Can Ditmas Park Save The Middle Class?

middle-class-0509.jpgDespite tremendous quality-of-life gains, more residents left New York City in 2006 than in 1993. (Brooklyn was the one borough that bucked that trend.) The main reason, says an article from the American Enterprise Institute, is the the rising cost of living for middle-class families. In fact, New York now has the lowest rate of middle-income families of any city; and, except for Los Angeles, it also has the smallest percentage of middle-income neighborhoods. One exception—and a model for the future—is Ditmas Park:

The ‘place’ Ellen and Joe looked for was not just a physical location but something less tangible: a sense of community and a neighborhood to raise their hoped-for children. Although they considered suburban locations, as most families do, ultimately they chose the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Joe had grown up. At first, this seemed a risky choice. While Joe was growing up in the 1980s, the neighborhood—a mixture of Victorian homes and modest apartments—had become crime-infested. The old families were moving out, and newer ones were not replacing them. Yet Joe’s Mom still lived there, and they liked the idea of having grandma around for their planned-for family.

Politicians genuflect to the idea of maintaining a middle class, yet their actions suggest otherwise. In a city that has been losing middle-class families for generations, the resurgence of places like Ditmas Park represents a welcome change. In recent years, child-friendly restaurants and shops have started up along once-decayed Cortelyou Road. More important, some local elementary schools have shown marked improvement, with an increase in parental involvement and new facilities. Even in hard economic times, the area has become a beacon to New York families, as well as singles seeking a community where they will put down long-term roots. There’s an attempt in this neighborhood to break down the city feel and to see this more as a kind of a small town, notes Ellen. It may be in the city, but it’s a community unto itself, a place where you can stay and raise your children.

If cities like New York want to nurture their middle-class populations, the article suggests, they will need to shift their priorities away from “subsidizing developers for luxury mega-developments, new museums, or performing arts centers” and instead focus on “those things critical to the middle class such as maintaining relatively low density work areas and shopping streets, new schools, and parks.” In our opinion, at the end of the day, it’s all about the schools.
The Luxury City vs. the Middle Class [The American]

0 Comment

  • dittoburg

    I’d agree that good schools is the key to attracting families. But with Ditnas Park family-sized houses going for over the magic million, I don’t see how this can be a neighborhood suitable for “middle income” familes.

  • Kensingtonian

    I don’t see how it’s middle class neighborhood. Houses are over a mil. and a fairly nice 2-3 bedroom runs about half a mil or more. I grew up in Ditmas Park/Kensington and it was middle class but don’t think it is anymore. Maybe along the lines of upper middle class, unless you had a chance to buy in the 90s.

  • Yes, I would think of much of Queens, Staten Island and further south in Brooklyn before Ditmas Park in defining middle class neighborhoods in NYC.
    As dittoburg says, a house in Ditmas Park is currently too expensive for a middle income couple who do not have a lot of equity built up in another property.

  • Before the economy crashed blogs such as this and other real estate news sources were saying that places such as Cortelyou, Newkirk, and other parts of Ditmas Park were likely to become the next Smith Street or experience Park Slope-like gentrification. When the market turns around, don’t you think that will continue to be the case?

    I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 7 years and long predicted that because of the area’s big homes, mixed with apartment buildings, and the proximity to the B/Q lines for easy rides into Manhattan, that the area would sooner or later be gentrified just like any other neighborhood. Which I’m okay with. It’s happening. Cortelyou is getting new restaurants all the time, Newkirk Plaza is getting a facelift and some new businesses, and a lot of the condo/co-op buildings are sprucing up.

    Considering that the neighborhood can offer many of the benefits of the suburbs for families (big homes, driveways, yards) along with many of the benefits of the city for those who wouldn’t want to leave (public transportation, good restaurants, walkability) I’m sure it will become less middle class as time goes on.

    If the schools continue to get better AND houses are selling for over a million bucks? Please. Part of the reason Park Slope is so appealing to families is that PS 321 is so good.

