The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tenant Profiles In "Brownstone" Brooklyn

There are so many rich things to discuss in this report on the characteristics of renters in Brooklyn that I hesitate to open the worm-can. First, props are due to Ideal Properties for providing this in depth analysis. The purpose here is obvious - to encourage a robust rental market to keep up the heat. This is, of course, in Ideal's best interest and I take no issue.

The opening statement from Aleksandra Scepanovic lays out the framework. Note the phrase "Brownstone Brooklyn" and the fact that incoming tenant traffic is at "rates higher than ever before." I'll come back to that. And of course, I'm happy to see that a rebounding tech and media landscape have brought more jobs to our fair city. Her forward:
With national retailers courting Brownstone Brooklyn, and New York City making a sharp turn from a “Silicon Alley” to one of the nation’s prime tech hubs, the area’s rental markets absorb the incoming tenant traffic at monthly rates higher than ever before. And while the maturing of Brownstone Brooklyn’s rental landscape attracts a mixture of young, either creatively or technically savvy individuals, most tenants respond to the rising prices by opting to rent with friends or family members.

Park Slope and Williamsburg reign supreme as top rental destinations. Brownstone Brooklyn is also attracting tenants from out of state and from out of the country, further solidifying the reality those of us who live here witness daily: Brownstone Brooklyn is becoming one of the most exciting
boroughs of New York.

Aleksandra Scepanovic
Managing Director | Ideal Properties Group

Someone told me the other day that I'm "obsessed" with race. To which I replied "what makes you say that, white boy?" But what I find so interesting about this kind of report is how it leaves out the issue of race altogether.  With all the nosy demographic information contained in this report, why no mention of race or ethnicity? They even mention international origin in one graph, with fully 10% of new renters in "Brownstone Brooklyn" being internationals, presumably not mostly what we typically refer to as "immigrants."

And why not remain blithely unaware of racial realities? We're already discussing the mythological "borough" of Brownstone Brooklyn (that's what Scepanovic calls it - a borough - slip of keyboard?). Brownstone Brooklyn, as we find late in the report, consists of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront District, Downtown, DUMBO, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Red Hook, Vinegar Hill, and Windsor Terrace. The irony, of course, is that there are way more brownstones in Lefferts and Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights and East New York than in Red Hook, DUMBO, Gowanus and the creepy sounding "Columbia Waterfront District." But clearly Brownstone Brooklyn is a stand-in for something else entirely.

The defining face of these neighborhoods is the "sort" of people who find these places desirable and can actually afford to rent there, meaning lots of upper middle class young folks (look at the charts - even their parents' incomes get mentioned in the section on guarantors, showing how many grew up in comfortable households) who are, as most upper middle class young folks in this country are, mostly white and/or coming from nice universities. Like contemporary art I can't say what this demo "IS" precisely, but I know it when I see it, and you probably do too. It's not necessarily white, and it's not necessarily elite educated. And it's maybe artsy and maybe simply professional. IT most definitely owns a Mac. The word hipster is too unnecessarily derogatory in my opinion. My current verbose definition (see above) is more to my taste, though I'm clearly teetering along some strange line of my own creation that's probably not necessary anyway, because I've probably not lost anyone who is reading this blog, at least not until this unwieldy sentence.

Since, as David Gates of Bread is quick to point out in his gorgeous "If" - a picture paints a thousand words - so too I'll let this classic from the much-missed Stay Free do the do:

