A tale of two Brooklyns (some thoughts)

There’s been a number of people (see articles Brooklyn Is the Second Most Expensive Place to Live in the U.S. | Observer and Brooklyn is No Longer the “Budget-Savvy” Alternative to Manhattan – New York – News – Runnin’ Scared) commenting on the report from the Council for Community and Economic Research that shows that Brooklyn is the second most expensive place to live in the U.S. (Manhattan is number 1). I joked that this is good news for Queens, but apparently it is number 5. 

Some thoughts on this. One, this is a tale of two Brooklyns. Sure, some parts of Brooklyn are very expensive, but other parts are not. New York has always been about rich and poor neighborhoods as long as I can recall. Once it seemed like outsiders only talked about the neighborhoods of Manhattan, but now this has expanded to Brooklyn. And Brooklyn has many neighborhoods, from Williamsburg and Greenpoint and Park Slope (the trendy ones) to Canarsie and Flatbush and Brownsville (the less trendy ones). If Mayor Bloomberg is successful in leading the charge of making New York a center for development and growth of new businesses, I suspect even the less trendy neighborhoods will start to become hip destinations and they too will become more gentrified and expensive.

Two, this problem of Brooklyn (or at least parts of it) becoming trendy and expensive is a good problem to have. Cities like Detroit would love to have this problem. It is not a problem anyone would have anticipated in the mid 70s when New York almost went bankrupt (What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt? : NPR). It says something of the health of New York that it is such a mecca for people to want to go there and live there, in spite of the costs.

Three: the division of New York into boroughs for this study is a bit disingenous. New York City is expensive. If Manhattan is first, Brooklyn is second, and Queens is fifth, it seems to me this is as much a nature of that large metropolis as it is the nature of the individual boroughs. If Manhattan was first and Buffalo was second, and the other boroughts way down the list, that would be one thing. But the New York boroughs share many things that makes all of them will expensive (e.g., infrastructure). I don’t know where the Bronx and Staten Island were on that list, but I suspect they would be up there too. Dividing the boroughs up is artificial. What it really highlights is that it is tough to have your cake (live well in NYC) and eat it too (live cheaply).

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