“There is nothing hip and cool happening in Brooklyn. It’s a war”
January 5, 2017 7:57 PM   Subscribe

 
I feel guilty saying this as a card carrying liberal but... I LOVE the new Brooklyn. For years, while visiting my folks, I'd have to travel to Manhattan for a decent, no hassle meal and staying out too late was always a concern. Nowadays I almost never leave the Borough when I visit. So many good spots to eat and get drunk in Brooklyn. I know many of them have been there a long time but for a while certain parts just had a bad rep and staying away was just better than the risk.
My folks are resident hard-core Brooklynites. They laugh about the gentrification. It's funny seeing young white couples strolling around in certain areas. But I haven't heard them express anything but amusement. I'm sure there are people losing out but I'm not really sure what the alternative is. I mean... it's not like the old Brooklyn wasn't full of people who lost a lot either.
posted by yossarian1 at 8:57 PM on January 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Brooklyn is an... interesting place these days.

If the city had wanted to make this city a city for everyone, it could have tried, but it went instead with half measures. Now we are here, where you can't stay unless you are in public or affordable housing, or you make money, or you're a single 20-40 something, or you're a millionaire.

So the city begins to become for the very poor, affordable housing lottery winners; rich upper-class-worker types; people who have the privilege of having no dependents; and the oligarchy.

But I mean that's what it's been made into by New Yorkers.
posted by durandal at 9:16 PM on January 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


So, so many housing units are stabilized or otherwise regulated and the people kicked out of them didn't have the power to stop it, and the new arrivals (from out of town) don't even know where to look or ask.

I am guilty of this. I moved back to my mother's old neighborhood, which is now just behind the leading edge of the gentrification wave sweeping into Bushwick, Bed Stuy, Brownsville, and East New York. On the one hand I did nothing wrong - I moved into housing I could afford. On the other hand I know that my presence creates that much more price pressure and that the person at the bottom of the pyramid is getting it in the pants.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:29 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not that these articles aren't interesting, but I feel like I know more about gentrification in cities like San Francisco and New York, than in the places where I've lived.

Until September, I lived in a college town that had been almost entirely gentrified. People working low-wage jobs simply couldn't afford to live there, and were pushed to a neighboring town. In four years, my rent raised from kind of expensive, to unmanageable, and I would have had to move too. The neighboring town is also being gentrified, although it's less dire there.

I think that San Francisco and New York are really just more concentrated and recognizable examples of a larger trend. We need better policy solutions than "it's just natural."

In the case of my town, which is not in the dense East coast, it's not clear where people will go, or how they will get to work if they don't have a car. Apart from the commute, it causes a real drop in the standard of living for people as they try to cope.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:00 AM on January 6, 2017 [13 favorites]


“Everything is going to become another Park Slope because that’s the way that this works,” said one neighborhood observer.

Although I have myself occupied the barista-with-MFA role, finding himself being priced out of a neighborhood by investors and people who make a lot of money, it's hard to have much sympathy with such folks complaining of gentrification, since we were the second wave of it (the first being hardcore people who were willing to move into sketchy spaces with lots of drug dealer neighbors). Then the money bats cleanup.
posted by thelonius at 5:02 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I happened to walk Nostrand Avenue recently, amazing, and it made me think of the SF novel City and the City. Precisely interwoven would be classic barber shops filled with men of color chatting for hours and tiny high end boutique restaurants, several utterly distinct demographics shoulder to shoulder, polite but no interaction except perhaps grabbing a slice at the One Dollar Slice place on the corner.
posted by sammyo at 5:53 AM on January 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


White Flight vs Gentrification.

Can't win for losing.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:57 AM on January 6, 2017 [17 favorites]


I think that San Francisco and New York are really just more concentrated and recognizable examples of a larger trend. We need better policy solutions than "it's just natural."

Yes, this. I definitely see the trend happening in Philadelphia. I do not know enough about urban policy planning to know what the exact solution is--perhaps requiring a certain percentage of low-income units for the high-income ones built? All I know is that the current system is to shrug our shoulders and say "just let the market handle it", and that solution rarely turns out well for anybody without money.
posted by schroedinger at 6:08 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am...really disappointed in this thread so far. Y'll know everyone in the hood isn't a drug dealer, right?

"...being priced out of a neighborhood by investors and people who make a lot of money, it's hard to have much sympathy with such folks complaining of gentrification, since we were the second wave of it. "

Wow. So you have these poor, black neighborhoods. They're made poor by institutional racism, the prison pipeline, food deserts, etc. The government doesn't fund the school, the kids don't get and education, they turn to crime. Or the women grow up with basically no sex education, they get pregnant, have to find a way to take care of their family. A kid who grows up with a dad with a temper turns to drugs to escape. All of these "sketchy spaces" are full of people, human beings, who are forced into these boxes from the top down.

