The median sales price for real estate in Brooklyn has climbed to $587,515 this quarter, up 8.8 percent over $540,000 in the third quarter of 2007. That cool $540k was, of course, cresting the bubble that would burst not long after, sending the world into a ruinous tailspin from which we’re only just recently recovering. So it’s probably good news that we’re now above that level, right? Back on track, y’all! But even scarier than this new height is what it actually means for Brooklyn, where the median household income is less than $50,000.The real estate site The Real Deal reported that median rental price for an apartment in Brooklyn is $2,743 (apparently a drop of 3.8 percent), but makes no distinction of apartment size or location, rendering the statistic surprising but sort of useless. The very notion of a median price is ridiculous in every way other than mathematically, and this is particularly true in New York City real estate, where everything is a sacrifice, and value is extremely relative.
For instance, renting a studio on Nostrand Ave for $2,000 is patently ridiculous (sorry guys), but it’s really good for a 1-bedroom in Fort Greene, all things considered. Both of those $2,000 price tags register identically in an average, but they could hardly be more different. One is the result of real estate inflation deep into the borough, the perfect storm of Times pieces and gullible Manhattanites with disposable income; the other is a merciful vestige of some earlier rental rate, inflated but still within reach for two working people.
We’re already well beyond $2,000 in most areas north of Prospect Park, if the averages are to be believed, and the question of who can afford to live anywhere has never been more prescient. Many minimum-wage workers across the borough have already left their increasingly costly neighborhoods, either by choice or by necessity, as the local medians have risen like floodwaters. Even people making salaries in the $30,000 to $40,000 range have trouble sending less than half their paycheck to their landlord. Meanwhile, management companies-cum-developers are flipping rent-stabilized buildings in an effort to eradicate old neighborhood holdouts, while rental rates pegged to comparable units in the area have nowhere to go but up. In this landscape, “average” and “median” are practically determined by realtor fiat. Wherever these Brooklyn residents are coming from, I’m more curious as to where the rest of us will go.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.