Your Grandparents Are Probably Moving to Williamsburg

Your grandparents are probably moving to Williamsburg
Image via Flickr/Iker Alonso

Another thing to add to the growing pile of trend pieces on Baby Boomers and retirees moving to Brooklyn: earlier this week, the Observer examined what may or may not be a phenomenon of grandparents abandoning their homes in the ‘burbs and moving to Brooklyn to be closer to their grandchildren. One recent transplant from Phoenix told the paper, “I thought I would never live here, that [New York City] was a horrible place. But here I am.”

From the article:

Coveted neighborhoods from Greenpoint and Williamsburg to Carroll Gardens and Crown Heights are experiencing an influx of formerly suburban grandparents, a crop of graying gentrifiers who join some 380,000-odd elderly in New York’s most populous—and popular—county. It’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing, even as its harbingers do. […]

Brokers say grandparent buyers have emerged as a small but significant force in some of Brooklyn’s most sought-after markets.

“I’ve done five deals with people who that have that profile, which is a lot, because I don’t think I ever had anybody like that before a couple of years ago,” said Corcoran broker Deborah Rieders. “I think the grandparents come, and they fall in love with the borough, and they see that they can have a more interesting life in Brooklyn than they would in Westchester.”

Some make a point of looking for places in neighborhoods like Williamsburg or Bushwick to be closer to the art scene, and in those areas, tend to opt for condos. One broker said, “People in Connecticut are selling a $4 million home with acreage that they raised their kids in, and they’re using a million of it in cash to buy a super comfortable glass box in the sky.”

On the one hand, it’s easy to be skeptical of anyone plunking down $1 million in cash for a condo, or any factors that further drive up rents in an already ballooning market. On the other, diversity of age and demographic is what makes a neighborhood interesting, and then there’s the deeper issue at play here, which is that a lot of the people in this story are moving to Brooklyn and spending money on real estate because their kids can’t afford for them not to. Of course, young Brooklyn parents are doing what every generation of parent has rightly done before them—enlisting their own parents for support and free child care—it’s just that the situation is exacerbated by the astronomical cost of living here, combined with the unstable hours and pay that often come with work in creative professions. (In one of the families profiled, for instance, the father is a musician, the mother is “a high-level member of Heidi Klum’s staff,” and the grandmother helps out on days when they don’t have a sitter).

One Crown Heights store owner even noted, “We’re in a sense having a three-generation family, which was already existing within the black community. It’s actually re-engineering back to grandparents caring for kids. We’re getting more ironically equal in that sense.” If this change is really underway—and the data comes from a trend piece, so take it with a grain of salt—it actually seems like a pretty natural part of the life cycle for people who’ve moved to Brooklyn and ended up starting families here over the past decade or so. In any case, looks like the Shuffleboard Club got here right in the nick of time.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.


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