In the 1980s, the idea that Avenue C would eventually be home to condo developments with names like Boutique 67 would have sent most local residents into a fit of laughter and possibly a fit of rage. At the time, heroin was so widely available in Alphabet City that junkies would simply line up outside local tenements and wait for dealers to lower their next hit out the window in a bucket (such practices were well documented by local activist and photographer Clayton Patterson and some of this footage appears in the 2010 documentary, “Captured“). Of course, Alphabet City in the 1980s was about much more than drugs. It was the epicenter of New York City’s fight to maintain affordable housing at a time when gentrification was already beginning to reshape both the West Village and Soho. The neighborhood was also home to the city’s then thriving punk music scene.
Most vestiges of the Alphabet City of the 1980s are already long gone, but at least a few reminders of the era and the old neighborhood remain, including C-Squat.
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When 6sqft shared views yesterday of how a trio of new residential towers will alter the South Bronx skyline, we also looked at developer Keith Rubenstein’s ambitious, albeit misguided, plans to rebrand the neighborhood. After dubbing the area “the Piano District” and throwing a party that made light of the troubled “Bronx is Burning” days of the 1970s, locals criticized his insensitivity and blatant attempts to accelerate gentrification. In addition to the aforementioned project, which will yield a total of six towers, Rubenstein is planning a food and beer hall nearby. And he’s not the only one turning to this new frontier. Other seemingly “trendy” establishments that have opened up in recent years include the Bronx Brewery, Bronx Baking Company, a slew of coffee shops, and the Port Morris Distillery, and there’s the plan to transform the Bronx General Post Office into a dining/drinking/shopping destination.
But on the other side of the coin, the Bronx has been a hotbed for affordable housing development. In fact, the borough was issued the most residential permits in the city during the first six months of 2016, likely due to the fact that 43 percent of units under Mayor de Blasio’s affording housing plan that began construction during this time were in the Bronx. But is this enough to preserve the diverse culture and demographics of the South Bronx, or is it poised to become the next “it” neighborhood?
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We hear so frequently about the players behind Manhattan’s billion-dollar real estate projects and how foreign investors are pouring a global vault’s worth of currency into New York City property, often shielded by LLCs. It’s illuminating to get a closer look at the city’s larger real estate landscape–one that has changed so much in recent decades–and learn who’s behind the soaring property values, skyrocketing rents, frenzied flipping and veritable horse-trading that has driven the unprecedented and transformative gentrification beyond Manhattan’s rarified development scene.
A recent story by The Real Deal titled “Learning and earning: Hasidic Brooklyn’s real estate machers” reveals that a huge slice of the borough’s real estate pie is owned by the Hasidic community. The ultra-orthodox sect reportedly includes some of Brooklyn’s wealthiest property owners, to the tune of $2.5 billion.
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6sqft recently covered the practice of offering landlords “blacklists” of tenants who may have withheld rent or taken action against previous landlords. Now Quartz reports on the growing use of screening software services and surveillance technology that lets landlords know if prospective tenants have recently arrived from another country, what their social media profiles say about them and even how often they’ve been hitting the bars. Could high-tech data collection and surveillance tools become as dangerous to the diversity of communities as redlining was decades ago?
Is this as scary as it sounds?
Since Greenpoint started to attract displaced Manhattanites in the early 1990s, the cost of renting in the neighborhood and nearby Williamsburg has shot up a staggering 78.7 percent. According to a 2015 study published by NYU’s Furman Center, Greenpoint/Williamsburg is the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in New York City. What many newcomers don’t realize is that despite its name, Greenpoint has historically been anything but green. In 1978, the Greenpoint Oil Spill became one of the largest in the country’s history, and today the Newtown Creek is one of three Federal Superfund Program sites in New York City, chosen because it is “one of the nation’s most polluted waterways.” So how did Greenpoint go from sewage to gentrification?
CITYREALTY.COM GOES THROUGH THE FULL EVOLUTION OF GREENPOINT…
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Controversial South Bronx Developer Keith Rubenstein of Somerset Partners has purchased a 16,000-square-foot warehouse (expandable to 30,000 square feet) at 9 Bruckner Boulevard for $7.5 million and intends to create a Gansevoort Market-style food hall called Bruckner Market, reports The Real Deal.
According to the developer, who purchased two other South Bronx waterfront sites last year, the space will offer a fresh food market, kiosks and restaurants and may have a beer garden, though he made a point of addressing how the new addition will affect the community: “It will provide great food and beverage options at affordable prices for the existing community and new community.”
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It seems that every day we’re hearing of small businesses being forced to move or shut down altogether due to rising rents in just about every corner of the city. Even icons like St. Mark’s Bookshop and Other Music have packed it in after years at their well-loved locations. And new businesses have an even tougher road ahead, trying to gain a foothold in changing neighborhoods where landlords hope change brings high-paying tenants.
There are a number of grassroots efforts in the works to help businesses gain and maintain a foothold when faced with skyrocketing rents and challenging regulatory hurdles–and more help may be on the way. DNAInfo reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign legislation Tuesday that prevents harassment of commercial tenants by greedy landlords. Advocates hope the new law will make it less difficult for small businesses to thrive and grow.
Find out how the new law protects small business tenants
The definition of gentrification may be difficult to pin down, but filmmaker Nelson George is attempting to do so in his five-minute short “Degentrify America.” In the film, George melds together national headlines with interviews and animation to paint a picture that has become all too familiar in metropolitan areas across the country. Most notable, however, is the appearance of Crown Heights resident and co-founder of the Crown Heights Tenants Union, Donna Mossman, who speaks candidly about the evictions, injustice and other ills that come with this particular kind of change. Crown Heights recently ranked #8 on NYU’s Furman Center‘s report of New York’s 15 fastest gentrifying neighborhoods.
Watch the short film here
The city’s preservation groups have reported that the results of a series of studies, prompted by the 50th anniversary of the city’s Landmarks Law, have put some numbers behind the claim that landmarking doesn’t harm, and may actually improve, the economic balance of neighborhood development and growth. According to Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, “This is the first time which preservationists–who tend to be from the humanities and subsequently math-averse–have put real data behind anecdotes.” The combined reports represent the most comprehensive study to date of the impacts of historic preservation in New York City.
Find out what the numbers say
Williamsburg has become the poster child for the hipsterfication of Brooklyn and NYC gentrification in general, but behind the beards and beet smoothies are actual facts to back it up. NYU’s Furman Center released a report that identifies the city’s 15 gentrifying neighborhoods, out of 55 total, and finds that Williamsburg/Greenpoint comes in at number one (h/t DNAinfo).
Of course, it’s difficult to define gentrification, but the study looks at areas that were relatively low-income in 1990 (among the bottom 40% in the city), but experienced higher rent growth over the past 20 years than other neighborhoods, a trend that the Furman Center feels is of “greatest concern in lower-income neighborhoods.” Williamsburg and Greenpoint had a startling 78.7 percent jump in rent over this time period, followed by Central Harlem at 53.2 percent and Chinatown/Lower East Side at 50.3 percent.
See the full list here