- May 5, 2002
Moving to Manhattan, for the Children's Sake
By TRISH HALL
MANY Manhattan parents think about moving to the
suburbs, or at least to a leafier borough, in search of a
better life for their children. They think about the benefits of
open space and back yards, of quiet streets where it's safe
and easy to learn to ride a bike.
Laurie Marvald and Gary Metzger did the reverse. They sold
a three-bedroom colonial-style house in Bayside, Queens,
and moved last fall to a two-bedroom co-op apartment in a
high-rise in Chelsea with their three young sons. They did it
because they believe that Manhattan is a better place to
raise Adam, 11, Ryan, 8, and Jack, 4.
Like most changes, theirs was driven by a number of
desires and needs. Ms. Marvald started to think that for all
of the time she and the children were spending in
Manhattan, they might as well live there. For the last three
years, she had loaded them into the car and driven into
Manhattan after school so that Adam could rehearse for
plays put on by TADA!, a children's theater company on
West 28th Street in Chelsea. "They would do their
homework in the car," she said. "And I must have listened
to 150 books on tape."
While Ms. Marvald could see that her children liked
Manhattan Ryan, she said, is artistic and likes to go to
museums she had to admit that she also preferred it.
And Mr. Metzger was working in Manhattan every day, at the
architecture firm of Metzger/Metzger, which he started with
his brother but now runs on his own.
Both Ms. Marvald and Mr. Metzger grew up in Queens, she
in Floral Park and he in Bayside. They are both architects
and met working at a Manhattan firm. Although they once
lived in Manhattan, they remember the moment when they
decided to leave because they could no longer stand the
noise. Every summer, Mr. Metzger said, Con Ed would
come and dig up the street. One morning, he said, "We
couldn't hear each other." That was it.
Still, Ms. Marvald said, she always thought of Queens as a
temporary solution, not a place she would live for 11 years.
She has always preferred Manhattan. "I like walking
everywhere," she said. Her husband agreed that she was
the prime mover behind their return to Manhattan.
"Laurie likes the excitement," he said. "She always has."
Before deciding to move into Manhattan,Ms. Marvald spent
a year researching the schools in Community School
District 2, which stretches from the Upper East Side to the
Battery and encompasses parts of the West Side, like
TriBeCa and Chelsea. Her children were in programs for
gifted children in Queens, and she wanted to make sure
there were comparable choices in Manhattan.
When she determined that there were, she decided to start
looking for a place. Another mother with a child at TADA!
referred her to Kenny Blumstein, a broker at the Corcoran
Group. Mr. Blumstein was relentless, she said, refusing to
believe they couldn't find an apartment for five people for
$600,000 or less, the amount their house was likely to
They wanted a loft, but lofts were proving too expensive.
One day, Mr. Blumstein persuaded them to look at a large
two-bedroom apartment in a postwar building in Chelsea,
one it turned out they had seen before, when a loft was
their prime goal. It was very short on charm, with dark
green walls and battered floors, but it was at least
$200,000 less than other apartments that were 1,400
square feet, Ms. Marvald said. And so last spring, they
bought it, although unfortunately, they said, Mr. Blumstein
didn't get any of the commission. When they had seen the
apartment early in their search, at an open house, they
hadn't put his name down by theirs when they signed in.
The place needed work, and over the summer they ripped
out the floors and put in new oak strip ones; they took out
the kitchen and put in Ikea cabinets and a granite
countertop. The Ikea cabinets cost less than $2,000 and
were installed by Mr. Metzger's brother, Jim, who now has
his own architecture firm in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
They did keep the eight-burner Garland stove. "At our board
approval meeting," Ms. Marvald said, "Gary told them we
would be subletting some of our burners."
THEY made the apartment seem much larger by removing
some walls and opening up the kitchen. But they kept the
den, probably the original dining room, as a place to watch
Throughout the apartment, they built ingenious storage that
has made it possible for five people to live in the space. A
large closet in their dining area is a general utility room,
with wall hooks holding scooters for the children and a
motorized one for Mr. Metzger.
In the boys' bedroom, he designed bunk beds that take part
of a wall but don't feel crowded, as well as a closet that
holds all their games, toys and clothes. In the master
bedroom, they tore out some small closets and replaced
them with a walk-in closet for their clothing.
Before leaving Queens, they sold about 80 percent of their
belongings, Ms. Marvald said, and the children got rid of
about two-thirds of their toys.
Although they have less space, they don't feel cramped.
They had a spacious house in Queens, Ms. Marvald said,
but "everyone was in the kitchen all of the time."
