For those of us who have lived in big old apartment buildings in Brooklyn, far afield from the "pre-war" splendor of choice digs in say Brooklyn Heights, the story will likely sound familiar. Longtime tenants, often of a certain age, get reamed by greedy landlords who favor higher-paying newcomers. This Daily News story on 201 Linden between Rogers and Nostrand, while riddled with embarrassing (for a professional newspaper, not squeeze it in before bedtime blogger) typos, gets it about right. Though it goes a bit far in stating that the "yuppies" get palaces out of the deal. The reno-job might look passable at lease-signing, but rest assured the workmanship is crap and those hoodlums in the lobby aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
The culprit? Well, the landlords of course. But it's also the perverse incentives and disincentives of the rent stabilization laws. Two identical apartments in the same building can fetch wildly different rents, creating a two or three or four tiered hierarchy of desirability from the landlords perspective. And, incidentally, what better way to ensure your longtime profits than to rent to whites, or at least newscaster-English speakers?
The Q brings the story to your attention only to highlight one of the many (in my view) uncomfortable issues plaguing our neighborhood during its current in-fluxness. Fast, very-very fast, prices have come up. In the houses, yes, but that's not where the vast majority of NE Flatbushers live. Landlords are routinely grabbing north of $1,500 for two bedrooms, $2,000 is not unusual even on less-desirable blocks, and a little math will tell you that annual household income must be, say, pre-tax, at least $50,000 to hit the rent sweet spot of spending just half one's take-home pay for housing. H.I. of $50K is way higher than the mean income around here, meaning that most current residents can't afford to stay here if they're forced to move apartments. Duh, right?
I know you can file all this in the drawer of common knowledge. And yet, how exactly does a neighborhood stay "wonderfully diverse" as someone recently beamed, when only middle income people can afford to rent here? And trust me, if the rest of Brooklyn is any harbinger, it won't be "middle" income for long. No need for the newcomer renter who recently found a "bargain" to feel too smug - the next great-leap-forward might be sooner than you think.
The insult to injury part is that there are some absurd rules on the books that actually make it advantageous for some landlords to pack their buildings with homeless or transient recipients of social-services over locals desperate to stay put. See my post on 60 Clarkson, and trust me, there are plenty of 60 Clarksons in the neighborhood. In fact, it was recently revealed to me that the same adorable scumbag who owns 60 also owns other buildings around here that also have big contracts with CAMBA, the not-always-how-shall-we-say-thorough government contractor, or the Haliburton for the Homeless as I prefer to call them.
PLGNA, the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association, was once known as an agent for keeping the redliners and blockbusters at bay. Just 40 years ago folks were working to prevent the outflow of capital...it's quite unlikely that a similar outrage will erupt over abrupt inflows. If the building on Parkside - 123 on the Park - is a hit, and if trends continue in the bigger rental and condo buildings near the Park's "Lakeside" corner, we may begin to wonder where some of our neighbors have gone. Granted, the few trouble-making knuckleheads won't be missed. But here's a dark thought - maybe some of those very same displaced neighbors will come back as homeless residents as part of a CAMBA program. Think it's far-fetched? That's the exact story I was told by one current resident of 60 Clarkson - she used to live on Ocean nearby, one thing led to another, and...
As if there weren't enough poetry in her tale, here's some ACTUAL poetry written about 201 Linden Boulevard in 1955.
The Q at Parkside
News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.