    One day there won’t be a piece of this city within walking distance of a subway line that isn’t gentrified. The rich don’t want to be stuck in traffic out in LI or NJ. Areas like Ditmas allow them to live a somewhat urbanized life while still having the trappings of suburbia.

  • quote:

    Although they considered suburban locations, as most families do, ultimately they chose the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn

    good lord is that for real!? Ditmas park is as suburban as it gets. i can’t stand when people who live in certain areas of queens and brooklyn say they live in the city. yeah maybe it’s nyc by name and legalese, but um, sorry brooklyn and queens were always a suburb of manhattan.

    *rob*

  • A big part of the issue is obviously how you define middle-class…plenty of households making $150-250K feel middle class in this town, especially if they’ve got kids…

  • FYI, who wrote this? or claims to have written it without proper notations?

    quote:
    “Politicians genuflect to the idea of maintaining a middle class, yet their actions suggest otherwise”

    that line comes straight from word for word, The New American Poverty written by michael harrington in 1984. i know cuz i am currently reading that book right now :-/

    *rob*

  • people these days making 200K + seem to be afraid to admit they are um, let’s just face it… RICH! that is not middle class. it’s not middle class for the entire earth, for this country, and let’s face it, not even nyc. there are some rich people who like to flaunt it and there are some rich people who just seem embarrassed by it or something and like to pretend they are middle class. plus newsflash, there really isnt a middle class in this city anyway. there’s poverty, the tranisitional poor, the potential poor who are one tragedy away from being poor, and the affluent.

    *rob*

  • wasder

    That’s an interesting question that Mr B raises,whether there should be a different income standard for “middle class” in NYC. Certainly nationally many of the people that he mentions (making 150-250K) would qualify as being on the upper echelons in terms of income, here in NYC as we all know, that kind of money just doesn’t go as far.

    Rob–you totally just busted the article writer!

  • I was going to write something Rob but I think I’ll let DIBS respond to this one!

  • wasder

    “it’s not middle class for the entire earth, for this country, and let’s face it, not even nyc.”

    I know people who a lot “larger” in most traditional senses on much less money in other metropolitan areas. Its all relative Rob. The reason salaries are so high here is that businesses know they have to living expenses into salaries. Again, I don’t pretend to know what the numerical expression of “middle class” should be in NYC but it has to be higher than most other places.

  • wasder

    Live alot larger is what I was trying to say…

  • wasder

    bad typing morning—businesses have to figure living expenses into salaries…

  • wasder, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    $200k makes the cut for middle class in NYC ($150k at a push) but I’d consider that the lower cut-off point.

  • dittoburg

    A $250k income for a family of four won’t buy you a million dollar house unless you’ve saved a quarter of a million or made the equity somewhere.

  • okay so then technically i should consider myself upper lower class? um no. i make under 50K and i consider myself middle class, even in this city. you people are on crack.

    *rob*

  • “Ditmas park is as suburban as it gets….yeah maybe it’s nyc by name and legalese, but um, sorry brooklyn and queens were always a suburb of manhattan.”

    This reaction surprises me. When I think of the suburbs, I think of repetitious, cookie cutter housing, strip malls, a general lack of cultural diversity, lack of good public transportation, etc. Yet Ditmas Park has beautiful, interesting houses, no strip malls, is arguably the most culturally diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the B and Q lines run straight through it. If that’s “as suburban as it gets”, sign me up!

  • plus i make about the literal MEDIAN in this city. there are not that many people making more than 200K a year here despite what you think and there are hundreds of thousands and almost millions of people making making under 20K and im not talking about students with supplemental income from parents from other states. sometimes i agree with the what, people in nyc seriously are living in lala land with their perspectives of economic reality. most likely the housing market is what warped all your brains to begin with.

    *rob*

  • I think middle class status greatly varies based on one’s family size – a single person with no dependents middle class can be much lower than that of a family. Didnt’ we have this discussion not too long ago? Maybe about a NYT article?

