sleeping with my daughter,” Bill said with a chuckle.

The Parsons both enjoy having their daughter home, but they don’t necessarily agree on what effect it has. “I worry that living here puts her on a different track from people out there hustling,” Bill said. “The stuff you get from interacting with the world adds to your skills in an inexplicable way.”

Donna disagrees. “What can they achieve if they spend all their time trying to pay their rent?”

Donna Parsons’ question is one that occurs to many indigenous New Yorkers returning home. All the graduates interviewed for this story agreed that living on your own in New York City was possible, especially if you had a well-paying corporate job. But for those who hope to someday own property in the areas where they grew up, or to make a career in a less lucrative field, living with your parents makes a certain kind of sense; you can’t afford not to.

“I wish that I had lived with my folks right out of school,” said Case Dorkey, a Dartmouth grad who worked for several years as a high-school teacher. “Instead, I ended up in debt, living back at home by 28, which is something nobody wants to do.”

Mr. Dorkey, now 30, has left teaching and works at a start-up in Manhattan. He has left his family’s home in Cobble Hill, but continues to feel shut out by New York prices. “I see it with myself and among a lot of my friends—still renting, still living check to check.”

Christine Kim, 31, grew up in Queens and went back to live with her parents after college. She worked first as a marketing consultant for a firm that went bust during the dot.com crash, then for Sony Pictures Classic.

“The amount I saved while living at home was enough for a down payment on an apartment,” Ms. Kim said. She bought a studio in a historic limestone townhouse along Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West for $130,000 in 2002, and sold the place three and a half years later for $260,000.

Jenny, the Eisenbergs’ eldest daughter, wishes she had made similar choices.

“It’s funny, because in retrospect, it would have made sense to live at home from the outset like my sisters,” she said. “At the time, though, none of my friends were doing that, so after a month or two at home, I moved out. And once I lived on my own, I felt that going home would be accepting defeat.”

After living on his own for two years, Andrew McKay moved in with his parents on Clinton Street in Cobble Hill when he wanted to make a career change.

“I definitely felt some embarrassment—but actually lots of people understood that it was a realistic thing to do financially,” he said. “I think for a lot of young people it is definitely a career strategy.” Since getting engaged and finding a job at Miramax, Mr. McKay has moved back out and now lives in Park Slope. “That made my parents happy … and my fiance.”

As these grads begin to break from their 20’s into their 30’s, a new question looms. “I think the last piece of the puzzle is yet to be played out,” Rusti Eisenberg said. “What happens when they want to have families of their own?”

As The Observer noted last December, even as the city’s population is growing, there is a simultaneous exodus of young families. “You have what’s been going on in other cities—the people staying are childless, and the people leaving have families,” Joel Kotkin, author of The City: A Global History and a noted expert on the economic trends of cities, told The Observer then.

The Eisenbergs hope that they can use their brownstone to give their daughters the same opportunity they had. “I think it’s possible that Jenny and her boyfriend might move back here,” Rusti said.

“I think they should move back here,” Allan said.

“I think it is in Annie and Miguel’s mind, too,” Rusti said. “Lizzie, she lives here already.”

When the Eisenbergs moved to Henry Street in the 1980’s, it was a working-class Italian-American neighborhood. “All these houses were multigenerational, nobody ever went anywhere,” Rusti said. The Eisenbergs never imagined living that way. “But now,” Rusti said, “we see it very differently, and we wonder if, in the future, we might transform our house for the children.”

Allan nodded his head. “No one we grew up with wanted to move back in with their families after college. But maybe our generation was the anomaly.”

Full Brownstone Nests