Ms. Marvald and Mr. Metzger are a bit surprised by the ease
with which the children have taken to their new, smaller
home. "I would say to them, `Doesn't it feel small to you?' "
Ms. Marvald said, "and they would say,`No.' "
On a recent Saturday, she was about to walk Adam to his
rehearsal at TADA!, where he is acting in his ninth
production, a musical called "The Perfect Monster," which
closes today. Living in Manhattan, she said, has been what
she hoped for, and more. "The city has become so child
oriented," she said. "I wanted the experience of raising kids
in the city, of going for a walk and every day seeing
Although they didn't move in to their new apartment until
mid- November, their children started in Manhattan schools
in September, and she drove them in every day. After Sept.
11, she said, she would have the experience of sitting in
the parks talking to families who were planning to move
out. "We were moving in," she said. "It was a little scary,
every morning with the National Guard at the tunnel, but it
was a done deal."
Mr. Metzger can now walk to his office at 23rd Street and the
Avenue of the Americas, rather than taking a train. That's
not the unmixed blessing that it might sound. "I miss my
reading time," he said. `'I haven't finished a book since I
Indeed, they didn't hate Bayside; it just didn't ultimately suit
But before they left, they made sure of one thing: that their
youngest child, Jack, learned to ride a bicycle, just as his
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- Offshore Oil Pollution Comes Mostly as Runoff, Study Says
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Most oil pollution in North American coastal waters comes not from leaking tankers or oil rigs, but rather from countless oil-streaked streets, sputtering lawn mowers and other dispersed sources on land, and so will be hard to prevent, a panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences says in a new report.
The thousands of tiny releases, carried by streams and storm drains to the sea, are estimated to equal an Exxon Valdez spill 10.9 million gallons of petroleum every eight months, the report says.
When fuel use on water, either inland or offshore, is also taken into account, the report says, about 85 percent of the 29 million gallons of marine oil pollution in North America each year comes from users drivers, businesses, boaters and not from the oil industry. In particular, spills from tankers, barges and other oil transport vessels totaled less than a quarter-million gallons in 1999, down from more than six million in 1990.
The shift follows a substantial tightening of environmental regulations on oil exploration and shipping since the grounding of the Exxon Valdez in 1989. The new report is the academy's third examination of marine oil pollution since 1975, but the first since the Exxon Valdez spill.
More than half the oil runoff in North America occurs along the East Coast from Virginia to Maine, the report said. That concentration of oil pollution, the authors said, reflects the density of people, vehicles and other sources in the corridor from Washington to Boston.
Oil carried in runoff is particularly damaging, the report said, because it typically ends up discharged by rivers and streams into bays and estuaries that "are often some of the most sensitive ecological areas along the coast." That relentless runoff carries traces of a host of chemicals that are found in most fuels and that can harm marine life even in low concentrations.
"We've all seen the sheen on the streets," said one author, Dr. Nancy N. Rabalais, a marine biology professor at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. "That eventually is going to run off and end up in a river. The cumulative effect of human activity all over the landscape eventually gets into the sea."
Worldwide, the panel estimated, 70 percent of marine oil pollution comes from fuel users, not producers or shippers.
The panel said one significant source of oil pollution, though a much smaller one than fuel use on land, was the two-cycle engines still used in many outboard boats and personal watercraft like Jet Skis. Those engines use a small amount of unburned fuel as lubricant and then expel it. The report encouraged the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to promote a shift to different engine designs, and groups representing the watercraft industry said yesterday the move was under way.
The academy's findings echo a growing consensus in recent years that "nonpoint" pollution, from countless dispersed sources, poses one of the nation's most serious and intractable environmental problems. With tankers or oil fields, specific agencies can require double hulls or dikes to hold back leaks, but no agency polices parking-lot runoff.
"There are lots of good regulations in the Clean Water Act that deal with point discharges, and we have the Coast Guard to deal with oil spills," Dr. Rabalais said. "But no matter whether it's pesticides, fertilizers, oil or grease, we're not to the point of managing these things. And they are very important."
The study, by 14 scientists and engineers, including some from the oil industry, was produced by the National Research Council, the branch of the National Academy of Sciences that conducts independent studies for the government.
While emphasizing the problem of oil pollution in runoff, the report noted a sharp drop in the number and volume of accidental spills by tankers and barges in American waters since the Valdez grounding. Even with that improved record, the report said, it is important for governments to continue intensifying safeguards against such accidents, because the transporting of oil around the world will increase steadily.
But it is just as important to start focusing on ways to better measure oil releases destined for waterways and to pinpoint their sources, the report said.
William D. Hickman, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group in Washington, said the report correctly highlighted both progress in the oil industry and continuing pollution problems.
The report also said more work should be done to understand the effect of oil seeping naturally from underwater deposits in the ocean. Humans release about 210 million gallons of petroleum a year into the seas, the report said, while natural seepage adds 180 million gallons.
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