So no, you may not have been the actual person to price out the people that lived here, but you definitely benefited and exploited institutionalized poverty and racism, and were a stepping stone to those "money bats"
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:24 AM on January 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


I lived in Brooklyn until 2008, and loved living in Bay Ridge and Midwood. The neighborhoods that are supposedly "cool" now, like Williamsburg and Flatbush, still seem ugly to me when I go back to visit friends. I much preferred "family neighborhood" Brooklyn to the industrial parts.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:25 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Especially since the money from the real-estate bubble seems to have shifted into buying up rental properties and jacking the rents. I wouldn't be surprised if the current wave of gentrification is being heavily driven by larger, deeper trend and that, once again, the focus is in the wrong place - on the people swimming on the surface rather than those generating the currents down below.
posted by kokaku at 6:25 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


I definitely see the trend happening in Philadelphia. I do not know enough about urban policy planning to know what the exact solution is--perhaps requiring a certain percentage of low-income units for the high-income ones built?

So a big reason that this is so tricky is that there is no one "exact solution" - this is a complicated, thorny issue with a lot of causes that can only realistically be addressed by a similarly complex constellation of solutions. For example, New York heavily incentivizes (and in some cases, mandates) pretty much exactly what you suggested, but the affordable units created that way are basically a drop in the bucket. You routinely see thousands of applicants for a single affordable housing lottery in new developments.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:38 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


The neighborhoods that are supposedly "cool" now, like Williamsburg and Flatbush, still seem ugly to me when I go back to visit friends.

I don't think Williamsburg/Bushwick (I can't speak to Flatbush) are the prettiest of places -- and I live there! -- but I think that places like Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Clinton Hill meet the current aesthetic standards of neighborhood beauty (brownstone homes, tree-lined streets, mid-size scale) and are, if not exactly the cutting edge "cool," too expensive at this point for me to live in.
posted by andrewesque at 6:48 AM on January 6, 2017


I do not know enough about urban policy planning to know what the exact solution is

Well, to start, we can allow cities to set their own laws. New York City, the largest city by more than 2x in the Unites States, cannot pass its own rent control laws. So the upstate Republicans can take the NYC Real Estate Board's money, and pass things like "20% increase upon tenant turnover," which, aside from inherently increasing prices, also incentivizes tenant harassment.

Invest in NYCHA for both new construction and maintenance. Introduce levies on uninhabited apartments used for money-laundering investments. Get rid of the tax-deferred real estate loophole. Invest in building inspectors (one way to raise rents, market-rate or otherwise, is to do dangerously shoddy construction. Remove the C of O from those buildings, forcing decent standards, so at least when the bubble bursts, the housing stock will be somewhat usable). There are other, more radical, ideas out there.

There are tools that are actually feasible, even politically, on a local level. The problem, at least where I live, is that Republicans at the state and national level have -zero- concept of big-city living.

For what it's worth, my family (and my wife's) have been in Crown Heights forever (five generations - my kids' parents and grandparents [3/4] were born here, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lived here). I've never wanted to settle anywhere else. My rent has more than doubled in the last three years. I'm thirty - and it seems to be the approximate cutoff age for the average Joe in terms of housing. My peers are moving away, while people just a few years older were able to lock themselves into housing that is somewhat affordable. To boot, we're Hasidic Jews, so while I'm paying way too much rent to stay near my family, friends, job, and everything I've ever known, I'm apparently part of the problem, too. When the rent goes up, it's the "Fucking Jews." When I don't appear Hasidic, and I'm thought to be "white," I've been yelled at, reminded that I'm "just a guest," and that I'm not truly welcome. It's an absolute crisis that occupies me pretty much all day.
posted by mhz at 6:56 AM on January 6, 2017 [14 favorites]


I also think it's deeply troubling (bordering on anti-Semitic) that the Franklin Ave article lends as much air as it does to the "the Jews are ruining everything" stuff without mentioning (outside of a brief parenthetical) that Crown Heights is and has long been as much a Jewish neighborhood as a Black one, and without talking at all about the complex, tense, and sometimes ugly history that the neighborhood has had as a result.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:01 AM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


(Sorry, hit post too early: basically there is very much a story here but it's not quite the one that the author has chosen to focus on)
posted by Itaxpica at 7:03 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think Philadelphia tries to do the affordable housing incentive but there just aren't any teeth in it when developers fail to deliver (see One Water Street).

What Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are able to do is build a lot of heavily tax subsidized infill housing aimed at upper middle class (mostly white) people, which is one of the things that always gets recommended as the solution to housing issues in San Francisco and Seattle and New York. It keeps the top to middle end of the market lower and average rent down, but it doesn't do anything for lower income housing costs and it means the cities are broke.