  • dittoburg

    Rob, you’re confusing economic class with social class. A classic American misunderstanding ;-).

  • wasder

    Rob,clearly as a single person you have more flexibility in terms of living on less money. I guess it should be stated that to be a middle class FAMILY in NYC one has to make a lot more than in other cities to have the same sorts of lifestyle choices (and yes they are choices).

  • What’s the median family income in NYC? Anyone making above the 25th percentile and below the 75th percentile is middle class, no?

  • quote:

    of repetitious, cookie cutter housing, strip malls, a general lack of cultural diversity

    uh, i love brownstones and row houses, but that is as cookie cutter AS YOU GET! that was how they built back then. strip malls? well yeah we dont really have those but look at park slope 7th and 5th ave basically is a strip mall, just one long narrow one. and cultural diversity? please. the city is so racially segregated it’s absurd. i can’t think of the last time i saw a non-white person at any establishment in park slope on 5th avenue. again. crack!
    im channeling the what today, beware.

    *rob*

  • I guess it depends how one would define middle class – income (i.e., pure numbers) or lifestyle. From an income perspective, Rob is certainly correct – a $200k or $250k income is well above the median. But with houses in the city going for $1 million minimum, and with the general, traditional bank guideline that annual mortgage, insurance and property taxes should be no more than a third of your income, $200k isn’t going to get you that middle class lifestyle people enjoy in other parts of the country.

  • wasder

    jawbreaker–good question and one that is probably easily figured out on google. Also, what would be the median income in the neighborhoods that this blog focuses on? Bound to be much higher than the city average.

  • Kensingtonian

    chicken, even in NY, middle class is not 200K. I would say that’s upper middle class as I stated above who lives in Ditmas Park these days.

    Mr. B does bring an interesting point out about whom we consider middle class in this city as opposed to national averages.

    BTW city data states that middle class salaries for family of 4 in NYC is 75K-135K so 150K-200K is considered Rich even by NYC standards.

    http://www.city-data.com/forum/new-york-city/63415-75k-135k-salary-middle-class-nyc.html

  • “um no. i make under 50K and i consider myself middle class, even in this city. you people are on crack.

    *rob*

    Posted by: PitbullNYC at May 14, 2009 9:49 AM”

    Class is more than the dollars you make – it’s a combination of many factors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_class). I was raised working class and am probably technically middle class but still feel working class.

    However, if you are basing it solely on income then no, you are not middle class.

    Even if you paid zero tax, middle-class accomodation would take up more than 3/4 of your income and would leave you with $30 a day for food, clothing and entertainment (even without dependents or savings).

  • okay yeah good point about family size. :-/

    (can i count my dog?) ha. children really aren’t THAT expensive when you think about it, and you do get tax breaks, right? yeah you definitely get tax breaks for kids. plus you can sign them up for free breakfast and lunch at school. i’ve yet to hear of a program where my dog can get free meals. plus kids under 18 are ALL covered for insurance in new york state. so health and meals except for one meal can be covered. ok im outta here before i literally have a braineurism.

    *rob*

  • Isn’t the median income for Brooklyn something low like $45K?

    So that means there are WAAAAY more people making about 20K in Brooklyn or less than there are people making 250K…

  • Rob, soon you’ll be arguing that even Manhattan is not the city! But seriously, I guess I just don’t grasp your city/suburbia distinction.

  • “children really aren’t THAT expensive when you think about it, and you do get tax breaks, right?”

    rob, i generally enjoy your posts, but on the above point…you have no idea, brother, not a clue.

  • median income appears to be around the $50k level as Rob stated.
    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36000.html

    I had asked the same question several months back when trying to work out at what level I felt comfortable buying a house again.

    Kensingtonian, without getting too conspiratorial I would think the City has a vested interest in having as many people as possible thinking they were well to do.

    What would take-home monthly pay be for a couple making $75k each then?

