Remember "must-see TV"? Season after season, NBC made the couch the place to be on Thursday nights, with a lineup that included now-legendary sitcoms such as "Mad About You," "Frasier," "Seinfeld," and "Friends." Skip an episode, particularly of "Seinfeld," and you missed out on pop culture in the making, from the "low talker" to the "Soup Nazi."
After the actors and one-liners, though, the big stars of NBC's Thursday night shows were the apartments themselves. Though it's been years since we first met the motley crews of "Seinfeld" and "Friends," I can still picture the apartments that provided the backdrops for so many episodes.
Splashed with color, filled with huge rooms, and punctuated by giant windows overlooking New York, Monica's apartment on "Friends" (supposedly a rent-controlled unit actually leased by her grandmother, who let Monica and her friend Rachel live there) outclassed everything from Joey's and Chandler's man cave to Ross's upscale place. On "Seinfeld," Jerry's apartment on the Upper West Side qualified as the hub of all social activity, as Kramer, Elaine, and George stopped by constantly to raid Jerry's fridge, share the details of their latest scheme, and gossip about everyone they knew.
And when those (outrageously large for New York) apartments got too claustrophobic, coffee and "big salads" were just footsteps away at Central Perk and the restaurant on "Friends" and "Seinfeld," respectively.
More recently, Carrie Bradshaw and her compatriots on HBO's "Sex and the City" made downtown living into a hip and luxurious lifestyle, complete with fabulous clothes, hot restaurants, and a never-ending social life.
Given such alluring and inescapable small-screen images, is it any wonder twenty-somethings and their thirty-something counterparts have chosen to move downtown, creating demand for urban-style apartments and condos everywhere from the center cities to outer suburbs? We don't think so, which is why we chose Jerry Seinfeld, Monica Geller, and Carrie Bradshaw for the 18th spot on our list of movers and shakers.
As you'll see when you read the story, these fictional television characters tied on our list with another famous person: President George W. Bush.
As powerful as President Bush is, though, his influence on the multifamily industry, and specifically the apartment sector, has been nowhere near as positive as HBO's.
Homeownership, no matter the cost, has been a top priority for the president, who approved the $200 million American Dream Act for first-time home buyers, proposed zero-down payment mortgages, and suggested a tax credit to support the creation of new affordable single-family homes.
Meanwhile, Hope VI, a $5 billion federal program that has resulted in the redevelopment of numerous troubled public housing complexes into safe, appealing mixed-income neighborhoods of rentals and single-family homes, inevitably finds itself on the Bush administration's budgetary chopping block.
And, at the same time the president acknowledges the critical need for affordable for-sale housing, state and city housing authorities regularly find themselves battling for the money they need from the government for Section 8 vouchers that enable low-income families to rent safe and decent housing.
Such choices by the president and his top leaders seem particularly ironic in a time where home prices have soared out of reach in so many cities and suburbs, leaving renting the best–and only–financial option for so many working and middle-class singles, couples, and families. NBC and HBO didn't feel the need to treat these renters as second-class citizens. Why does President Bush?