There’s a lot of anxiety in southern Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bay Ridge about the gentrification of the borough as a whole: many people who live there have lived there a while, were born and raised and stayed, and they worry about being pushed out by transplants who seem to hold different values (and more money to pay to greedy landlords). An article like the one DNAinfo posted today, “Is Bay Ridge Poised to Become the New Williamsburg?” is the sort of thing that makes them twitch… before hitting “share” on social media.
“I really hope not,” one friend wrote, “at least not in my life time.” “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” wrote another. “They’re coming!!!” joked another. “Help me pile up these sandbags. Bring your muskets!” (Brooklyn Magazine has made such jokes before, too.) But, of course, Bay Ridge is not about to become the next Williamsburg—c’mon, brah!
The article is based on a report by one real estate company, which found that, in the first quarter of the year, most of its new development purchases were for properties in Bay Ridge. (How many? 14, or a little more than 3 a month.) It results from a combination of limited availability in hotter neighborhoods like Williamsburg, lower prices in the south, and new developments in Bay Ridge: 185 Battery Avenue, 9917 Shore Road.
Both of those buildings are a bit of a trek from their nearest R train stop—the terminus—let alone the rest of the city, which has always been the thing that’s supposed to keep the neighborhood from the invading northern hordes: it’s, like, 45 minutes from Union Square, and that’s during peak hours, when the trains are running with some kind of frequency. (Try getting to Bay Ridge after 11pm on a weekday or a weekend—it’s difficult!) Car culture is still strong in Bay Ridge.
But a certain sort of person is always going to be drawn to the area: those who don’t mind being a little ways away from the city’s centers because they put more value on an older-school neighborhood vibe (not to mention parks and good schools) and, you know, affordability. And the neighborhood in recent years has been more welcoming to those whose tastes skew toward the more contemporary: there’s a farm-to-table restaurant, an artisanal sausage and craft beer bar, a wine bar, a gourmet Italian grocery, a fancy cupcake shop/bakery, and a new fancy cafe, among other hotspots and secrets. (There’s also some of the best Middle Eastern food in the city, as the neighborhood has a significant population of immigrants from the region.) Notably, most of these businesses are owned and operated by locals, developed not by hipsters from without but hipsters from within.
The major difference is that the development of Williamsburg was driven by rezoning, which spurred luxury condo construction on the waterfront and along every sidestreet. In 2005, Bay Ridge was actually downzoned, cutting off the minor condo boom that claimed some beautiful old homes. A well-established local political class is unlikely to reverse that anytime soon.
As Brooklyn’s profile continues to rise, drawing new residents from other boroughs and beyond, it’s inevitable that neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, on a major subway line (albeit at the end) and boasting some favorable amenities, will attract new residents priced out of what’re generally considered “more desirable” areas. Families will settle down; young people will cherish the shoreline. But if you think that means there’s going to be a mass migration of artists followed by a condo boom that draws internationally wealthy buyers itching to own in a hip Bay Ridge address, which in turn spurs the openings of a slew of high-end boutiques, restaurants and other shops that invite a Times Square-like flow of B&T revelers, you’re crazy.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart