For those who have expressed interest in the Community Board's approval process for the new building referenced in the Q's last post, the discussion and vote is planned for the November 27th CB9 meeting. Come one come all! I'll admit to being a bit taken aback by all the negative comments about the project. When I heard about the middle-income focus of the building I was cheered, thinking of all the people I know - artists, social workers, free lancers, domestic workers - who could really benefit from a lottery income-capped option so close to the park and public transportation. It's not like they're planning a building for bums, lunatics and crack smokers. There are requirements to be met, and it would be filled with working people. I'm not saying a market rate building wouldn't make more sense or potentially look nicer. But the sentiment expressed by some seems biased towards upward mobility for the nabe, which is well and good for home owners but not particularly helpful to renters, who still make up the vast majority of folks around here.
Ask 10 New Yorkers whether they're "for" affordable housing and I'll bet 9 1/2 will say yes. I guess it's good to take a look at what affordable really means, and I welcome your feedback to the following analysis:
Since moving to New York these many years ago, I've heard a constant refrain from elected officials and community activists that NYC has become the refuge of the poor (through subsidies) and playground for the rich (through subsidies, heh heh), and that for your typical working stiff, finding a truly affordable rental in NYC is like hunting Sasquatch (pictured).
But what IS affordable, really? I have only my own experience to go on. When I first moved here in the fall of 1988, I paid $300 for a room without windows in the back of a converted bodega. By the time I got my first real full time job, with benefits, at the Brooklyn Museum in 1989, I was paying $425 for a decent size room with two roommates above the Royal Video Store at Flatbush and 6th Avenue, where some dorky sports bar is now. (Don't get me wrong, Royal Video was pretty dorky too.) I was a glorified secretary (executive assistant) and I made almost exactly $20,000 a year. In other words, I paid roughly 1/4 of my gross pay in rent. To this day, that's considered the max one should pay in rent (more if you own, wherein you get a tasty deduction). That was just barely affordable then, but beer was cheap and there were no fancy restaurants at which to blow dough. (Even blow was cheaper, so I hear. And crack? More ubiquitous than Coca-Cola) The neighborhood was okay, not great, and there were three or four shootings that first summer within a couple blocks of my house. And the 78th precinct is basically right there. The times they were a-changing.
Flash forward to PLG/Caledonia circa 2012, as it relates to the newcomers who are driving the market rates. A young person looking to make a go of it in this slice of the Big Apple must plunk down at least $800 for a share, and $1,200 or more to live alone. That's in "affordable" NE Flatbush. You need to make roughly $40K to do the share, or $60K to live alone to pay 1/4 of gross in rent. $40K is roughly median income around here. Don't believe me? Check out this handy-dandy gizmo, and what you see will most certainly not shock you. 11225 and 11226 are on the low, though not lowest, end of the Brooklyn spectrum. To get lower you must (surprise, surprise) head east. The North Slope is flush with high-earners - more than $100K is median. Prospect Heights hits the middle ground between the two. And starting salaries for recent college grads in NYC is about $40K. So if you've looked to your right and left at the subway and seen a lot of recent college grads and were wondering why, well, there's your reason. Because the same apartments in Prospect Heights cost you roughly 50% more. And you can forget about affording trendier and tonier nabes without help from ma and/or pa.
In other words, and I'm sure I'll take some slack for saying it...our neighborhood is priced about right for what it is and where it is - this according to my own cockamamie rendering.That's not to say it's not unaffordable to many. In fact, I'd say, it's unaffordable to about half. That's the nature of market rates when they're actually reflecting the market, rather than being speculative or excessive, as they are in many parts of Brooklyn.
By the way, I'm talking purely about rentals. Ownership, particularly in brownstone Brooklyn, has become the privilege of those who have the means to "buy high" expecting that their investment will pay off in the long run. I mean geez louise look what people are paying these days! You need nearly $200,000 down to afford a house, then $150K a year for a mortgage, at least! We've all heard stories of the Park Slope house that went for, I dunno, $100,000 in 1968, only to be worth $3 million now. But dollars to doughnuts I'll bet that $100,000 seemed like a lot of money back then, and the Slope was no great shakes. So maybe million dollar houses around here aren't such a stretch. Still, owning a million dollar house in a census tract where the median household income is $40,000 sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? Personally I think that's where some of the tension derives...the extremes are so...well, extreme.
I'm withholding judgment til I have a chance to see what this guy - Tom Anderson Associates - has done and whether he's known to be good to his word. It would be nice if his architecture added something to the area, and it would be GREAT if his retail spaces could accommodate the needs of the neighborhood.
By the way, to the Maple Street School hater I would say only that I have some knowledge of the potential deal in question, and while MSS would be housed in something called "community space" it's very much a commercial lease that's being discussed, no free lunchbox. MSS, it's true, is a private nursery school, but so are most pre-schools and day-cares. A "public" Universal Pre-K would be an option I suppose, and I don't even think free public day-care exists, really. But free Pre-K most often happens in schools and as an extension of day-cares and community centers. That could be an option of course, but they (some non-profit org, much like MSS) would have to pay the going rate. The fact is, Maple Street has established itself as a bedrock of stability on the block, and were it to expand many more families could have access to the co-op model. It ain't cheap; that's because it pays its employees somewhat fairly and received no subsidies. But it's unfair to say it's not a neighborhood school, in the most generous use of the word neighborhood. (full disclosure, little miss Q jr. attends MSS).
Please comment away. I think this is a very important conversation to have, particularly leading up to CB9 vote.
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.