What we learn about "Brownstone Brooklyn" in the Ideal report is that it is becoming younger, richer, with more folks shacking up together to afford rent. Some will note that this report doesn't really discuss the buyers, who are increasingly paying super-top dollar for the pleasure of calling Brooklyn home. We do learn however that fewer and fewer folks are coming from Manhattan, and many more people are moving to Brooklyn as their first choice in NYC, from all over. I don't think that the buying crowd is the one that's really remaking the borough - we're too busy raising brats and panicking over schools to bake artisanal pretzels. But as I've noted many times before, the current building fever is primarily about rentals, studios and one-bedrooms, meant for young people in their urban experiment phase. This report documents the neighborhoods where such young people are able to use their guarantor AND make enough dough to essentially choose their surroundings and those they want to see at the subway station. So it stands to reason that folks renting further and further east are doing so to chase the lower rents, which is causing rents to rise, etc. etc. etc. Thus, the new faces at the Q at Parkside platform. And thus the dilemma for longtime Flatbushians, who are now experience at warp speed the changes that have been working their west since Jane Jacobs stuck her nose into the business of one Greenwich Village more than 50 years ago now.

It is, of course, inconvenient and probably illegal to note in such a report as this that the areas further east are becoming less and less black. A stand-in term for these areas, replete with all the tact of the phrase "white trash," is "ghetto," since the type of blackness we would be talking about is not Barack Obama and his enviable family. When I first moved here a guy on the street asked me what I was doing in "the ghetto." I suspect longtimers will take issue with the term, for any number of reasons, but his message was crystal clear. It was like a brag and a reproach at the same time. I also recall a plumber remarking on how nice and safe our neighborhood was, relative to East New York where he was living. It's enough to make your head spin sometimes, 720 degrees at the neck. (And let's face it, you have to be inadvisably sure of yourself and who you are to even delve into this stuff in print. Because at some point you're going to put your foot so far into your mouth you'll swallow a toe. Or at the very least never be able to run for public office.)

If the building boom leads to a new and permanent younger, wealthier, whiter borough, then it is this crowd that will define Brooklyn's next 50 years. If, however, a major event or crisis drives these renters away (say free tapas at happy hours in the Bronx, or a terrorist attack), then we will be left with a glut of apartment buildings and perhaps, finally, some relief for the would-be renter of moderate means trying just to stay in the City for longer than a New York minute.

And who knows, maybe those cookie cutter pop-up buildings will have retro charm by then.


[] said...

I always find it interesting that when you refer "young people" is almost always referring young folks who've recently moved into the neighborhood (in PLG case mostly young white people). Thinking about the history of places like PLG and East New York in the Caribbean context there was an influx of new folks moving into those neighborhoods and they had kids in the 80's/90's. These babies are adults now and there is a whole population of young folks from the area (myself included) that really can't afford to stay in the neighborhood even if they tried because ironically they are priced out by other young folks with guarantors or more spending power.

The one bedrooms being marketed to young people now in a lot of cases were occupied by families new to the country looking for affordable rent. That also makes it tough because the general American rhetoric around young adults is that a lot of them moved back in with their parents because of the lousy economy, which makes sense if we're talking about the suburban home-ownership context. That's a lot tougher when we're talking about 1-2 bedroom rental apartments. It's silly that developers are only building for a transient population, but it's also silly that I can't really ever see myself being able to afford to live in my home neighborhood as it were. Being able to do so is a given in most parts of the county. It makes it hard to have solid neighborhood fabric when there's a whole age bracket that moves in and out.

The lucky few get to inherit their parents leases after someone passes away, sort of making it possible to stay. However even that is a short term solution to a larger problem.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

You're right. In the broadest sense, I see the "old" young people being forced out. Though I do recall a lot of scions of Manhattan people being "forced" to move to the outer boroughs when they came back after college, since they couldn't afford to live near where they grew up. Unless my daughters make significantly more than me, they won't be able to afford this place either. And I'll be damned if I'm going to rent the basement to them for anything less than market rate!

[] said...

I try my best to avoid the naivete of feeling like I have any right to stay in the neighborhood as a renter (legally I don't obviously) but it's like what Celeste was saying at the 626 Flatbush meeting, 25 years ago (when I was a wee little thing) this area was the wild west.For most of my life it's been seen that way and only recently has that image changed. People's reactions to me saying I grew up in PLG have gone from oh... to oooh!!

no_slappz said...

Report offers post-Bloomberg, pre-de Blasio housing snapshot

Andrew J. Hawkins
April 23, 2014 12:01 a.m.

