My questions about Crown Heights, and in general, Brooklyn “development” became more complicated when an old regular, a new father of twins, stopped in at the cafe where I moonlight as a barista. We were catching up, and he started telling me about the pains of trying to buy a place for his new family. He started telling me that three weeks after he’d looked at a building in Stuyvesant Heights, police had found a homicide victim left in a shopping cart two blocks away from the unit. He also mentioned that the realtors were asking upwards of $700,000.
It’s usually here that people offer their own theories about the causes of gentrification and inflated prices. Mine is usually about developers who are looking to capitalize on the myth of Brooklyn. My friend agreed, though his take was a little different, and much more sinister, his voice cutting through his children’s cries to get to me. “It’s all these foreign investors buying buildings sight unseen, all cash,” he said. “Sight unseen! Like Brooklyn is a brand.”
An added disbelief: he’s totally right. Brownstoner broke this story about a month ago, and I’m wondering why I’m only hearing about it now. I’m a little speechless, especially when Alan Dixon, one of the managers at the Australian-owned firm Dixon Advisory, totally cops to “competing with people trying to buy houses to live in.” The company is looking to buy buildings and rent them out, not flip them and sell them as houses. In other words, Dixon’s intentions are solely in keeping Brooklyn fluid, making it harder for those who want to settle. We’re dollar signs before people more than ever. All of the new stuff we enjoy in and around Brooklyn also attracts scummy businessmen, and we have no choice but to get used to it as Brooklyn continually gets morphed from Manhattan’s quirky sibling to its quirky mirror.
Of course, when a building is bought out and renovations begin, we all have our assumptions, but we don’t ever have any reason to assume that it’s an internationally based firm. While Brooklyn-based brands have never shied away from appropriating our borough into their aesthetic, whatever that is, companies like Dixon Advisory make me wonder about the broader perceptions of Brooklyn. The fact that they’re just buying buildings left and right like an episode of “Storage Wars” suggests to me that they’re betting on the future of Brooklyn development, but also that its extremely profitable. Obvious, right? But who’s got $600,000 in cash lying around? Where does that leave us if these Australian, Israeli, and European firms are “competing” against us?