Real Estate Awaits Another Turn as Conversation Topic No. 1

It seemed that New Yorkers would wake on Nov. 5 – happily satiated by nearly two years of electoral saturation that ended just how most of them wanted – and return to their most fervent and familiar conversation topic: real estate.

Except that they didn’t.

"We don’t talk about real estate," said actor Paul Michael Phillips, 24, who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment near Prospect Park. "We’re not like, ‘Hmm, let’s got to the cigar room and talk about our condo in the Hamptons.’ No, we talk about the war and health care."

Inexplicably, real estate in all its obsessive New York permutations – who’s getting what for how much; which neighborhood have the hipsters invaded now; why so-and-so can afford to move and such-and-such can’t; will we knock out walls for the baby or just move; where’s the best place to be X in Y – continues to warm a back bench to the 2008 presidential election.

"It’s only two days after," Brian Morse, a researcher for a union, said, looking perplexed. "Everyone’s talking about the election!"

Mr. Morse spent the campaign knocking on doors for Senate candidates, and he was still wearing his Obama cap. "Everyone’s pretty excited in my circles," he said.

Danny Kim, who works at a jewelry store at Dean and Smith streets in Boerum Hill, said he constantly overhears customers talking about the election, the economy, and how Barack Obama will fare as President. He and his friends follow commercial real estate listings, since he wants to buy a store. But the election?

"It does cut into our discussion time," he said.

"We’re all aware of the political situation and the way America is in this day and age," said illustrator Cathie Urushibata of her boyfriend, friends and coworkers. "It’s sad if you’re not talking about it."

But what about the campaign burnout? Where’s the Barack-lash? Weren’t New Yorkers, at some point, supposed to get tired of wall-to-wall election coverage? It’s impossible to quantify what city-dwellers are talking about at any given moment, of course. But if news outlets and overheard subway chats are anything to go by, the answer is no.

Perhaps it’s just that, after the last eight years, New Yorkers are content to ignore the market doom and gloom and set their sights on something that inspires, well, happiness.

"Probably the next thing is the economy, that they’ll talk about," said Ms. Urushibata. "Or some other scandal, something new. But I think for now, everyone’s going to be cruising on that high note – something good to talk about."

"It’s changed the course of modern history," said Lisa Feuer, a yoga teacher who lives in Kensington, Brooklyn. "I think that’s a pretty overwhelming thing for a lot of people."

Even so, some locals are ready to move on.

"I had an obsession with the Mets, and they screwed me, and then it was the election," said Tyler Fairbairn, an urban planning student at Columbia, who rents on the Upper East Side. "I’m actually kind of relieved [it’s over], because I have a ton of work to do for school."

Others are turning to the future, wondering exactly what an Obama presidency will look like. But the real question is, when will our favorite topic once again dominate the zeitgeist? When will we once again complain about landlords, curse the apartment hunt, gossip about new condos, lament gentrification, and judge each other based solely on address and the ability to procure a spare bedroom? It could be months.

Shantonu Basu, a lawyer, thinks the chatter will resume Jan. 20, 2009: the day Mr. Obama is inaugurated.

"I’d give it a few weeks and a few more Cabinet appointments," said Mr. Morse, "and we’ll start to see the same old Democrats in there."

"I bet probably in March," said Cobble Hill resident and small business owner Dana Betts. Wait until the inauguration, "then everyone will probably freak out for another couple months. Until everyone’s like, ‘O.K., now he’s in, it’s realistic, now we just have to sit with it.’ Because people are projecting the next two months, like, ‘What’s going to happen?’"

– Additional reporting by Lydia DePillis

Real Estate Awaits Another Turn as Conversation Topic No. 1