RIP Everything: or Why Is This Williamsburg Real Estate Deal Making Us So Sad?

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We know, we know: with the passing of another day comes another Brooklyn real estate deal that will make us say (sometimes with an accompanying whimper), “What? ___ is closing?!” This is the Brooklyn we live in now. This is the Brooklyn we’ve lived in for awhile. And yet we still haven’t allowed ourselves to become fully nihilistic about the prospects of this borough. We live here, after all; we’re invested in keeping it, to some degree, a borough of neighborhoods, of communities, of homes. And there are always some positive signs; every time someone doesn’t sell to developers, it’s like a Brooklyn angel (pigeon) gets its wings (doesn’t get hit by a car). But the positive signs have seemed more and more rare lately, as news about the construction of ultra-luxurious condos and sky-scraping residential towers have become the new normal and developers unironically reference themselves as “colonizers” in order to attract buyers has proliferated. What we’re trying to say is, it’s been hard not to feel defeated, it’s been hard not to admit that the battle was over years ago, that we were just too dumb not to notice that everything still standing was going to get knocked down sooner or later, and replaced with a Walgreens or a Chase bank. But we persisted in being almost Pollyanna-ish in our hope that there would be an endpoint to some of this development and that not everything would be destroyed. Well, as of about 3:30pm today, the Pollyanna in us has died. Our hope is gone.

All of which is to say, it was about an hour ago that we read about the purchase of a huge block of property on N. 3rd Street in Williamsburg by Waterbridge Capital, an investment group headed by Joel Schreiber. The property has been sold for $100 million, and currently houses beloved restaurant Egg, beloved chocolate factory Mast Brothers, and beloved beer garden Radegast. The Real Deal reports that all these businesses, “will be repositioned over time.” That’s a lot of beloved things! All of which have defined a certain type of Williamsburg sensibility (one often parodied) that already felt, quite frankly, post-gentrification. Which, for whatever sentimental reason (misplaced or otherwise), actually makes this feel just as bad as when other, longer-term businesses have shut down in favor of the building of condos and chain doughnut places and drug stores. Here’s the thing, we guess: there was a part of us that didn’t feel that artisanal chocolate makers were just something to laugh at. Yes! We know! Silly, still-slightly capitalist us! There was a part of us that thought, yes, it’s terrible when mom-and-pop places get pushed out, and it’s unconscionable that rents have risen as dramatically as they have, but at least many of the shops and restaurants that have moved in are not owned by conglomerates, and still have an ethos that we can get behind. Well, ha. Jokes on us. Because now even the most successful of those places have no hopes in hell of surviving a terrain where square feet of space are going for $1,ooo a pop, and all anyone cares about is attracting the kind of people who can be lured to a neighborhood by the promise of luxury living with rooftop pools and proximity to an Urban Outfitters.

In the words of our editor-in-chief, who was not surprised by this news one little bit, and who is a big fan of chocolate and beards: “We all knew that the coming of Duane Reade was the apocalypse. And it was.”

RIP everything.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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52 COMMENTS

  1. Not Williamsburg but what about waking up today to the news that the Brooklyn Public Library was selling its Brooklyn Heights Branch to a developer who would turn it into market-rate apartments? There is no room for arts & culture left in this city.

    • Russ, there’s going to be room for a library in the building they’re building apartments in. So you’re lying when you say there’s no room for arts and culture. What’s true is that there was previously no room for anyone to live above that library and now there will be.