  • well when generations of americans referred to queens and brooklyn as “the country” and most manhattanites do as well, it’s suburbia. it’s a different kind suburbia, fer sure than the stereotypical one you think of, but it’s a suburn non the less. i stand by my belief that i am a middle class person living in the suburbs of new york city. there i said it ;-0

    *rob*

  • i was being a little funny about the kids not being expensive part. oh i know they CAN be expensive. depends on how you raise them. i was a very VERY inexpensive child.

    *rob*

  • rf

    Someone asked for the median household income:
    2005
    Manhattan
    $56,000
    Brooklyn
    $37,000
    Queens
    $48,000
    Bronx
    $29,000
    Staten Island
    $63,000
    http://www.newyorkfed.org/regional/profile_nyc.html

  • I don’t know how the statistic has changed but before the recent crash only 7% of New Yorker’s had salaries over 100k.

  • “…well when generations of americans referred to queens and brooklyn as “the country” and most manhattanites do as well, it’s suburbia.”

    The country???? Brooklyn??? I mean, if you go back far enough I guess this was all just countryside, but the same is true of Manhattan…or Paris for that matter. And yes, some Manhattanites may refer to the outer boroughs as “suburbs” with some derision, but that’s high school stuff.

  • dittoburg

    So, from the income medians stated here, the idea that Ditmas Park is affordable for NY middle income families is codswallop.

  • “This reaction surprises me. When I think of the suburbs, I think of repetitious, cookie cutter housing, strip malls, a general lack of cultural diversity, lack of good public transportation, etc”

    You haven’t been to enough suburbs. There’s some beautiful areas of Westchester and Long Island with gorgeous, old architecturally significant houses. Oh – and the suburbs have much better schools. Sure, they lack culture and fifi wine bars, but to say that there aren’t amazing houses there is silly.

  • Hmmm. Maybe the whole urban/suburban distinction is all relative. My coworker lives up near Columbus Circle and says he’s always regarded the Village and other nabes in lower Manhattan as “suburbs”.

  • Chicken – what I find interesting is that “working class” isn’t really a term people embrace here. It seems everyone is middle class. Or Rich. Or poor. Or even “working poor”. It’s as though part of the ’50s comformist swizz was creating this mirage of all-encompassing middleclass-ness.

  • most of the cities in the US have less density in their most dense areas than brooklyn does in its least dense areas. Suburbs or not its more dense than the majority of cities.

    also pitbullnyc to some how convince yourself that only white people frequent 5th ave resturants is silly.

  • not only codswallop, but completely and utter poppycock.
    maybe a middle class polygamous family with a doctor husband and 5 full time working wives with no children, then yes, it’s afford to the middle income.

    *rob*

  • Good point Hipster. And I’ll bet you can find some fifi wine bars if you look around.

  • children are CRAZY expensive Rob. my one kid has raised our overhead about $4500+ a month (bigger mortgage for bigger place, food/clothes and childcare). if both parents work, you still have babysitting even if your kid goes to public school. of course little ones go to preschools which cost tons when put on top of the babysitting.

    i guess we could have stayed in our smaller place, but it was pretty difficult every single day.

    i do agree with rob about lack of diversity everywhere. it’s more diverse in the city probably, but still likes hang with likes. you have to try to get out of your own circle which i am extremely committed to. we have a group of black friends where we are the only white people. My kid takes an ongoing series of classes that 50% white/black, and my kid goes to a primarily hispanic catholic school, so i do think that our particular experience as a family is pretty diverse on a daily basis. but, that’s after moving out of park slope.

    ps is as white as it gets and very generic in every way. i grew up in a suburb that was right next to a small city, in a beautiful house on a boulevard street with a mix of houses, some very old, that was not remotely cookie cutter. because we were so close to the city, we ate at great restaurants, went to excellent music venues as teenagers and went to the museums all the time. no way that a kid in PS has a guaranteed more diverse or interesting experience. it’s just the suburbs of NYC that are so frickin far that it’s a drag to get in and out of the city that people don’t want to move out there.

