Property Grunt

Monday, May 22, 2006

Gentrification Wars: The Battle of Brooklyn

I can appreciate this. I felt the same way you do. My bosses were all s**t. My jobs sucked. I mean, if you're not a rebel by 21, you've got no heart, and if you haven't gone establishment by 30, you've got not brain.

Buddy Ackerman
"Swimming with Sharks"

After reading the Observer on how certain residents are ticked off over the development in Brooklyn, I realized that alot of residents are looking at this in a black and white perspective which isn't very bright.

“It’s more like World War II France,” said a 27-year-old Fort Greene resident on a recent Saturday evening, sitting at the bar Rope on Myrtle Avenue.

The place was typical South Brooklyn, filled with plainly dressed white kids, one black couple warily regarding the scene. But a group of twentysomethings from both sides of the metaphorical Mason-Dixon Line were drinking vodka tonics, grumpily discussing how, when they see a block-sized, generic doorman building sprouting up on Court and Atlantic, or a plastic-looking condo park rising Lego-like out of the dust in Greenpoint, they inexplicably get angry at the people who already live in the neighborhood, as if they were responsible for attracting that sort of building rather than the developers who’ve imposed it.

“Everyone loves to say who was part of the Resistance and who was Vichy, and the reality is most everyone was the same,” World War II guy went on.

“Everyone was a collaborator.”

Comparing the long time residents of Brooklyn as the Vichy French displays the ignorance of how real estate works and how unaware they are of the role they have played in the gentrification process.

First of all the people they should blame for the gentrification are themselves. Not the locals. When developers saw a spike in population and the change in zoning laws in Brooklyn, they began to prospect and struck gold. As for the locals cashing out and selling their properties to developers, they earned that right. They were the pioneers who bought and held that property until it appreciated in value. They were the ones who took the most risks and as far as I am concerned they deserve it. Ironically, it was probably when the neighborhood began to change is when the locals decide to take off.

The bottom line is that the people bitching and moaning, aka angry young people, were the harbingers of their own doom. They are the ones who played a key role in what is happening to Brooklyn since their presence that set the stage.

“No question about it—it’s hipper,” said Michael Brooks, 30, over the phone, of North Brooklyn. He’s a project manager with the Developers Group, the company that’s bringing high-rise condos to the McCarren Park area. “If there’s a hipness meter, Carroll Gardens is not on the same end of the scale as Williamsburg,” he continued. “There’s a lifestyle in Williamsburg. It’s become a place that people want to identify themselves with, being in a place that feels like everything is happening. It’s just a moment—there’s a moment in Williamsburg right now.

That’s the problem. These people are only focused on the now. When you just focus on the moment, you tend to forget about the long term planning. They are living the Mony, Mony lifestyle which is to get laid get f**ked. They are all just focusing on getting drunk, a kickball league and having a good time.

Some argue that these people were completely helpless and all they can do is rant. I call bulls**t. If they wanted to keep their enclave unchanged all they would have to do is put roots in the neighborhood by buying property whether it be residential or commercial. They should join their community boards and get involved with local politics and protect their neighborhood. And I call bulls**t on the arguement that they have no money. If you have money to blow on cigarettes and beer, well you have money for property.

After going to several parties in Williamsburg, I will tell you that I knew only of two people who had stable jobs and health insurance. The majority were involved in “artistic endeavors.” They were either working in bands, film or fashion. Some supported themselves as bartenders, waitress or low paying sales position.

This is not an indictment of their transient lifestyle. If this is what they want to do with their lives so be it. This is a free country. And in no way do I think I am better than them. In fact I wish I could spend my days, drinking and chasing girls. However, that is not a viable lifestyle for me and I know by avoiding certain responsibilities I am totally screwing my future. But not all of the newcomers of Brooklyn are screwed.

Candice Waldron, 32, recently opened a new high-end boutique, Jumelle, on Bedford Avenue, that sells clothes by designers such as Sonia Rykiel. “The style is really eclectic,” she said, describing the local customers. “A lot of women here wear vintage; they don’t really buy designer clothes. That was one concern about my store.” But “in the end,” Ms. Waldron said, “with the lines I would be selling I thought I’d be better off in Williamsburg.

“I like Park Slope a lot,” she said, adding that she’d considered a location there instead, on Fifth Avenue. “When I was doing my business plan, the average medium income was definitely higher over there.” But in the end, “I felt this is a better fit for me,” Ms. Waldron said. “I’m more in with this crowd.”

What she means is this crowd is more loose with their money. Instead of investing or saving it they more inclined to engage in impulse purchasese. The income is higher in Park Slope because the population probably consists of couples and children who are more interested in spending their hard earned cash on family friendly goods. Since the competition for that market is quite competitive, she is better off being in Williamsburg where she charger a higher markup for cheaper inventroy.

I know a bar owner and in Williamsburg that sells overcooked Chinese food that is below the standard of take out which I never thought was possible. She looks the other way when it comes to smoking in her establishment and she has a basement that she rents out for parties even though it is a potential firetrap. But she is making money hand over fist, especially with the margins on liquor. Tons of people frequent her joint. When she feels the winds of change blowing in her face she is going sell her business or simply liquidate.

My prediction is that when Brooklyn gets tapped out and gets too expensive to the transient population of angry young people will move elsewhere. Perhaps to the Poconos.