          • Certainly Mike: here is another error: confusing “immigration” with “migration,” and the kindergarten economics of “build more, rent goes down,” which has not only been refuted by the past 30 years of real estate development in North Brooklyn, is also refuted by your ideological heroes in Forbes: “When libertarians (and liberals) argue that increasing the supply of urban housing will lower the price of urban housing, they’re drawing on some pretty basic and well-established economic concepts. And yet, the coexistence of gentrification and housing supply growth seem to put a lie to that theory – in cities across America, we see neighborhoods adding housing while still seeing rapid increases in the price of housing. From the point of view of the poor and often non-white residents who are being pushed out, the market remedy of increasing supply just doesn’t seem to be working.”
            http://www.forbes.com/sites/stephensmith/2011/09/29/does-urban-growth-have-to-mean-gentrification/

          • And here’s another, to your gross oversimplification masquerading as “sound economic thinking/community building”: “Among the most pervasive, and arguably pernicious, notions of the past decade has been that the “creative class” of the skilled, educated and hip would remake and revive American cities. The idea, packaged and peddled by consultant Richard Florida, had been that unlike spending public money to court Wall Street fat cats, corporate executives or other traditional elites, paying to appeal to the creative would truly trickle down, generating a widespread urban revival.”

            http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/20/richard-florida-concedes-the-limits-of-the-creative-class.html

          • Stephen Smith agrees with me wholeheartedly that Williamsburg and New York need to densify. Also, he’s not an economist. He’s a journalist. A very good one who teaches me a lot. I enjoy his twitter, but you won’t because it says we should build. https://twitter.com/marketurbanism

            The creative class doesn’t enter into any of my arguments, but maybe it makes you feel better to bring up people from the outside that you can paint as “other.” The only real argument you can make is “my cries to resentment appeal to more people than yours do.”

          • No, you agree with lies, in fact. The past 30 years of real estate development in North Brooklyn, especially since the 2005-rezoning, proves nothing you write is true.

          • As to the idea that ours is an attack on the “other,” dude, stop stalking me and reading my works. For if anything, the displacement that occurs with gentrification is at the discretionary power of agents of gentrification–not with prior residents. The “othering” you describe is performed by no one but them. More Orwell that is contrary to history–who is being displaced? who is being denied space? Agents of gentrification? NONSENSE. The xenophobia you’re describing is another inverse projection.

          • Did you even read this Forbes article? No, of course you didn’t. It says this: “Recognizing the shortfalls of allowing development only in poor neighborhoods, many conclude that increasing supply is just not the answer. But gentrification happens even without new development, eventually pricing out even vaster swathes of people. The solution, though perhaps not very political palatable, is to allow densification in already-wealthy neighborhoods, too. The gentrifying classes of New York may claim to prefer the roughness of Brooklyn over the opulence of Manhattan, but that’s easy to say when you can’t afford to live in Manhattan anyway. Given more laissez-faire urban land use regimes, builders would inevitably redevelop desirable city cores more intensely than the poorer urban belts surrounding them, softening the blow of gentrification.”

          • There’s this trope put out by xenophobes like you that people who aren’t 2 generations deep in Brooklyn hate and fear the people who already were here. And the evidence? A willingness to live amongst them! Alas, your argument never gets more sophisticated than that.

          • More side-stepping. Smith speaks to the development of already wealthy neighborhoods. You clearly aren’t paying attention because I’m refuting Brooklyn Magazine’s notion that development in the already wealthy sectors in Williamsburg does not constitute an “injustice,” and that the injustice caused by gentrification was long past them. Is it you that is really reading here, Mike? As to the trope that “xenophobes” like me think only multiple-generation descendants can only live here: more lies. Never have I suggested such a thing, and your reference to xenophobia is again a projection. You are the one speaking ill of people, here you implicitly privilege someone “other” than anyone who has been here more than 2 generations, but somehow, it is “someone else, not me” who is a xenophobe. You can keep saying the word but your misapplication won’t ever be an application. Furthermore, my record on so-called “nativism” speaks for itself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8J1SO7wks1w

          • That’s unsophisticated, xenophobic, anti-immigrant me speaking on there. Your slanders keep piling up, and your projection attenuates to the notion that “other people, not me” are busy filling fields up with slurs and no analysis.