  • I’ve lived in the Prospect Park South since the late 60′s, and it was always considered a middle class area. It all depends on perspective. But if you look at the tax rates that people pay in this state compared with other states, yes, 150-200K is middel class, when your take home is half of those amounts. Add in the higher rates for all utilities and cable, and the ridiculous places we are forced to grocery shop, it is not rich for city standards. Same think in LA, Boston and the like.

  • haha w&p – people need their fifi wine bars!

    love the “city” and would never want to leave – but it amazes me that people delude themselves that certain “good nyc schools” like ps 321 can actually compare to a top notch suburban school district (syosset, jericho, cold spring harbor)

    for the most part – being the best school in nyc is like being a gold medalist in the special olympics. i realize there are some prestigious charter schools – and I went to college with some of those kids, and was not at all impressed as a whole.

  • > “codswallop”

    Triple word score! Good to have you back, ditto.

  • why don’t people in NYC want to admit that they are working class? The City was/is built on immigrant sweat (nationally and internationally)!

    It does pi$$ me off when people try to hide their working class roots – there’s nothing dishonourable or shameful about it. Like Groucho’s views on clubs, if being middle class means holding a view that it is superior to working class then I don’t want to be middle class.

  • > “to some how convince yourself that only white people frequent
    > 5th ave resturants is silly.”

    THANK YOU. One need only open their eyes.

    And wine lover, your comment “ps is as white as it gets and very generic in every way” is just flat-out stupid.

  • “$200k makes the cut for middle class in NYC ($150k at a push) but I’d consider that the lower cut-off point.”

    Oh come ON. Here we go again. There are zillions of affordable places in New York City, from the Bronx to Queens to the upper part of Manhattan to the lower part of Manhattan to areas in Brooklyn and Staten Island that are affordable to families making $80,000 to $150,000 a year, where you will not be killed, and where the elementary schools are decent (you do have to test into a magnet school for junior high and high school).

    The problem here is that families without dual doctor/lawyer/executive income cannot afford the fancy parts of Brooklyn but they think they should be able to. Thus the perception that New York City is “unaffordable.”

    Also, didn’t we already read this exact same article about Ditmas Park being the last bastion of the middle class in New York Magazine or the New York Times about a month ago?

  • i dont hide my working class roots, im proud of it!

    i just thought of something, nyc would be so much less expensive if we cut costs by educating children with online classes instead of having schools. it’s eventually going to happen anyway. it’s been happening for college for a long time, why not let high schoolers and grammer school kids take their classes online? (yes i KNOW there are certain drawbacks) but since kids primarily prefer to communite via their phones and computer anyway, it makes sense. we wouldnt need teachers, school staff, etc. then all those schools could be turned into affordable housing for the PROPER middle class. those making about 50K. we are so primative as a peoples it’s not even funny.

    *rob*

  • dittoburg

    Chicken – I went through grammar school trying my best to stifle my working class roots (betrayed by my pronounciation). It would have gotten me bullied and marginalized. Nowadays though I thought it was de rigueur to promote your working class roots so as to impress everyone how far you’d come.

  • A neighborhood with $1 million dollar homes isn’t a middle class neighborhood, so Ditmas Park isn’t going to do it. However, there are plenty of other NYC ‘hoods where houses are still significantly less expensive, both in Brooklyn and Queens, and I don’t understand why middle class families aren’t moving there and improving the schools. PS 321 and nearly every other neighborhood school (PS 8 excepted) became better way back when homes WERE priced for the middle class. Fifteen years ago, you could still buy a house in nice parts of South Slope for $300,000 or less, and 10 years ago the same was true in Cobble Hill (and both with rental income). Salaries have not risen in any comparable amount since then, but home prices are through the roof. So to me, it’s insane when the house prices are high BEFORE the schools get better — it should be the other way around.

    Dirty Hipster, you make a silly comparison. 321 is an elementary school. It does compare quite favorably to elementary schools in the suburbs. What exactly are you basing your claims upon? Suburban schools are only better in the most expensive suburbs, with high property taxes, which middle class families can’t afford anyway. So what is your point? That there is someplace too expensive for people to live that has better schools?

