A Different Kind of Gentrification: Why East New York Isn’t the New Bushwick

East_New_York_Abandonment

It was way back in January that we first started hearing rumblings about how East New York was well on its way to being gentrified. Untapped Cities was the first outlet to pose the question, “Is East New York the Next Bushwick?” ; writer Matt Nestor was inspired to ask the question based on a Daily News article reporting that a house—in what could still accurately (if hyperbolically) be called the “murder capital of New York”—had sold for $600,000. Nestor wondered whether or not East New York was primed for the sort of development that Bushwick—and before that Williamsburg—has experienced, but didn’t reach any sort of definite (or even tenuous) conclusion about East New York’s future other than noting that some area residents shop at Trader Joe’s, that the grocery stores stock soy milk, and there wasn’t much in the way of local nighlife.

And then, later this year, Gothamist asked (literally) the exact same question but used a wealth of data and information about Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to invest billions of dollars into affordable housing to examine whether or not East New York will soon experience the type of rapid development and population displacement that is the hallmark of Brooklyn’s other gentrified neighborhoods. Gothamist’s statistics-driven piece indicated the writing on the wall in a far more conclusive way, noting that the development plans fall under the city’s 80-20 rule, which means that 80% of housing stock won’t be classified in the “affordable unit” category, and that developers can separate affordable and market-rate housing from each other, in effect, ghettoizing affordable housing units even more than they normally are.

And yet the question of whether East New York would be “the next Bushwick” still seems a false one because the factors which conspired to make Bushwick “Bushwick” do not appear to exist in East New York. Bushwick, after all, still has greater proximity and ease of transportation to Manhattan than East New York does. (Seriously, the 3 just crawls through this borough on its way to New Lots.) Plus, Bushwick is close to other increasingly/already developed neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy, whereas East New York is far more isolated in that regard, bordered as it is by the similarly low-income, under-developed neighborhoods of Brownsville and Canarsie. Add to that the fact that the schools and many other public services are in disastrous shape and it doesn’t really seem like East New York is prime to experience the kind of gentrification that north Brooklyn has undergone in recent years.

So, yes, when the question of whether or not East New York is the “next Bushwick” comes up, we tend to get a little annoyed by what we think is a false dichotomy, one in which gentrification only represents an influx of young trust-funders and trendy new bars and restaurants. Asking whether or not East New York is the next Bushwick is like asking whether or not Bushwick is the next Upper East Side: infusions of capital into a specific neighborhood do not mean that it will take on the same characteristics as other wealthy neighborhoods. “Bushwick”-style gentrification is assumed to be something of a one-to-one displacement, i.e. a wealthier person displaces an original resident, until a whole neighborhood has transformed. What’s happening in East New York could potentially include more organic growth, and involve current residents benefiting from some aspects of affordable housing, and people who wouldn’t have otherwise considered East New York as a place to move being attracted by some of the amenities that are included in de Blasio’s plan.

However, this does not mean that low-income East New York residents, the vast majority of whom are black and Latino, are safe from the tidal wave of gentrification or invading developers or rising real estate costs. Yesterday, Gothamist reported on the fact that rents is East New York have increased by 10% a square foot in the past year, and that “land prices there have almost tripled, from $32/square foot to $93.” Almost tripled! Perhaps the most dramatic statistic, though, is the huge disparity in the value of real estate deals that have happened this year as compared to last: in “the first half of 2013, there were $2.7 million in real estate transactions conducted in the neighborhood. In the first sixth months of 2014, that number rose to $42 million.”

So, what does all this mean? Well, as Wiley Novell, a spokesperson from de Blasio’s office, told Gothamist, maybe not that much. As portentous as these numbers seem, Novell explains:

The sample size used in our study area of East New York is only five sales. This is hardly a scientific or exhaustive sample on which to draw conclusions. Moreover, there is a significant difference between land prices and rents that impact a tenant or small business. Someone may in fact purchase a building hoping or expecting that the City will allow for greater height or density. Their decision to pay more for the real estate is a reflection that a three story building could one day be a six story building, making the parcel more valuable. But that does not mean that the price per square foot that a tenant would pay for a one bedroom apartment or a storefront is increasing. Most importantly of all, no one will be able to build in the new zoning envelope without a significant provision of affordable housing. The result of the rezoning will be more affordable housing, not less.

Novell implies that because the actual amount of deals is relatively few, it’s impossible to predict what this means overall. But Novell also admits that it’s highly probable that the existing deals were made speculatively, and that purchasers are hoping to build more units and higher buildings than the areas are currently zoned for. In other words, these investors are clearly looking ahead because they are planning on East New York changing in tandem with the arrival of de Blasio’s affordable housing boom, thus becoming a strong investment whether or not it becomes “the next Bushwick.” The truth is, East New York and similarly far-flung areas probably won’t ever be used as examples of gentrification in the way that Bushwick or Williamsburg are now, but that doesn’t mean that East New York isn’t on the verge of big changes—changes whose affects on long-time residents are far from being pre-determined.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Canarsie is not a “low-income” “underdeveloped” neighborhood. Please do a little bit more research before classifying the surrounding neighborhoods.

  2. I love when hipsters write about neighborhoods they never been to, but did some Instagram research for their special assignment. East NY doesn’t need to be the next anything. We are a community of hardworking New Yorkers just like anyone else. You can keep your $2400/ month studio in Bush-wick and your cold brew coffee.

  3. “still has greater proximity and ease of transportation to Manhattan than East New York does. (Seriously, the 3 just crawls through this borough on its way to New Lots.) Plus, Bushwick is close to other increasingly/already developed neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy, whereas East New York is far more isolated in that regard, bordered as it is by the similarly low-income, under-developed neighborhoods of Brownsville and Canarsie.”

