Gentrification of New York Neighborhoods

Recap: FitCity June 08, 2016

BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn NY 

“Gentrification of New York Neighborhoods” presented by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Paulette Goddard Professor of Urban Policy and Planning, NYU Wagner School of Public Service.

What does gentrification mean for New York renters and low-income communities? The answer is indefinite as the term “Gentrification” may mean different things to different people and can be misinterpreted. Ingrid Ellen defined it as the increase in rents and house values prompted by an arrival of more affluent residents into low-income neighborhoods. Consequently, the process causes difficulties for lower-income homeowners and renters to remain in their neighborhoods.

In the last 15 years, rent increase has been particularly high in gentrifying communities proximately surrounding central Manhattan, while many of those communities still had both low rents and high rates of poverty in 2000. Ellen presented a lot of analyzed demographic data showing significant changes in property values in many gentrified neighborhoods including Williamsburg, Green Point, DUMBO, Long Island City, Harlem, and other rapidly transformed areas of New York. The complicated data presented at the panel showed that most renters in New York pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent, imposing even higher financial stress on low-income families.

The presented study of 55 New York neighborhoods identified 15 that can be classified as gentrifying, has shown that those areas were relatively low-income in 1990s, but have forgone a drastic increase in median rent since then. Rent in Williamsburg, for example, has increased by 78.8 percent between 1990 and 2010-2014, making the top of the list, followed by Central Harlem with the increased rent by 53.2 percent (State of New York City’s Housing & Neighborhoods-2015 Report).


These changes significantly impacted the demographics of the communities as well: residents of gentrifying neighborhoods in 2014 were more likely to have college degrees, to live in a non-family household compared to the residents of the same neighborhood in 1990. And even though this dynamic has occurred citywide, the data shows, that those changes were more noticeable in gentrifying neighborhoods. So with these ever-changing neighborhoods and the inevitability of severe gentrification, how does new transportation infrastructure come into play?

“NYC Economic Development Corporation: Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX)” presented by Lydon Sleeper, Senior Vice President, Government and Community Relations, NYC Economic Development Corporation.

At the 2016 State of the City, Mayor De Blasio charged New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Transportation to launch a comprehensive design plan for the upcoming Brooklyn Queens Connector along the Sunset Park to Astoria corridor. The initiative aims to provide affordable and convenient transit for 400,000 residents who live and work along the corridor, to support growing neighborhoods, to reduce Green House emissions by 80% by 2050, and to reduce the traffic. The BQX will relieve overburdened infrastructure, ensure that growth and opportunity is spread more equitably along the waterfront, and provide access to jobs, educational opportunities, and recreational amenities.

Currently, the NYCEDC and BQX are working on assessment and feasibility studies as well as implementation plans for the upcoming project. The areas of study include public safety, required infrastructure, bridge crossing and street operations, maintenance and support facilities, and resiliency to the outcomes of Climate Change. Stops are expected to be approximately ½ mile apart and the line will connect to up to 10 ferry landings, 30 different bus routes, 15 different subway lines, 116 Citi Bike stations, and 6 LIRR lines. It will travel primarily in dedicated lanes, separated from traffic and bicycles along the route. The streetcar system itself will produce zero emissions, and built without overhead catenary wires or underground power sources, it will be able to withstand the effects of climate change including floods and major storms.

The majority of economic growth on the waterfront has been restricted to three neighborhoods including Long Island City, North Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn/DUMBO. The streetcar will ensure that other communities along the corridor have equitable access to this economic growth. It will connect thousands of people to jobs, education, healthcare and recreational amenities. The BQX will also serve the population of people who work along the waterfront, helping to preserve and revitalize the 50 million square feet of manufacturing and industrial space along the route, which will support the continued growth of the City’s manufacturing and creative tech economies.

The BQX passing by Jay Street – Metro Tech (Image via Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

Many believe that the streetcar is intended to entice developers to build housing, however to ease the severity of the rent explosions in these areas, some of this housing will be required to respond to newly-enacted zoning that mandates affordable housing construction along with market-rate development. The Brooklyn Queens Connector is scheduled to launch by 2024.

While some of the low-income residents of the surrounding neighborhoods believe the streetcar plan is a way to force them out, others are excited about the new means of transportation they have been yearning for. While some small business owners feel that they will need to close their shops due to increasing rent prices, others are excited about the potential for wealthier clientele. There will always be mixed feelings surrounding mammoth infrastructure projects such as these, but the only way to really evaluate their potential successes and failures is with data.

DATA2GO.NYC Measure of America Presented by Sarah Burd-Sharps, Co-Director, Measure of America

DATA2GO.NYC is a data and an easy-to-use online mapping tool created by Measure of America organization. The tool covers 59 New York City community districts and includes over 300 indicators. The indicators span the following 12 sectors: Demographics; Education; Environment; Food Systems; Health; Housing & Infrastructure; Philanthropy; Political Engagement; Public Funding & Services; Safety & Security; Work, Wealth & Poverty; and the American Human Development Index, a composite measure of health (life expectancy at birth), education (degree attainment and enrollment), and standard of living (median personal earnings).

The goal of this research initiative is to provide up-to-date data on NYC neighborhoods, to support city’s policies and services, to record ongoing trends and progresses, and other citywide changes. Ultimately, it created a new way to visualize and analyze well-being and inequality in New York City. The data come predominately from public agencies, such as US Census and New York City agencies in charge for encouraging well-being on New York residents. “DATA2GO.NYC users can create unique maps, prepare community district profiles, test relationships between indicators across neighborhoods, and print or share their results at the click of a button,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, co-director, Measure of America. “It’s a tool for policymakers, community-based organizations, philanthropists, social service delivery agencies, journalists and all people working to improve life in the Big Apple.”