How damn high is the rent? About 75% damn higher than it was in 2000, according to a new report from Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Despite a multibillion dollar investment in housing by the city over the last decade, the affordability crisis has worsened for many New Yorkers, with rents skyrocketing, median incomes stagnating, and government at all levels failing to provide solutions, Mr. Stringer's report concludes.

The median apartment rent in the city surged 75% to $1,100 between 2000 and 2012. That's 31% higher than the rest of the U.S. The median rent was $630 in 2000.

There 360,000 fewer units renting for between $400 a month to $1,000 a month (in 2012 dollars) compared to a decade ago. Many more now rent for between $1,200 and $1,600.

Meanwhile, the median real income of New Yorkers sagged 4.8% over the same period, the report finds. Renters on the low-end of the scale are increasingly devoting larger chunks of their income to rent: households earning $20,000 to $40,000 are now spending on average 41% of their income on rent, up from a third of their income in 2000.

“Some of the data is obviously chilling,” Mr. Stringer said.

The comptroller said his report is meant to serve as a snapshot of the city’s “housing ecology” post-Michael Bloomberg, but pre-Bill de Blasio, who will release his plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing on May 1.

In an interview, Mr. Stringer stressed the housing difficulties facing low-income New Yorkers today, but declined to point fingers at Mr. Bloomberg.

“I wouldn’t categorize the city as failing,” he said. Still, he noted that “rents are going through the roof, while incomes are sinking. And that’s where you get the affordability crunch, and it’s hitting our city at virtually every income level.”

The 40-page report also provides a data-driven look at the effects of gentrification on certain neighborhoods.

Rents in desirable Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Fort Greene have shot up over the last 12 years, 76% and 58% respectively, as the number of households earning in excess of $100,000 has doubled and sometimes tripled.

Even hipster enclaves like Bushwick in Brooklyn are becoming increasingly unaffordable, with rents rising over 50% in 12 years.

Next month, Mr. de Blasio plans to propose a system in which developers would be forced to include below-market units in new residential projects that require zoning changes. Mr. Stringer said that whatever the mayor puts forward, it needs to be a “multipronged approach.”

“That will yield more affordable housing,” Mr. Stringer said about the mandatory inclusionary zoning policies favored by Mr. de Blasio. “But in no way, in my view, would that yield enough to make a dent in the housing crisis we face.”

Tenant activists say the state Senate, which is controlled by a coalition of Republicans and independent Democrats, has bottled up a host of legislation designed to address the city’s housing situation.

Yet the Legislature in 2011 raised the threshold at which an apartment could leave the rent stabilization system. A family could remain in a rent-stabilized apartment if they made up to $200,000 (up from $175,000) for fewer than two years in a row and their apartment rented for less than $2,500.

Dan Freed said...

Increasingly, every discussion of gentrification makes me feel more & more like a cockroach who has just eaten a bowl of cockroaches. Not entirely sure what that means but its not a pleasant feeling. I've been having these discussions with increasing regularity since about 1986. That said, the stay free magazine cover is priceless. & I love this line "free tapas at happy hours in the Bronx, or a terrorist attack"

Parkside_Guy said...

Maybe the drunk bums on Parkside can complain about how they don't get enough subsidized half-pints of vodka, since they've been there for so long.

no_slappz said...

Property sales surge across city

Post-recession records seen this year in terms of the price and the number of deals as owners decide the time has come to take their profits, and as the focus of buyer interest shifts to the outer boroughs where prices are lower and potential returns higher.

By Joe Anuta
April 22, 2014

Sales of properties of all sorts soared all across the city in the first quarter from the levels of a year earlier, and are on pace to set post-recession records for the year in terms of the number of sales and the average price per square foot, according to a report released Tuesday morning by Massey Knakal Realty Services.

“It is just about as good as it could be,” said Bob Knakal, the firm’s chairman, citing projections that total sales are expected to hit $53 billion citywide this year, which would translate to a 40% jump over 2013’s level.

