Granted, none of this should come as a huge surprise. Unless every time we’ve reported on spikes in rent and cost of living, you’ve just assumed you can print out the article (so quaint!), trot on over to your boss, and receive an immediate boost in compensation appropriate to whatever insane new thing is going on with prices in your neighborhood? Barring that sad fantasy, none of it’s so surprising, but per usual, the actual numbers are pretty stark:
In spite of the still-surging influx of wealthy new residents, Brooklyn’s median income is still just $44,850, lower than both Manhattan ($66,739) and Queens ($54,373). This, while median rents in North Brooklyn hover around $2,800/month, which works out to $33,600/year. The data doesn’t paint a rosy picture here. But, as Slate points out, it also doesn’t mean that everyone in Brooklyn is just sucking it up and spending 75 percent of their income on rent.
There’s the borough’s gaping, well-documented issue with income inequality, which allows, say, exorbitant condo rents to drive up the overall median, belying how much most people actually pay. There are also plenty of Brooklynites still living with rent stabilization, or in public housing, or in tight enclaves (this is particularly true in immigrant communities), or neighborhoods that haven’t been ravaged by gentrification, or simply living beyond their means. There are a lot of factors that go into these numbers, and it’d be silly to overlook the ways in which people continue to make this place work for them.
It’d also be silly to ignore the fact that for everyone but the very top percentiles of earners, wages have remained brutally stagnant while the cost of things has decisively not, with an endlessly speculative real estate market and little relief in sight. Slate concludes, “next time you’re at a dinner party and somebody complains that New York has become the sole province of rich white people, you can tell him he’s wrong.” That may be true for now, but even a few years down the line, will we be able to say the same thing?
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.