But I also saw this same thing happening in the college town I used to live in, with no decent paying jobs to speak of outside of the university faculty. Which I think is a sign that urging people to make moral consumer choices is just as ineffective a way to deal with housing policy as it is for everything else.
posted by sputzie at 7:08 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


The free market is giving New Yorkers exactly what they have asked for: fewer, wealthier residents. If you constrain supply growth to below population growth (which they have) prices are going to increase no matter what you do. It doesn't matter if you constrain it because you hate gentrification (Brooklyn), nostalgia for "authentic" New York (Greenwich Village), or just plain racism (everyfuckingwhere), the result is the same.

Sure, do rent control, affordable housing incentives, or whatever – that'll keep the poors safely in their place, if nothing else – but New York needs to fill a hole it's been digging for decades to solve the problem. And that's assuming people ACTUALLY want to solve it, of which I'm unconvinced.
posted by mikewebkist at 7:15 AM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


I am...really disappointed in this thread so far. Y'll know everyone in the hood isn't a drug dealer, right?

I wasn't talking about "the hood"; although I didn't specify, my experience was in so-called intown neighborhoods in Atlanta, in the early 90's. Cabbagetown, for example, has been gentrified, like it or not.

All of these "sketchy spaces" are full of people, human beings, who are forced into these boxes from the top down.
Some of them were in fact empty and abandoned commercial buildings. They were full of roaches, not people. Now they are condos or architect's offices.
posted by thelonius at 7:44 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I wasn't talking about "the hood"; although I didn't specify, my experience was in so-called intown neighborhoods in Atlanta, in the early 90's. Cabbagetown, for example, has been gentrified, like it or not.

I watched this happen in real time in Atlanta as well! When I moved there in late 1999, I ended up renting a room from my then boss's contractor friend on Boulevard towards Grant Park. Grant Park was still a little sketchy then and my then boss owned two Cabbagetown houses on Carroll that she rented out for four digits. Cabbagetown was starting its gentrification, Inman Park was already there, and East Atlanta was slowly coming into its own. I had friends who bought houses they could afford in Kirkwood, which was not at all gentrified then, as well as Reynoldstown. I even have one friend who bought years ago around Mechanicsville/Pittsburgh when he and his family were the only white folks on the block. (He still lives there and I have no idea how much that area has changed nearly 15 years later.) I bounced around from neighbourhood to neighbourhood during my decade there because I was a barista who barely broke minimum wage and had to look for the cheapest rents (Grant Park, Candler Park twice, Cabbagetown, Poncey-Highland).

I went back to Atlanta a few months ago for the first time in nearly four years and I didn't recognize anything, really. Gentrification is insane overdrive. My friends' house in Reynoldstown & Kirkwood are worth nearly three times what they bought them for, Ponce is so shiny and built-up with fancy stores that it feels like everywhere else, and even Midtown is strange to me. My husband and I always half-joked that it would be nice to winter in my old hometown but he confided to me on the plane ride home that "Atlanta doesn't look anything like I remember when I used to visit. It doesn't feel warm. It feels like people with a lot of money moved in and made everything expensive."
posted by Kitteh at 8:17 AM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Just from curiosity, where is the line and what is the difference between "gentrification" and "housing shortage"? Other than who takes the blame, I mean.
posted by dilettante at 8:20 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


Here's how you get more middle class housing in New York City.

(1) As of right pure market rate development. You own a lot, you can build housing up to the highest height and set back in the neighborhood. You don't have to fund a $$$$$ lottery that people get tickets for by cleverly structuring their income for eligibility (i.e., "affordable" housing in its modern form). You can hire any qualified contractor, supplier or tradesman at any rate that they will accept. A standard property tax incentive, or no property tax incentive -- but not property tax incentives based upon which politician, lobbyist or "community" "leader" whose palm you greased.

(2) A school system that serves the needs of middle class parents seriously everywhere, and thus facilitates demand throughout the city. HUGE swaths of the city offer nothing K-5 for parents whose kids don't have socioeconomic or educational deficits. Middle school (6-8) is a disaster pretty much everywhere, with most "good" schools happily outsourcing a lot of the real work for middle class kids to the SHSAT tutors.

(3) A thoughtful redeployment of NYCHA properties to mixed economic use.
posted by MattD at 8:27 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


one way to raise rents, market-rate or otherwise, is to do dangerously shoddy construction

What?

I've been on the ground and in planning offices during periods of extreme gentrification. There are plenty of tools at disposal (zoning, housing authorities, federal funds, inspectional and landlord controls), but none of them are any kind of buttress against the twin pressures of increasing demand for urbanism and nimby (re vested interests).

And as the first commenter mentioned, it's not all Dickensonian moguls that are these vested interests. Often it's people who have staked their entire nest egg on a spit of land and have a reasonable argument about not wanting a high rise being built next to them.

