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Chris Hayes

Emmy Award-winning MSNBC host Chris Hayes talks growing up in the Bronx, and his newfound love of sectional couches

Source photo courtesy of Chris Hayes

"I was born and raised in the Bronx. Before I was ten, we lived in an apartment building in the northwest Bronx neighborhood Norwood. Then my parents bought a small house, which is where they still live.

I think they bought it off the estate of a nun who had died. It’s a tiny little house in Riverdale overlooking the Harlem River and the northern tip of Manhattan. It's on a hill on a block with only two other houses. It has an amazing view, but it’s a tiny, tiny house. It's barely got three bedrooms.

My brother and I shared a room, with just enough space for the bunk bed, a dresser, and some books. We spent a lot of time in the basement, but the first floor of the house has these windows that looked out over the river. It's just an incredibly beautiful, special spot that my dad always described as like living in a treehouse. People would come there and they couldn't believe they were in New York City. It was this weird little hidden nook and the river was right there. Through the window, the northern tip of Manhattan is entirely wooded that you have no idea that you're looking at the most densely populated island in all of America.

The house is over 100 years old. There used to be a foundry at the bottom of the hill, and I think it was built for the workers. Its fairly narrow, maybe 17 or 15 feet wide, and the entry is below grade so you walked down steps from the sidewalk. There's a front patio area, and the exterior has vinyl siding that was a light shade of blue. It has a different color now. After I left the house, they added a deck on the back so you can sit out there and take in the river.

The first floor is open, with a living room/dining room area with a great view. There's a staircase right when you walk in, and there's two very small bedrooms and a master bedroom upstairs, and a basement downstairs.

My brother and I would spend hours in our tiny room. The funny thing about kids is that kids don't need space. Adults need space. When you're a kid, space does not matter. First of all, you're small, and second of all, you can adapt to whatever to space you have. My brother and I would play in that room for hours.

In the basement, we would battle to see what radio station we would get to listen to. He always wanted to listen to music, and I wanted to listen to sports radio, which I was obsessed with. We also put up a cardboard basketball hoop and would play one-on-one basketball in the basement for hours."

I lived there for about eight years, until I went off to college.

My first grown-up apartment was in Chicago. My now wife and I moved there after college, and the biggest thing about that move was just that there was so much space because—well, there's Chicago and there's New York.

We were totally, completely broke. She had a job working as a domestic violence counselor, and I was waiting tables and freelancing, but we still had an apartment, a nice apartment in a nice neighborhood that had a living room and a dining room, which I couldn't get over.

It was a one-bedroom, but I loved that apartment. It was like, wow, when you get out of New York, there's more space to be had in this world.

We moved to two different apartments in Chicago—including an amazing apartment that was right on a park when my wife was in law school—but New York really is home.

The home I live in now with my wife and kids in Windsor Terrace is not that much bigger than my parents' house. I think there's a certain thing where you grow up in New York, you're just used to a certain amount of space—and there's also obviously the limiting condition of expense, for sure.

As a 30-something dad, there are three things that make a place home for me. First, the presence of my wife and my two kids. The second is—this is such a silly, middle-aged thing to say—but a few years ago we got a sectional L-shaped couch. We didn't have one of those growing up, and I just think it's the epitome of adult comfort. Just sinking into the sectional couch when I come home.

Part of home to me is also the neighborhood you live in. Windsor Terrace feels like it's a neighborhood where a lot of people who have been for a very long time; it feels like a very rooted place.

I really love living in a neighborhood, and I think that's partly because I'm a city kid; I grew up in New York, I went to high school in Manhattan, and I've always been a creature of New York in many ways, and a creature of cities. Home is often just the neighborhood—being able to walk out for stuff, to have shops or restaurants or a neighborhood bar that you love.

The problem in New York now is affordability. I don't know what the future of home is, and I think it's a genuine crisis in the city.

But the problem in New York now is affordability. I don't know what the future of home is, and I think it's a genuine crisis in the city. I always think about my parents, and when they bought their house. My father worked for a community organization, and my mom was an educator. They were able to buy a house and it was a stretch for them at the time, but the local school district was good, and my dad could commute into to Manhattan on the MetroNorth.

That 2016 version of my parents, with those jobs, could never afford that house."


For Home Sweet Home, Curbed talked to 30 engaging personalities across a range of industries to learn about where they grew up and what home means to them. Follow Chris Hayes on Twitter, and watch All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC weekdays at 8 p.m.

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