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KIDS AND THE CITY

Eds Up asked three British guys for a dad’s perspective on bringing up kids in New York…

David Neville and Marcus Wainwright are co-owners and creative directors of New York based fashion label, Rag & Bone. David has two children, Dashel, aged two and Gracie, aged two months. He lives in Chelsea with his wife, Gucci Westman, Global Artistic Director for Revlon and renowned make-up artist. Marcus has two boys, Noah aged two and a half, and Henry, six months. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Glenna.

Euan Rellie has two sons, Heathcliff and Titus, aged six and two. Joint founder and Senior Managing Director of investment banking firm BDA Business Development Asia, he lives in the West Village with his wife Lucy Sykes Rellie, a children’s clothing designer and a former fashion director at Marie Claire.

WHY NEW YORK – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY?


David: New York is the most fantastic city to live in for a young family.

The energy and buzz of living here, the diversity of the people and the culture is especially exciting for kids growing up here. The bad aspects I think are the lack of being able to see nature and open spaces on a day-to-day basis but New York is doing its best to bring green into the city. The stench of the meat in the meatpacking district can be pretty ugly! But more shocking obviously is the great contrast between rich and poor, the poverty and homelessness.

Euan: The immediacy, the dynamism and the drive of the city and the people in it makes New York. It’s a ‘liveable city’ with a well-developed service culture. This is not conventionally considered obviously important when talking about kids’ lives but the support makes life so much easier! Though the city is a densely populated place, everything is very close together. I can be at work in Midtown from our home in the West Village within 15 minutes. If I want to grab some Turkish, Afghan or Ethiopian food at 2am, I can. It is, however, hard to get a decent size house or apartment and it is expensive, so if possible people have a small apartment in the city and a bolthole elsewhere to get away to.

Marcus: New York is an incredibly inspiring place to live. So much is going on in such a small space that you can’t fail to be excited by it. There are so many extremely different people and there is so much to do, all day and all night. The good parts are too many to list but let’s just say the weather is great most of the time – which is enough. The ugly part might be the noise – which is why we moved to Brooklyn!

THE INSPIRING ATMOSPHERE THAT ALLOWS THE KIDS TO BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING THEY WANT TO IS UNIQUE. EVERYTHING IS ACCESSIBLE AND OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND


WERE YOU WELCOMED WITH OPEN ARMS?


Marcus: New York takes a bit of getting used to. New Yorkers can be very brash and initially I thought they were extremely rude but after a couple of months you feel very much at home here.

David: We have found New York generally an open place and we were made to feel welcome. There seems to be little discrimination against newcomers in the professional world. What really hit my wife, Gucci, was the camaraderie on and after September 11th where everyone pulled together, supported and shared what they had with each other – New York really was like a little village then.

Although London life is wonderful, in New York people encourage you more to succeed whereas in the UK people are more likely to shoot you down.

Euan: New York and the US in general have been incredibly generous to me from the moment I got here. When New Yorkers meet new people they are open and welcoming. So few are born here – they have come to New York because they are ambitious, from the penniless cab driver to the fashion editor or bestselling author, but rather than being interested in your background, they want to know ‘where you’re at’.

There is also a spurious credibility in being British as we are immediately assumed to be clever and refined! You can get away with murder!

It is a transient city with many people coming to work here for just a couple of years. From my experience, 75% move away after a couple of years whilst about 25% stay and put down roots.

KIDS AND THE CITY?


David: We don’t feel worried at all about the safety of bringing up the kids here in comparison to anywhere else. The kids and teenagers we see come across as very open and street smart.

Euan: They are starting to build more parks and the highline, an old railway that ran above the West side, has undergone transformation through a very clever urban renewal project into an elevated park. Mayor Bloomberg has also reclaimed land around the old docking piers which has been grassed over and turned into a really good adventure playground.

Marcus: The city is very ‘kid-friendly’ but just like London there are some areas more kid-friendly than others. There are areas like Clapham, and some which are more like Belgravia!

IN ENGLAND, IF YOU TRY AND STICK YOUR HEAD ABOVE THE PARAPET, PEOPLE CALL YOU COCKY. IN THE US, PEOPLE CALL YOU COCKY, AND IT’S A COMPLIMENT


A PERFECT NEW YORK DAY?