    – Why can’t people stop saying this neighborhood is the next “”. Bushwick was touted as the next Williamsburg which was the new LES but now it’s it’s own neighborhood that other neighborhoods are compared to, ENY isn’t the next anything, it’s just ENY.

    -the 3 train?? what about the A, C, J, L, the LIRR all stop at Broadway Junction, where in Bushwick do you have that many train and buses connecting at one station?

    -Does ENY not border Bushwick on the northwest Cypress Hills section and Bed-stuy around the Bway Junction section? Brownsville and Canarsie are on the Southwest end of the neighborhood and are blocked by the L train, it’s not like you can accidentally walk into Brownsville or Canarsie you would have to walk pretty far and out of the way, this is ridiculous. From Euclid ave. on the A or Crescent st. on the J can get to Williamsburg, Bushwick or Bed-Stuy in 10-20 minutes. Also Brownsville is a low-income neighborhood but Canarsie is working class (it only borders 3 blocks in ENY) sure theres more “Brown people” but it’s far from a ghetto, what about the other side of ENY thats bordered by Ozone Park and Woodhaven Queens, two working class neighborhoods.

    -“far flung” it takes just as long to get to Ditmars Park or Sunset Park as it does to ENY and they have less train options, you act like it’s southeast Queens. It used to be Bed-Stuy was too far of a commute but peoples proximity tolerance changed once they were priced out of other neighborhoods, suddenly it’s practically in Manhattan.

    -The schools in Bed-Stuy and Bushwick are complete crap as well but it hasn’t stopped property value from hitting $1 Mil+, what about amenities such as Highland Park, The Ridgewood reservoir, The Gateway Mall/national Park.

    You know nothing about ENY and this article really shows it. All you have to do is use Google Maps, you can even stroll through the neighborhood since you obviously won’t physically come here. Why is your photo of a boarded up fire damaged house (Jerome st. between Dumont ave. and Blake ave.) which is far from the proposed rezoning area, why not a shot of our brick Rowhouse blocks easily found throughout the neighborhood some even on this very block, none of the Victorian and Woodframes houses or 1920’s Brick houses? Why no mention of Highland Park, The Ridgewood Reservoir, the Gateway Mall/Gateway National Park and all the new townhouses and affordable housing already built there? Why are you perpetuating a “war-zone” image of my neighborhood when a quick tour through google street view shows the opposite. Why not talk about the fact that this is an area that has seen an influx of residents who were displaced from their original neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and all the now gentrified ghettos, they didn’t leave the city they just moved one or two stops over just like the “gentrifiers” who are at our gates?

    • I totally agree. EAST NY IS THE NEXT EAST NY. and the neighborhood is song a lot of development. EAST NY is very rich in transit that can get you access into Manhatten within 30 minutes…. I go to gateway mall and I see people from other boroughs shopping there. Highland park is just as big and beautiful as prospect park or even central park. Gateway national park is also nice too. Not to mention the close proximity to the belt Parkway, the Conduit (north and south), and that the LIRR stops thru here. Atlantic Avenue runs thru here. Broadway junction is in EAST NY. This neighborhood has a lot of positives……

  4. I would side with critics of this post more than the author and any supporters. Under-researched and backed mostly by easy headlines and hearsay.

    I am so sick of the use of “hipster” and “trust-funders” to describe the gentrification of north BK. I know I fall into the category that those terms are hinting at, and most of my friends do, but it’s such a cop-out. Sure, Williamsburg now (2014) is as sickening as Soho on a Saturday afternoon, and a sampling of that is a result of people who really are just truly privileged (which, you know, just sucks because of the entitlement that comes with it – i don’t actually have issues with people being wealthy). I, however (along with 90% of my close friends), am a 28 year-old white male who grew up most definitely not privileged, have been employed nonstop (not even a week between jobs) since I was 16, am still paying for my student loans with no help from my parents (nor should they help), have an interest in “the arts” (gross), and wear the same clothing I’ve had for the past 15 years, which probably gives the impression of “trying” to look a certain way. I ride my bike to save money. I don’t buy clothing to save money. And I’ve been moving farther east for the same reasons that my current neighbors are concerned about whether or not they will be able to stay in the neighborhood. I, like so many New Yorkers, and so many of my peers who are probably blanketed by the meaningless, useless term “hipster”, struggle to get by and live week to week, but have the drive and passion to do so.

    This idea of “hipsters” and “trust-funders” is such a cop-out. And what sucks is that “people” like “me” are seen as an enemy for just moving to where i can afford. I didnt’ move to Bushwick because I thought “maybe some day there will be artisanal craft beer nearby”, I moved here because it was literally the only place I could afford (save ENY).

    Good luck ENY. Don’t blame “hipsters”. Blame your landlords.

  5. Young, post-college kids will follow the train lines in search of cheaper space. The A, J, L trains all lead to B’way Junction, then it’s a short hop into ENY. The kids will come, bars and restaurants will follow, just like W’burg, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Ridgewood, Crown Heights before them. Maybe a difference in ENY is less raw, disused industrial space that art students crave–but maybe it’s there. Cheap rent is the denominator.

  6. I see a lot of comments about how the author of this opinion piece is ill-informed about Brooklyn, but let’s be clear here about something:

    Kristen Iverson is the executive editor of this online publication. And you’re not.

    That is to say that for all of us who actually know that Canarsie isn’t equivalent to Brownsville and the 3 isn’t the only train that goes to East NY who don’t have the impact Iverson does, we should make that happen so that when New Yorkers who’ve never been to Brooklyn read this article, they know the truth rather than a very close-minded and condescending opinion of this borough.

    Now, can someone share a website about Brooklyn that’s actually about Brooklyn and not some whiny hipster’s fantasy of what they want Brooklyn to be please and thank you.

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