Even more remarkably, the number of sales is projected to reach an all-time high of 5,020 this year, and in Manhattan the average price per square foot is also expected to set a new all-time record.

Those two factors are feeding on each other noted Mr. Knakal, with the surge in the price of real estate prompting a ballooning in the supply of all sorts of properties on the market as more landlords decide to take their profits.

“People are looking at properties and saying ‘my property that was worth $25 million is now worth $75 million—I’m selling,’” he said. “The increase in values is just so compelling.”

Much of the growth in sales in the first quarter came from outside of Manhattan. That borough accounted for a mere 18% of total sales in the period, down from a recent peak of 32% in 2011, as investors reached deeper into the city to snap up attractively priced assets.

In Brooklyn, for example, 492 properties changed hands in the first three months of the year, the second highest quarterly number ever, behind only the first quarter of 2007. In dollar terms those sales totaled $1.67 billion, again a record.

“What’s driving record numbers across the city is a really big push by buyers into the outer boroughs,” said James Nelson, a partner at the firm.

The gains in prices per square foot citywide were broad-based but were paced by big increases in the price of retail properties.

High-priced Manhattan saw two eye-popping sales in the first quarter with retail space at 112-115 Prince St. fetching $9,900 a square foot and at 737 Madison Ave. a whopping $31,000 a square foot, but the percentage gains in retail space prices were bigger in the other boroughs.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Thanks Dan! I quite liked that one as well...

Let me just say that I think the cockroach thing isn't really about gentrification. My armchair read on your psychology says that what we, as a society, are REALLY dealing with is the enormous sense of injustice in our so-called free society. The income gap, and entitlement gap, has grown so wide that I believe our moral barometers are way out of whack. It is now possible, as a middle-classer, to feel terminally envious and terminally guilty at the same time. On my block, I am a king and a pauper. It is very disconcerting, and I can completely relate to the idea of ingesting cockroaches.

I just want to find a way to describe what's happening to my little girls. When I come up with a satisfying answer, then I will feel like I'm back to eating corn flakes.

no_slappz said...

De Blasio to name new Rent Guidelines Board chair

Andrew J. Hawkins
April 23, 2014

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio will name Rachel Godsil—a former assistant U.S. attorney and law professor with expertise in land use, environmental justice and race—as the new chair of the city's Rent Guidelines Board, according to City Hall sources.

The announcement will come in advance of the board’s public meeting Thursday. Last month, Mr. de Blasio named five new members to the board, which sets rents for the approximately 1 million apartments across the city that are subject to New York's rent stabilization laws. He will appoint several more later this year.

Ms. Godsil is currently the Eleanor Bontecou Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, N.J. She is a co-founder and research director for a national consortium of social scientists and law professors, the American Values Institute, focusing on the role of implicit bias in law and policy.

She has written extensively about gentrification, poverty, affordable housing and the mortgage crisis. In 2012, she gave a talk at a conference on race relations in which she argued against the conservative notion of "color blindness."

Prior to his election as mayor, Mr. de Blasio was a vocal advocate for a rent freeze, which would be a first for the Rent Guidelines Board. Since its inception in 1969, the board has never failed to raise rents.

Last year, it allowed increases of up to 4% for one-year lease renewals and up to 7.75% for two-year leases.

During the campaign last year, Mr. de Blasio, along with his Democratic rivals, affirmed his support for a rent freeze, arguing that "at a time when nearly half of our city’s residents are living in or near poverty, we cannot continue to put additional financial burdens on poor and working New Yorkers."

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the mayor told The New York Times that Mr. de Blasio was "seeking balanced candidates who understand the needs of low- and moderate-income tenants."

The Snob said...

Tim, you have hit this precisely. To be middle class in Brooklyn right now is to be at this queasy junction of envy and guilt. There's no security. Incredibly blessed and unjustly damned. I just tell myself, when hobnobbing with the elites, "mo' money, mo' problems." Always.