I like density and I understand the need for income-controlled housing, but these tools are not going to get us there. Like climate change, the problem is bigger.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:05 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


@yossarian1

Nobody is sad that the housing stock is being expanded, remodeled, and improved (for economic definitions of "improved" — you don't have to actually like exposed brick or anything), or that there are lots of hip bars, restaurants, and shops around, or that crime is generally down.

I think the issue is that this was done by pushing out and replacing* the people who lived in these neighborhoods with richer, whiter tenants, often through threats, harassment, and intimidation. Instead, if the very hard work had been done to improve the economic fortunes of the people already living in those neighborhoods, those people would have improved their own real estate and shops (which would cater more to the local community instead of ignoring them), and the rest would, we hope, follow. This would be a slower and less Brooklyn-as-brand friendly process, but at least it wouldn't have fucked a lot of people out of their homes.

I'm not saying we (in NYC at least) were anywhere close to something like this happening. But that's why all the hip, glitzy Brooklyn® shit is like an invasion.

*cited only for the replacement argument, no comment on policy proposals
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:12 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


As of right pure market rate development. You own a lot, you can build housing up to the highest height and set back in the neighborhood.

"Market rate" is already unlivable. I can barely get my mind around the sweet innocence that believes that for-profit developers will just voluntarily seek lower returns through lower rents because...the milk of human kindness, maybe? Can you actually believe that if there were no /20 in 80/20, the rents would be lower?

A thoughtful redeployment of NYCHA properties to mixed economic use.

...flooding the market with displaced low- to very-low-income people is going to improve the housing situation? I suppose you think that in these new buildings, there are going to be lots of two-beds available for $600/mo. for them to move into?
posted by praemunire at 9:28 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


Land and even no-palms-greased, no-ancillary-costs construction costs in New York City probably means that a middle class building in a (previously unfashionable) part of the city can return a profit to a landlord at about $4,000 a month for a 3-bedroom, 1-parking-space apartment. Pair that with an assurance of acceptable public education, and you've got a formula for middle class (a non-partner lawyer and stay-at-home spouse, a cop married to a nurse, what have you) families of four and five living in the city as opposed to the middle-tier suburbs. Make the entire city available for this kind of development and you can infill 500,000 units at least within a decade. In other words, development at the scale that we see in Phoenix, Dallas and other high-growth metros, where landlords have no problem developing for a broad range of incomes.
posted by MattD at 9:56 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


It makes sense to preserve the tenure in NYCHA of the disabled or elderly, but a life on the dole is no way for an able-bodied working-age person to live, and that's become the false compassion of the NYCHA -- depriving any incentive for mobility for people with no realistic path to the educational, economic or social capital to make a go of it in New York, but with a reasonable chance of doing well in a place where the cafe manager can pass over barista applicants with MFAs in favor of those with MBAs.
posted by MattD at 10:02 AM on January 6, 2017


Saw this simulator a while back: barriers to building affordable housing. I have no idea if the assumptions are accurate. though.
posted by dilettante at 10:03 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Although I have myself occupied the barista-with-MFA role, finding himself being priced out of a neighborhood by investors and people who make a lot of money, it's hard to have much sympathy with such folks complaining of gentrification, since we were the second wave of it (the first being hardcore people who were willing to move into sketchy spaces with lots of drug dealer neighbors). Then the money bats cleanup.

Well there's a certain dark irony when the process reaches the point when the early-stage gentrifiers are the ones complaining, but everybody is there because they were looking for a place in their price range, and it legitimately sucks for everybody who gets priced out. The money pressure gradient was there the whole time, driving the whole ugly cycle and pushing people around the map, and that process doesn't slow down without policies that slow it down.

"Market rate" is already unlivable. I can barely get my mind around the sweet innocence that believes that for-profit developers will just voluntarily seek lower returns through lower rents because...the milk of human kindness, maybe? Can you actually believe that if there were no /20 in 80/20, the rents would be lower?

Well presumably the idea is that increased availability makes "market rate" go down, which it probably does - not necessarily as down as you might want though.
posted by atoxyl at 1:39 PM on January 6, 2017


Right now in Atlanta, all that's being built are "luxury apartments", at prices that no one in the actual middle class can afford, but rather targeted at very wealthy people who all seem to think they are middle class.

$3000/month for a 3 bedroom times 12 months = $36,000/year on rent. Assuming the rule about spending no more than 30% of your income on rent, these apartments are priced for families that make over $100,000/year, in a city where the median income is ~$55,000

But the Wall Street Journal says maybe the luxury apartment boom will stop soon.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:20 AM on January 7, 2017


I was able to click through Google News to the WSJ story, but I see the link is paywalled, now. Here's a similar story.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:22 AM on January 7, 2017


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