4/1/14

Gentrifying, Yes. Rich? No.

Readers of the New York Times, New York Magazine and the New York Observer won't know this, but Brooklyn is far from the rich hipster capitol it's made out to be.  According to the most recent U.S. census data, Brooklyn's median income is a very un-twee $44,850.  Staten Island, with a median income of $70,295, out-earns Brooklyn by more than $25,000.

Meanwhile, the cost of living in Brooklyn has soared, with the median rent at $2,800 in gentrifying northwest Brooklyn. As rents have gone up, median income has declined. The average New Yorker is not doing well in the city. Life here is harder now than it was 10 years ago.

How do working families survive in Brooklyn? By having an ace in the hole.
  • They live in the neighborhoods where the gentrifiers don't go. Forget wealthy Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Dumbo. Forget middle class Bay Ridge and Mill Basin. Look at the poor or working class -- mainly immigrant -- enclaves of central, southern and eastern Brooklyn. Rents are a lot lower in East New York, Sunset Park, East Flatbush, and Brownsville than in Williamsburg, but these neighborhoods are not on the realtors' maps. Unless you're a Brooklyn native or a reporter working the Daily News crime desk, you've probably never heard of Brownsville. 
  • They live in the city's vast sheltered housing market. In 2011, there were 1,025,214 rent-regulated (controlled or stabilized) units in New York City -- 47 % percent of its rental housing stock. Brooklyn's 306,374 regulated units account for nearly half the borough's rental market. People don't voluntarily move out of rent-regulated apartments. There are 97 Mitchell-Lama (a type of affordable housing) developments in New York City accounting for more than 44,600 housing units.  Nobody moves out of Mitchell-Lama housing.  More than 7% of New Yorkers  live in the city's vast public housing system, paying rents capped at 30% of income. There are 100 NYCHA housing projects in Brooklyn, with 58,699 apartments. The average NYCHA tenant earns $22,994, paying an average monthly rent of $436.  No one moves out of NYCHA housing, either.  To leave would mean homelessness. 
  • They inherited a brownstone. Anyone living in a Brooklyn brownstone bought more than 40 years ago is now in a neighborhood that they could never afford if they were starting out or renting today. Stories like theirs fuel the American dream of winning the gentrification lottery.  
  • They are part of a big immigrant family with multiple wage earners. Nearly 1 million of the city's 3 million foreign-born residents live in Brooklyn. Immigrants often manage to afford the neighborhood by squeezing their extended families -- with multiple wage earners -- into crowded apartments. 
The article from State.

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