Moving from Brooklyn to Detroit Is The Best Thing I’ve Done For My Children 

2015-05-04T14:33:28+00:00May 1st, 2015|

by Erin Einhorn

I say this because it’s true and because I just read a column by Aaron Foley that offered a bleak – if sarcastic – warning to New Yorkers attracted by the Move to Detroit billboards. He cites shoddy schools, rising rents — as well as beer gardens without kids’ menus – as reasons why New York parents should ignore those catchy billboards and cross Detroit off their list. And he makes some valid points (though not his points about beer gardens because who needs a beer more than a parent?) But as a mom of two who quit her job in New York last year and moved to Detroit to be a part of its future, I’m here to tell Foley he’s wrong.

It’s true that there are no public playgrounds in my downtown Detroit neighborhood and that school options here are extremely limited. In Detroit, I don’t have the elaborate parent network I had in Brooklyn from which I could get advice or borrow baby gear. But I’m sending two kids to preschool for roughly half of what that cost in Brooklyn. We’re living in an apartment that’s significantly larger than the shoebox we shared in Brooklyn, for a much lower price, and I’m no longer commuting long distances and working the kind of marathon hours that were required for me to afford my life in New York. In Detroit, I spend much more time with my children than I ever did in family-friendly Brooklyn because here I’m not working all the time.

There aren’t dozens of sing-a-longs a week here or mommy-and-me yoga classes. As far as I know, none of Detroit’s hipster entrepreneurs have considered opening a Baby DJ class (not that I’m advocating for that). But there’s a beach in the middle of a city park a few blocks from my Detroit apartment where moms and dads can drink beer while their little ones play in the sand. There’s a fantastic science center that we basically moved into every weekend this winter. There’s a RiverWalk and ballparks and a lovely little aquarium. And all of these things are much more enjoyable in Detroit than they would be in Brooklyn because they’re not jam-packed with hundreds of cooped-up children whose parents are desperate to get them out of their tiny apartments. If there were a beach in Brooklyn where parents could drink while their kids played in the sand, there would be a three-hour wait to get in and the kids would be crowded so close together, they’d be throwing sand at each other, no doubt contaminating the locally sourced craft beers their beleaguered parents were trying to enjoy.

Foley was obviously being snarky to make a serious point about disturbing problems in Detroit. He’s right that the constant onslaught of happy headlines about new restaurants and boutique hotels is tedious at a time when the city is consistently failing to deliver on basic city services like schools and transportation. But while it’s fun to mock New Yorkers drawn to Detroit for its hipster cred (or baby-friendly beach bars), people who move here aren’t oblivious to the work that needs to be done to make this city a more viable, functioning place. We’re just people who want to be part of this extraordinary city at this extraordinary time in its history. And for those of us who happen to be parents, that means joining with the parents already here to advocate for better schools and better options for our kids.

For the record, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the school options in Detroit and am hopeful that as my children get closer to kindergarten, I will be able to find a school for them that will provide the kind of public education that they – and all Detroit children – deserve. It’s true that these options are limited and parents must jump through hoops to finagle spots in an insufficient number of decent schools but this isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to Detroit. I covered schools in Philadelphia and New York and know that parents in both of those cities go to extreme lengths – from lying about their addresses to forcing their four-year-olds to cram for the gifted test – to land coveted spots in far-too-few sought-after schools. In smaller communities, parents must either accept their local school or move to another town. So people who love where they live have to make choices. We make the best choices we can for our families and, for some of us, that choice is Detroit. So if you live in New York and you’ve seen a billboard urging you to move to Detroit, maybe you should think about it. We’ve got some pretty great things going on here. And some of those things are even great for kids.

 

Erin Einhorn is a freelance writer based in downtown Detroit who covers education, politics and urban issues. Find her on twitter @erinleinhorn.