  • The importance of “maintaining relatively low density work areas and shopping streets”

    Ha. Enjoy that one. Ditmas Park is “suburban” for NYC and its population density is 52,000 people per square mile. Downtown San Francisco (and I’m using 94111) is 6,500 people per square mile and the densest parts of Chicago, in the Gold Coast are just 29,000. In other words, “neighborhoody” Brooklyn is still one of the densest parts of the U.S.

    At some point, can’t we just accept that New York is a different place? And that if people want low density that they should move to the suburbs? There’s nothing wrong with the suburbs or wanting to move there. This city can’t be all things to all people.

  • Rob for a non native transplant you are the expert on what is ‘suburbs’ of NYC?

    It is the out of towners and transplants that have this Hollywood image of NYC as Manhattan – and Manhattan only. You have a very narrow view of NYC or at the very least very ignorant of the various neighborhoods of NYC.

    Manahattan is borough.

    “well when generations of americans referred to queens and brooklyn as “the country”"

    Most of Manahattan was the ‘country’ at one time or another.

    How many NYC neighborhoods have you actually know or at least have visited?

    You transplant NYC experts as just out of line

  • Rob, please don’t comment on the cost of children b/c you have no clue. the article made a good point about ‘nannies’ vs. grandparents. i grew up with my grandmother watching me, so both my parents worked and did not have to pay childcare. i however, do not have that luxury. we both need to work, so we have to pay childcare – which as the article states is between 13k-20k in nyc per child, which is very true.

    all of my friends with children, including myself have 2 income households and make between 150-250k combined. there is a huge difference between 150k and 250k. we all own homes and none of us are rich. we are considered lower or just middle class. we have mortgages, childcare, car payments and school and living expenses. noone is rolling in the dough. we are getting by & trying to save for college. none of us have new, expensive cars. some of us don’t even have cars.

    we all know that we could probably be alot more comfortable in a less expensive city but we were all born and raised here and we are committed to living here and raising our families here.

    the middle class in nyc is much higher than in other cities. i would say to be truly comfortable and middle class you need a minimum income on 250k for a family of 4. if i were a family of 1 i would be very comfortable but i’m not.

  • also the working class fall into two categories. the working poor (usually undocumented immigrants and those making minimum wage) and working class those making above minimum wage in certain fields that require a lot of work that also include good benefits. middle class people tend to be just paper pushers for the most part, i mean you can deny that, but it’s true. the working poor and the working class do not have the luxuty of posting on the internet during the day.

    *rob*

  • now im not saying it’s not filled with white people but it not totally white. There is very little economic diversity because even 10-20 years ago you had to have money to live in PS.

  • quote:

    Rob for a non native transplant you are the expert on what is ‘suburbs’ of NYC?

    well i grew up in jersey city and was born there. that’s just as much “nyc” as most of the boroughs, in fact it was more nyc and urban. at least jersey city is a real city, not an outer borough! dont get mad at me saying that, im just stating it. some people get really really uptight when it comes to things like that.

    *rob*

  • also these million dollar houses in Ditmas Park ARE FUCKING HUUUUGGGGEEEEEE.

    a similar house built during the same time period would cost half a million in the south.

  • Agreed– how exactly is AEI defining the middle class? There are plenty of studies out there that suggest the upper middle class starts in the $65k range since thats double the median national salary.

    I make slightly more than that and am certainly not upper middle class.

  • Chicken,
    I think ‘middle class’ is a more loaded term in the UK than over here. Here it just means middle-income.
    I also agree with those that think $200k+ income is way too high to be defined as middle class.
    For those that say such an amount does not afford a wealthy lifestyle – it just means that the cost of real estate (and many other NYC amenities) right now is out of line with incomes. The only reason that many middle-class people remain in the city is because their entry point was when prices were lower relative to income, and even some of them are feeling the pinch now.

