The bottom line - rents are rising so fast that recent transplants to the neighborhood can't afford to stay, to say nothing of long-term residents who are being pressured to leave. Many forces at play.
But let's not forget the pink elephant in the room...race. Landlords often take the position, illegal as it is, that renting to whites increases their chances of moving up and out of stabilization thresholds quickly - particularly youngish recent graduates. And who do you suppose has been the most conspicuous demographic of newcomer to the neighborhood? White looks green in a greedy landlord's eyes.
People call gentrification inevitable, and maybe that's so. But why the massive change in racial makeup, from Harlem to Bed-Stuy and Ft. Greene and Crown Heights? Is it really all just "desirability" and the fact of racial income disparity, or is it also a bit more sinister? I don't accuse anyone moving to a black neighborhood of racism. That certainly wasn't on my mind when I moved to Clarkson 10 years ago. The process itself ENCOURAGES racism though. I believe that's what's so troubling to many of us who've moved here and watched the average skin tone lighten. It's a creepy feeling, am I right?
This is big, big, big stuff. Heard recently from an interracial couple I know - "he always does the dealing with the landlords. It's just "easier" that way. Sad, but true." Speaks volumes to me. Btw, when we moved to our block we could count the white folks on both hands. It would be foolish now to guesstimate; almost every new face is, if not white, certainly post-collegiate and paying considerably more than one would have payed three or four years ago.
The argument about stabilization and market forces and warehousing and lack of affordable housing is an old one, and no one seems to be able to fix it. There's so little political will. But we at least ought to be able to stand together, as they did back in the last big REDLINING era, and throw the book at landlords practicing discrimination.
If we could find out authoritatively which landlords are the worst offenders, we could protest outside their buildings, and run stings in concert with the district attorney. It's easy. One person applies with an African-American sounding name, another with a probable white name. On the phone, one sounds "black," the other sounds white. Or better yet, go in person. Even make sure that the black applicant has a better credit rating. What happens next would be very telling indeed.
You may shake your head and wonder if it's happening. But I've gotten to know a few landlords a bit, and heard some stories that will scare you straight, and I can assure you that it is VERY much happening. There are some real scumbags around here. A forum on the subject is fine, but I suggest action. This is the sort of thing PLGNA was created for. I hope they take the lead.
If other neighborhoods in Brooklyn and upper Manhattan are any indication, our neighborhood will be majority white within 5 years or so, maybe less. Barring natural or unnatural catastrophes of course. To illustrate further just how quickly a neighborhood can change complexion, check out this fascinating document I found showing the census numbers from 1960 and 1970. Of course, Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens, having only been coined, was extrapolated from census tracts from the previous census.
Buildings are not stabilized, apartments are. A building can have a mix of stabilized, controlled, and market rate units. Currently, the threshold to remove an apartment from stabilization is $2500/mo. (was $2000 up until 2011), so what many landlords try to do is to get that legal rent above the threshold as quickly as possible.
How do they do this? Through a combination of vacancy increases (currently between 18% - 20% of the rent amount, added every time the apartment turns over to a new tenant) and major capital improvements (MCI) increases - 1/40th of the total cost of MCI renovations to an individual apartment is added to the monthly rent.
Due to vacancy increases, younger peoples' typical mobility (job or relationship changes, etc.) thus becomes a factor encouraging gentrification For example, if a $1200 apartment turns over every year for three years, the three 18% vacancy increase would have the rent up to $1971.64/mo. without any rent increases at all.
So you can see why many landlords like apartments to turn over frequently and also why there are so many over the top renovations being done to vacant apartments. I know of one building in the neighborhood where the landlord totally renovates every vacant apartment, including adding stainless steel kitchen appliances, dishwashers, new hardwood floors, etc., all to get that MCI increase. And he has gotten a good number of apartments off stabilization that way; I have heard from the tenants in those apartments that the increases they've gotten since then have been pretty shocking.
Sometimes landlords will illegally remove an apartment from stabilization (they simply tell the new tenant that it's not a stabilized apartment and have them sign a standard non-stabilized lease). If you suspect this is the case for your apartment, you should get its rent history from the City's DHCR (Division of Housing and Community Renewal) to see. Here's a link for more info: http://www.rentovercharge.com/Are%20You%20Being%20Overcharged.htm
And don't think that just because you live in a big building and your rent is under $2500 that it's stabilized. Even though the legal rent may well be over that amount, nothing obliges the landlord to charge that legal rent. I know of one building in the area in which the landlord was able to get most of the apartments off of stabilization through MCI increases; he then rented them out at a lower rent (called a "preferred rent'), because there was no way the market would have supported the higher legal rent at the time. However, now that the market is going up, he is free to revert to whatever market rent he wants to choose.