  2. OMG, my favorite street in Williamsburg! There’s also the great Japanese clothing store and gallery About Glamour there too. Really a blow for the neighborhood..

  3. This city needs a mass exodus…Detroit seems to be calling. Cheap/free homes, a blank canvas for an artistic/entrepreneurial community…to hell with these capitalist pigs.

  4. No, Brooklyn Magazine. No, L Magazine. No, KRisten Iversen. There were those who told you. How conveniently you “forget,” because “forgetting” gives the impression you were innocent in all this, that you had no knowledge “previous” to warn you about gentrification, that you were, in your word, “polyannaish.” When in fact you were ACTIVE participants in the process you’re decrying, nay, were significant CONTRIBUTORS, and didn’t want to hear or read, were even hostile, to the notion that you were and continue to be AGENTS OF GENTRIFICATION. You weren’t ignorant–you were informed. There are those who remember informing you and remember you HOSTILE to the notion. No, it wasn’t Duane Reade that was the beginning of the apocalypse. It was you, YOU, Brooklyn Magazine, YOU, L Magazine, and YOU, your employees, each time you chose to favor one narrative over another because feelings were hurt and you were trying to carve out an audience amongst those whose favor you sought and didn’t wish to offend or alienate. The beginning of the apocalypse was YOU.

    • I wish they had chosen the narrative of Dennis sinneD and his “never build anything ilk” are to blame, rather than this hand-wringing tone they’re going with.

      • Yes, let’s choose Mike’s hand-wringing over other people’s hand-wringing and escape into an infinite regression of gentrification-apologizing bullshit. You want to bring it, phony? Bring it. I’m looking forward to an entire day of kicking your inverse projecting ass.

        • I’m not hand-wringing. I’m condescendingly explaining to you that if you want a neighborhood to be nice, people are going to move there, and if people move there, you can either build places for them to live or you can have rent go up a lot.

          Why do I condescend to you? Because you deserve it.

          • You fit perfectly here. Liars calling other people liars. But your simple housing formula is as simple as what YOU deserve.

            If you want a community to thrive then you privilege settlement over transience, and reinforce than destroy and build, destroy and build. Look around–the whole of American society is infested by your base logic.

            To the notion that building more means less rent, as Mike typically argues elsewhere but is often refuted, especially when he condescends to those who ‘deserve it’, here is Forbes Magazine, a much better economist than Mike, and almost as condescending:

            “When libertarians (and liberals) argue that increasing the supply of urban housing will lower the price of urban housing, they’re drawing on some pretty basic and well-established economic concepts. And yet, the coexistence of gentrification and housing supply growth seem to put a lie to that theory – in cities across America, we see neighborhoods adding housing while still seeing rapid increases in the price of housing. From the point of view of the poor and often non-white residents who are being pushed out, the market remedy of increasing supply just doesn’t seem to be working.”

          • I have not lied, nor have I promised lower rent from building. But building certainly reduces the rate of increase of the rents. An actual economist, not a journalist from Forbes, makes as much clear: “high housing prices in slow-growing states also owe a lot to policies that sharply limit construction. Limits on building height in the cities, zoning that blocks denser development in the suburbs and other policies constrict housing on both coasts; meanwhile, looser regulation in the South has kept the supply of housing elastic and the cost of living low.”

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/25/opinion/paul-krugman-wrong-way-nation.html

            Keep trying. You’re offering up nothing but resentment, and you wear it poorly. I’ll keep condescending until you get smarter.

          • You most certainly are referring to bringing rents down when you make reference to anti-gentrification attitudes with your reference to supply and demand in this response to Carey. Any discussion on supply and demand speaks to PRICING. Any discussion on pricing in terms of real property speaks to RENT. When you say supply is somehow being artificially constricted against demand [an absolute crock] you are suggesting that anti-gentrification narrative somehow, in your ORWELLIAN but not necessarily coherent logic, INCREASES rent. Nonsense. More lies.