  • Ugh – Jersey City native that has some kind of 6th borough complex.

    Seriously – you have such limited knowledge of understanding of NYC neighborhoods it is amazing.

    Where did you think hip-hop originated? Midtown. You can’t get more urban than that.

    How about the Ramones? The Bowery?

    And that is just scratching the surface.

    You have a picture of “The City” as this high rise + European fashion shoppping + Wall Street.

    sheez

  • Jeebus, I really HATE it when someone claims that NYC households making 150-250K “feel” middle class. Yeah, okay, go ahead and “feel” middle class if it makes you happy, but please be honest about the fact that you are QUITE well off compared with the vast, vast majority of your fellow city dwellers.

    And this sense of being squeezed (by your own lifestyle, of course, but no one ever acknowledges that) never seems to generate a sense of sympathy for those with much less. Instead, it just becomes a point of victimhood, like those a**holes in the New York Magazine article about those financial sector workers who are outraged that anyone thinks they didn’t actually DESERVE their enormous bonuses because they are so “productive”. “WE pay so much tax, WE support everybody else, I’d like to see you all get on without us…”

    I guess it’s tough to make 250K in this city because then you’re in a position to have a glimpse of the rear ends of the really truly rich people who’ve taken over Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Maybe your kids go to school with their kids and you have to hear about their safari and ski vacations, extravagant birthday parties, etc.

    For most of us, that world is so far out of sight, it isn’t relevant. But if you’re close enough to smell their feet, it seems you get envioius and feel deprived and “middle class.”

  • I suppose it depends on what part of the Slope you are talking about, Santa.

    There are quite a few rent stabilized apartment buildings in Park Slope, not to mention many people who have been in the neighborhood for a very long time.

    There is more economic diversity than you think.

  • While the gorgeous Victorians in Ditmas Park may be out of reach for someone on a budget of less than $100k yr (like myself) there are plenty of 2/3 bedroom coops/condos that are going for around $400/$450k that, with another year of savings, I hope to purchase myself. (go me)

    It is completely possible to live a “middle class” lifestyle on less than $100k/ yr in many neighborhoods in this city, including where I live in PH. Being middle class is indeed a lot about choices- you can choose to buy into what Martha Stewart tries to sell you or you can opt out.

    I can go on and on about the number of women I know like myself who support their families while their husbands stay home with the little kids. Middle class doesn’t necessarily need 2 earners, or daycare, or nannies, or any of the other ridiculously expensive “stuff” that people talk themselves into thinking they need to be “middle class”. I really do think the whole middle class idea is just a state of mind.

  • > “Yeah, okay, go ahead and “feel” middle class if it makes you happy,
    > but please be honest about the fact that you are QUITE well off compared
    > with the vast, vast majority of your fellow city dwellers.”

    BINGO! Well said.

  • crimson, please don’t assume. you know the the old saying, im sure. excuse me for not thinking nyc is some kind of special place. for many people it’s just some random place they wound up in and don’t care all that much about. deal with it. it always irks me when people think they are special and above others because they live in new york city.

    *rob*

  • I am working class- my father took it as a point of pride and so do I. I’m sure most people here would probably consider me poor and maybe income wise, I am. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s more important is whether or not NYC (and that includes all the boroughs- which are so not suburbs of Manhattan) will make it next to impossible for anyone who is not rich to live here.

    In a city this size it is all things to all people- in fact it has to be. I was born and raised here- not every inch of the city has to be packed like sardines. that seems to be a function of number-crunchers who rarely get out of the office and go look at what a living, breathing neighborhood looks like. That’s the biggest mistake city planners (and I use the term loosely) make.

  • i had to LOL at the posting of 4 properties under a million bux just now. still not accessible to the working OR middle class. next!

