Time To Really Meet The Neighbors: The Commune Comeback

You can live in a commune and never be lonely (or have privacy) again.

By James L. Knobloch September 29, 2016

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”I” font=”Bowlby One SC” color_class=”otw-black-text” background_color_class=”otw-no-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]f you think having four roommates in Chinatown is impressive, brace yourself, and meet Aurora DeMarco, formerly of Park Slope. Following a divorce and health issues (and the general emotional beating that New York City so often provides), DeMarco had become disenchanted with her picturesque Brooklyn neighborhood (and it’s rising cost of living).

“Life was a grind,” says DeMarco. “It was a lot of money, time, and effort to maintain that lifestyle.”

It was this sentiment that lead her to take matters into her own hands. The result? DeMarco now lives with the modern-day equivalent of a commune: an “intentional community,” aka, a flower power-esque group living arrangement on Staten Island.

The Ganas community, as it’s known, consists of 75 members living in eight different buildings across the neighborhood (DeMarco has her own room in a 10-bedroom house). In addition to paying on $810 per month (yes, please!), DeMarco enjoys the fact that the community shares life’s daily burdens (cooking, cleaning, etc.) together.

“I feel like I have a support network. I’m not so much on the hamster wheel,” she says.

While it might sound weird, and despite the obvious benefits, it might not be for everyone, here’s thing—DeMarco and her 74 “roommates” aren’t alone.

DeMarco is only one of the growing number of people who have, in recent years, gone looking for an intentional community. In fact, whether it be to save money, take advantage of a community support network or simply to enjoy a more “unplugged” way of life, the Fellowship for Intentional Community reports that their numbers increased by approximately 300 percent from 1990 to 2010.

“There are a lot of people who are pretty disappointed with the way the American Dream worked out. People feel isolated. These intentional communities are like social experiments to find a better way to live,” says Sonoma County, CA–based Realtor and community living specialist Cassandra Ferrera. “[These] are not your mama’s communes. They’re just going to keep growing as a market niche.”

That niche might be full of beatniks and homemade toothpaste wielding hippies, but this isn’t the “out there” commune of the ‘60s—residents still go out to work and play beyond the commune’s collection of buildings.

For some, it’s as simple as, well, going simple. Take Tom Freeman of Twin Oaks for example.

Twin Oaks community. Photo courtesy of Associated Press

“I wanted that simple life,” says Freeman, now 52, “I live on a hippie commune, because I don’t have to stress about [anything].” And simple is pretty much exactly what Freeman (and his two teenage children) got. “The stress of a maintaining a household, buying a car, and just living life is very hard,” Freeman says. “When the economy’s bad, we tend to get a lot of interest.”

Despite the adjustments and unique challenges (and growing pains), DeMarco finds herself settling in to her new way of life.

“It’s social interaction on steroids,” she says. “I feel like I have a support network. Socializing is just leaving my room and hanging out in the dining room with my friends. It’s a lot more mellow.”

So while some are opting for micro apartments as a means to combat the burden and struggle of New York living, some are taking the opposite approach.

After all, there’s strength in numbers, right?

James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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