          • Just remember, Mike. For a long time you were EXPLICITLY stating that “building more brings rents down” on Brooklyn Paper threads, until you noticed that NOT ONE person, even those agents of gentrification sympathetic to you, could escape the past 30 years of rent increase in the fact of rapid development. NOT ONE. So you tried to do there what you do here, kept reference to “keep the supply going” because, MY GOD, “the demand will be constricted,” striking an alarmist tone about, good Lord, THE DEMAND GUYS THE DEMAND, and not referencing actual rent because every beginning of the month somehow even your allies thought you were a fucking idiot. So you dropped “rent” from your formula even though it’s the fucking sum of the formula, and you tried to busy people while they argued with you, trying to get them to Google egomaniacal you so they can “show [you] where [you] ever said rent will go down if building goes up.” More lying. But let me tell you, Mike, since you really think you’re smart–for everyone here, EVERYONE, the bottom line is RENT. Has their rent increased? Yep. Has it increased in the face of accelerating development? Hell to the fucking yes. So you want to make it seem that what these people are concerned about is somehow NOT their rent. It’s their immigration status or stance, it’s their xenophobia, it’s their envy, it’s their stupidity, it’s their want to be condescended to, it’s everything but what it really is, because, everything but what is really is is your style of thinking.

          • No, I did not promise rents would go down. I ALWAYS say the only way to reduce rents is to make a neighborhood/city worse, and if you want them to go down just close the subways and schools and cancel police service. I also say if you don’t want Bushwick rents to explode, you need to allow building in Williamsburg. If you don’t want Williamsburg rents to explode, you need to allow more density in the East Village. You enjoy lying about my position because it almost makes your argument sound viable. But debating the argument I’m actually put forward makes you sputter and make up stuff about things you pretend I used to say.

          • You’re getting close when you say it’s all about rent(price). Close, but not quite there. Demand is rent x population. When you draw your supply and demand curves (you’re an economist, right?) price is just one side of the graph. Quantity is the other.

            No wonder you’re missing half the picture! Glad I can help.

          • As to the slander, o slanderer, that I’ve ever been about “building nothing,” that is another projection. What do you ever propose to build? Cultural institutions? Schools? Lecture halls for discussion? I have proposed ALL those things be built in Williamsburg, and you have only proposed building luxury condominium units. Your record and mine speak for themselves on this matter. I challenge you, o libelous, to produce one record of any claim you’ve ever made to any construction other than luxury condominium units. I, on the other hand, was published in this very magazine calling for a University in Williamsburg. How then the logic of your accusations?

          • “I also say if you don’t want Bushwick rents to explode, you need to allow building in Williamsburg.” ≠ “No, I did not [state] rents would go down.”

            First, you know what ≠ means, right? It means you’re a fucking liar. And, further proof you’re a fucking liar, I never said you “promised.” That’s your little way of slipping in a word so that later you can somehow absolve yourself of the fact because you can technically say you never “promised.” WRONG. I said that you stated the formula explicitly and exactly as you just did: “…if you don’t want Bushwick rents to explode, you need to allow building in Williamsburg.”

          • “I also say if you don’t want Bushwick rents to explode, you need to allow building in Williamsburg.” ≠ “I did not [state] rents would go down.”

            Don’t twist it: I never said you “promised” anything. Don’t misquote me. I know that’s one of your tactics, arguing in bad faith, but no. I stated clearly that you’ve EXPLICITLY proposed this formula, just like you just did herein. Misquoting me, saying “I never promised anything” is another attempt at misleading people, so that you can say in the future, TECHNICALLY, you never “promised” anything. Which is true: nothing you say or write or think is promising.

  5. There were things here that were “murdered” and “rested in agony” by you, and now listen to you, sounding like a murderer wanting to know if anyone will come to the funeral.