Photograph by  Aaron Waterman

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7 Comments

  1. LYNNETTE May 1, 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    I MADE A COMMENT PRAISING YOUR MOVE AND WHEN I WENT TO SEND IT IT WAS GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    OH WELL MOVING TO DETROIT IS GREAT. AS A NATIVE DETROITER I LIVED IN NY AND I NOW LIVE IN WASHINGTON STATE BUT I DEARLY MISS DETROIT FOR THE FOLLOWING PLACES.
    THE DIA
    THE MAIN LIBRARY ACROSS THE STREET
    INDIAN VILLAGE THE WALDORF SCHOOL
    POINTE PELEE CANADIAN NATIONAL PARK THE SOUTHERN MOST TIP OF CANADA, 30 MINUTES OUTSIDE OF DETROIT A NICE DRIVE THROUGH QUAINT TOWNS TO THE PARK AND EXPANSIVE BEACHES BIRD SANCTUARY, MIGRATION PATH FOR THE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES, THE MARSH WALK WITH CANOEING AND BIKES. NO CROWDS AND PLENTY OF SPACE.
    I MISS THE EASTERN MARKET THE ROMA CAFE, THE RIVER WALK, BELLE ISLE (I THINK YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THAT BEACH. I SPENT MANY A DAY SWIMMING AT BELLE ISLE AND TOOK MY DAUGHTER THERE. GO TO LAKE HURON, LAKE ERIE, LAKE MICHIGAN ESPECIALLY UP BY CHARLEVOIX, HORTON’S BAY (HEMINGWAY’S HANG OUT, PETOSKEY, DRIVE ALONG THE LAKE ON THE MICHIGAN SIDE, JAW DROPPING BEAUTY, SAND DUNES LIGHT HOUSES, SHOPS AND FUN.

  2. Tina May 1, 2015 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you for that insight Erin, there are many parents raising their children in Detroit but sometimes I think that we are lost among all the other bad news or trendy news. I live just outside Detroit but send my children to the Detroit Waldorf School – definitely a diamond in the rough and worth every penny. Welcome!

  3. Rochelle Riley May 1, 2015 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Erin, for seeing Detroit for yourself and for understanding that the utopia some people seem to think exists doesn’t – anywhere! You will find that any place can make you happy, if you let it. And every place can be great in many ways. (You’ll also learn whom to avoid – on the street or in print if you want to remain happy in your new home).

    Detroit restaurant owners are so cool, they create kid dishes on the spot. You can split any meal four ways, and my daughter’s favorite drink was an Oklahoma (Sprite and six cherries with a splash of cherry syrup). And I agree with you about the beer, except I don’t really like beer.

    Excellent Schools Detroit is creating a comprehensive list of all schools, traditional and charter (and traditional doesn’t mean what you think), so you can get a sense of what’s here and apply for any school in the city on a single form. Soon. Soon.

    In the meantime, if you want to start a sing-a-long group or a small children’s community theatre, I’m game. If you want to take the kids to a half of a baseball game, let me know. And I’ll start making a list for you of the stuff that I found fun for my daughter when she was younger. Of course, we didn’t have that beach then.

    Welcome to Detroit!
    Rochelle
    313 223 4473

  4. Mseleanor May 2, 2015 at 10:56 am - Reply

    This was so good to read. It made my day. Great comments also.

  5. KT May 6, 2015 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    i think you’d enjoy reading and rhythm at the river front with your kiddos: http://detroitriverfront.org/readingandrhythm

    I also love the beach campus martius! Thanks for the good read 🙂

  6. Shirel June 23, 2015 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this article! My family and I just moved from Brooklyn, NYC to Detroit this past May. I must say we are really enjoying our community, the ability to actually enjoy family activities -no ridiculous crowds- and the best is the living space!!!

    As far as kids activities are concerned… I started toddler drop-in classes from our home in West Village, Detroit! The response has been so positive and our neighbors have really shown great support. If anyone is interested please check out our website: http://www.lildumplins.com

    With My Best!
    -Shirel

  7. Diane Rogers September 14, 2015 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Wonderful post! We are moving to Detroit at the beginning of the next year and I was hoping that’s the right decision. Seeing Detroit through your point of view helped me realize that deciding to move there is the best thing me and my husband have done recently, for ourselves and for our children. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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