Euan: My perfect day would start with a swim in the pool at Soho House club in the Meatpacking District, followed by French toast at the diner, a trip to the waterpark near the Westside highway with my six year-old, Heachcliff. We love exploring different playgrounds and wondering around the city – with Heathcliff on his little scooter everywhere. There are fantastic museums for kids too like the Natural History Museum.

Marcus: Wake up, make pancakes with my eldest, Noah, who is becoming quite a chef, even at just two and a half, then head to the farmers’ market to get some food for the weekend, and fresh chocolate milk for Noah, brunch and a Bloody Mary. Out to the park to play a bit of football and race our remote control car. Back home to water the garden and feed the fish then bed for the kids. Babysitter arrives and the ‘grown ups’ head out for some much needed alone time and dinner and a bottle of wine!

David: ‘Nana and Papi’ arriving and taking the kids out while we catch up on sleep! Or Central park on September 17th where we got engaged at Sheep Meadow!

Actually, my favourite thing to do with Dash, my two year-old, is to go down to Chelsea Piers, (a sports and entertainment complex where you can go bowling, play golf, football, gym, ice rinks…you name it) and spend the afternoon playing golf together on the range or practising batting in the baseball cages. If we’re lucky, some of the best days are spent out in the Hamptons, by the sea, where Dash can play on the beach and run and run!

Euan: We are very lucky to have a cottage at the East end of Long Island, where it is lovely to go year round. From the front door we can walk out on to the 45-mile long light sandy beach with big Atlantic waves. It is even better in the winter when it is bleak and windswept. This is where the boys can be outside, in the pool, visiting the dairy farm and riding horses. So we are lucky to have this escape at a fantastic spitting distance of just under a couple of hours.

HOPES AND ASPIRATIONS?


Euan: I hope my kids gain self-confidence and responsibility to develop themselves fully in the way that they want to, that they are their own people. New York feels like the capital of the world and that world is your oyster when you are born here though I hope the kids will remember that they are both English and American.

David: My hopes are the same as they would be wherever the children found themselves living in the world – that they are healthy, they appreciate what they have, that they embrace the culture of where they are living, that they expand their knowledge and that they enjoy wherever they are. My aspirations? I wouldn’t mind seeing Dash as the shortstop for the New York Yankees and Gucci thinks a win at a Wimbledon final would be fun! So no pressure there then!

Marcus: My hope is that they somehow miraculously grow up with an English accent.

THE SCHOOLS?


David: Getting into New York schools is worse than in the UK, to get in to schools the kids have to go for tests, the parents have to dress up, be interviewed, know the right people. Dash has just started at a fabulous village pre-school where he is already singing: “Aloutte, gentille alloutte…” and has even been Artist of the Week! The private route is very expensive, more so then in the UK. Gucci would like to explore the Waldorf system where they only start learning things when the children are ready. Our slight concern is what happens if he gets to 15 and he still doesn’t want to read!

Euan: The public schools are improving whilst the private schools are unbelievably competitive. Getting into a school is like running a political campaign. We have been lucky. Our younger son, Titus goes to a nursery school in the West Village which is a cooperative run by the parents. There are five teachers for the 45 children between the ages of two and four and parents are responsible for fundraising, admissions, repair of the buildings. All of the parents also assist in class three times a month alongside the teachers.

Marcus: My boys are in a Reggio Emilia system but Noah is mainly doing play doh and glueing stuff at the moment so we’ll see! Eventually, I think we will gauge how good the local public school is. Based on that we will decide on private school. Perhaps they may both end up back at school in England and commuting to New York!

MISSING FAMILY SUPPORT?


David: Because we are ‘dislocated’ from our family here we don’t have the same back up. It would be nice to be able to take the kids for the weekend to see their grandparents. But we rely a lot on friends and work contacts.

Euan: We have learnt some tricks like importing grandparents when you need a break once or twice a year, giving the grandparents unedited control and seven days away for us! School family friendships become much more profound and help is shared between friends. On the whole, dads are quite ‘new-agey’ here. The impact of feminism is very strongly felt and dads are expected to play a role and share the parenting. There is also a growing entrepreneurial culture so parents aren’t all working around the 9 to 5 day.

David: Medical care is very expensive and Gucci sees it as the weakest link in the US compared to the UK. I would always say that the best healthcare is in the UK because my mum’s a doctor there and she is the best doctor in the world – everything else is second best!

AND, WHAT DOES NEW YORK HAVE THAT NOWHERE ELSE DOES?


David: No-one else has the Yankees team!