Staten Island Is the Next Borough You Won’t Be Able to Afford

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I have a close friend who moved from Crown Heights to Staten Island in 2009. For her quiet island quarters—a huge house split with two other people a five-minute walk from the Staten Island ferry—she paid $500 per month. (This saved her, incidentally, $600 monthly, having previously paid $1,100 for her studio in Crown Heights in 2008 and 2009. I texted her to confirm this. She replied, “I moved to Brooklyn with FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. In 2008. I want that on my tombstone please.”)

Sometimes—nay—the three times I went to visit her in the one year she resided there, I thought to myself: Yes. This yard, this porch, this lofted ceiling and big kitchen and whole housemaybe these things and all the thousands of dollars I would save would justify the rather real inconvenience of living here. Which is to say, in my head, Staten Island was hypothetically worth it if I could have a lot more space and money. If I could live in a manner that resembled living outside the city, maybe Up State.

However, I never did move to Staten Island. It was a pain in the arse to get there; the novelty of the boat ride (which everyone should do at least once) wore off after a couple rides and, though it is removed from the city and therefore peaceful, you can still see the entire city just across the way. Its frenetic energy never totally disappears. Plus, to accomplish anything that needed to happen daily in Brooklyn or Manhattan would be to subject myself to one schedule: the ferry’s.

And yet, for my friend, and for people who are from there, I understood it. Said friend (who is now on her way to Colarado) wasn’t hyper social and she was pocketing all those wads of money in monthly savings. For her, Staten Island—its space, its quiet, its economy—made perfect sense.

But what if you, like my friend, also decide to live in Staten Island, maybe even because, now, you could do it at Urby, as Gothamist reports, Staten Island’s newest apartment complex that comes with “a ‘Bodega’ [that] sells craft beer and vegetables harvested by a Farmer-in-Residence, and a lobby [that] doubles as a coffee shop strewn with succulents and ceramics.”

You could get all of these cool things, just like you can get in other boroughs, and save money and have more space? you’d hope. But then your hopes would be dashed. Urby is also, as Gothamist reports, the island’s most expensive apartment complex and its units are pretty small: Studios go for $1,735 and are only 380 square feet and two bedrooms go for $3,310. Come again? 

That’s a lot of money for anywhere, not to mention a geographically- and amenity-inconvenient neighborhood. But, consider what developer David Barry, who bought the property in 2011 for $11 million, says that you can get for that price: a new Brooklyn-like environment. “It still feels kinda Bushwicky, in terms of what Bushwick was like seven or eight years ago,” he told Gothamist, describing the neighborhood Stapleton. “There’s a bunch of industrial buildings, and it’s a little scrappy still and kind of coming into its own. It’s not one of those neighborhoods that has like, wow, gorgeous architecture. Like, you know, what Soho was once.”

Ah, yes, kind of like a place where a very expensive and up-scale apartment building should not go, because to do that would not, as Barry describes it, exactly be to let the place “come into its own.”

Gothamist talked to nonprofit Make the Road for another perspective on the matter. “It’s a cautionary tale,” said Nick Petrie of the nonprofit organization. “We should not be selling public land to private developers.” Furthermore, Petrie said local residents he talked to, who lived there before Urby’s arrival, are ones who, already, were forced out of the places that Barry is waxing poetic about, places where they grew up, like Williamsburg or Downtown Brooklyn or Bed-Stuy. For them, like for my friend, affordable living was Staten Island. But with Urby, that reality might not last very much longer

To be fair, Gothamist points out many of the apartments are going at reduced rates, $1,508 for a studio and $2,507 for a two bedroom—though, apparently, the deadline for those still-not-that-inexpensive places, has already passed.

But wait: there is this amenity for anyone who can pay any of those prices. Gothamist says the entrance to Urby connects to the New Stapleton Waterfront, which is a $32 million project from the Economic Development Corporation. Once you tire of the neighborhood’s industrial buildings and “Bushwicky” feel, you can go walk around the Battery Park of Staten Island as the New York Times apparently called it.

Or, you could just not move there. For those prices, you may as well stay in the actual Bushwick, spend approximately the same amount of money to do so, get an equal amount of space, and give yourself the option of around three forms of ground transportation, rather than one ferry.

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