  6. On your website, scant distance below this, your ‘featured article,’ maybe we can find instruction in “Interview with an Influencer: Pitchfork Founder Ryan Schreiber” by fellow agent of gentrification, Mike Conklin, interviewing fellow agent of gentrification, Ryan Schreiber, who is listed as “Brooklynite” and shaper of “Brooklyn culture” while being from Minneapolis, MN: “A couple weeks ago, we threw a party at Villain, in Williamsburg, to celebrate the people who were included in a feature we published all the way back in April, The 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture. There was a ton of booze, courtesy of Jameson and KelSo, food courtesy of Mable’s, and DJ sets by artists on Brooklyn’s own Godmode Records. Everyone was beautiful and cool and smart, and it really was just the best—from what I heard, at least.”

    Yes, Brooklyn Magazine. “Duane Reade’s slain that beast.”

  7. Oh, and forgot to mention, and how can one risk belaboring absurdity, that little piece by Conklin about “Brooklynite” and “shaper of things Brooklyn” Schreiber is “In partnership with Jameson we’re highlighting the people, places and passions that embody the spirit of Brooklyn.” as you yourselves post at the very top.

  8. Everything Dennis sinneD is saying is true.. you all ruined this city with your consumptionist bullshit, Your upper middle class displacement of working class people and your snobbery. You and your brand Brooklyn and your ivy league education. When you displaced Raymonds with a trendy hellhole restaurant you were happy to be rid of the working class diner, but now you are mad? Williamsburg sensibility.. fuck you.

    • I think your anti-immigrant attitude had a lot to do with preventing the supply of housing keep up with demand.

      Here’s something you need to deal with: it is legal for any American to move to Williamsburg from anywhere else and people don’t need a passport or your permission.

      • Straw man bullshit. Nothing the guy here is saying is “anti-immigrant.” Since you can’t contend with his exact argumentation, which is what a genuine analyst does, you insert false narrative that has nothing to do with the argument. What are you trying to evoke here? That the gentleman is somehow “anti-immigrant” because he opposes gentrification?

        CONFUSED. While talking about other people’s confusion. OR, as you fast and loose and irresponsibly called Russ a “liar” when you meant to confusedly and irresponsibly call Diane a “liar,” INVERSE PROJECTION.

        • No one from outside Williamsburg is allowed to move to Williamsburg, but that’s not anti-immigrant at all! How convenient. I don’t know if you could come up with a more xenophobic attitude.

          • Good to know you think you’re smart but don’t know the difference between “immigration” and “migration.” Not only are you a straw man, you’re also a liar.

          • Immigration can refer to a change of regions, and the difference you’re claiming between migration and immigration does absolutely nothing to absolve you of your xenophobia.

          • Nonsense. You are bringing in “immigration” as a term that has a political significance and sympathy wholly unlike gentrification. You are trying to equate the discretionary power of agents of gentrification with “immigrants.”

  9. meh, whatever. i’m basically just waiting until our sweet italian landlords stop telling us how much so-and-so in the neighborhood got for their apartments and actually raise our rent a bazillion dollars. and then, i’m outta here.

  10. If all the things that made Williamsburg special are leaving then why go there anymore? We went for the cheap eats, booze, art etc…All that is almost gone. We are starting to go to other places now. Maybe it will crumble from within and revert back to what it once was? It never was the prettiest neighborhood as it was all about the grunge and grit. Its too shiny now.

  11. Yes, why don’t you move to Detroit? It’s not like there’s anyone living there already who will be priced out the second a critical mass of Brooklynites arrives.

    BTW what’s so wrong with an ivy league education or being upper middle class anyway?

  12. Hey mike, we know you are a troll.. Hired by some corporation to drive people apart.. Silly me, better not to respond to people like you..
    I hope you get a good paycheck for doing this , because you must feel very lonely. I have compassion for you as you are a poor brainwashed puppet… I hope you will find peace someday. You are loved, but not by money or greed.. Only by love itself

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