    *rob*

  • wine lover, don’t be blaming your kids for your expenses. It’s your status anxiety. Kids are pretty inexpensive–schools are free, two meals a day and healthcare are subsidized, and the world is filled with bigger kids who can pass their clothes along. Of course, we want more than that for our kids, don’t we, so we move to this neighborhood and shop in that store and maybe even pay an outrageous tuition but definitely lay out for some “enrichment.” But that’s on us, not our kids. Those are our values–and they will be our children’s values, since they learn what they live. So I expect we will have many more years of rich people bemoaning how “poor” they are.

    Guys, you are doing well. You are choosing expensive neighborhoods, clothes, groceries, etc. Open your eyes and look at the Brooklynites who do NOT have these choices. Who are REALLY struggling. Even less expensive neighborhoods way the hell out have houses going for $500K–meaning a family would need an income of $200K and a downpayment of $100K to truly afford it. Some folks may have profited from this RE market, but it has really screwed the middle and working classes.

    Consider that you are lucky enough to have options. Then, I don’t know, consume less and appreciate more. Or at least quitcherbitchin.

  • oy, you people! First of all, the $1 million price tags aren’t likely to hold up in this environment and the fact is that most people who live in DP didn’t pay anything near that for their homes — these houses don’t turn over that often.

    I live in DP and who are my neighbors? Across back yard fence — Pakistani family with a little contracting business and illegal tenants. North side of my house: Guyanese family with a day care center and a barbershop. South side of my house: retired couple with a couple of illegal tenants. Up the street: a couple of teachers, a freelance photographer, an MTA employee, an artist married to a health care worker. Across the street: Asian lady who works in the bakery. Around the corner, a few more Dept of Ed employees. We are just rich, rich, rich in Ditmas.

    And Rob, you have no idea about the costs of raising children. It’s true they can be raised very cheaply, but basic middle class enrichments — music lessons, a sports team here and there, and maybe summer camp — plus saving for college and paying for enough space for a family — it’s a lot.

  • Arkady

    Most years more kids from 321 get into Stuy than from Berkeley/Carroll.

  • “I really HATE it when someone claims that NYC households making 150-250K “feel” middle class. Yeah, okay, go ahead and “feel” middle class if it makes you happy, but please be honest about the fact that you are QUITE well off compared with the vast, vast majority of your fellow city dwellers.”

    I gotta agree with southbrooklyn here. Try walking in the shoes of people who are supporting a family of four on $37K, and somehow managing to do it. They rob Peter to pay Paul, never go out, never “vacation”, don’t have much, and may be in subsidized housing, with food stamps, but they do it, because that’s all they know, they can’t pick up and leave, and taking care of their families is priority one.

    Ditmas Park, at least the private homes part of the area, hasn’t been home to the true middle class for a while, unless someone has been in their spacious home for a couple of generations. Real estate prices aside, the upkeep on those homes is massive. Who thinks up this stuff, and do they have any substantive proof, or just look at this “Our Town” kind of enclave – kids playing on private lawns, car in the garage, idyllic American lifestyle, and immediately think “middle class”? Maybe at one time, in certain places, probably in Ditmas in 1955, but not now.

  • East New York

    “we have a group of black friends where we are the only white people.”

    http://blackpeopleloveus.com/

  • dittoburg

    lf2009 – have you read “Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton?

  • In my mind, one of the hallmarks of being middle class is homeownership in a stable neighborhood with quality schools. For a family making $200k per year, they’d bring home about $10k per month after taxes. A $1m property with 10% down @ 5% would cost between $5500 and $6000 per month for mortgage, taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

    To me, spending 55 to 60% of my after tax income on housing is not affordable, especially if I have children. I’d have to settle for an apartment.

    $200k per year living in an apartment in a pretty good but not top notch Brooklyn nabe. Am I rich?

  • “Dirty Hipster, you make a silly comparison. 321 is an elementary school. It does compare quite favorably to elementary schools in the suburbs. What exactly are you basing your claims upon? Suburban schools are only better in the most expensive suburbs, with high property taxes, which middle class families can’t afford anyway. So what is your point? That there is someplace too expensive for people to live that has better schools?”

    Well – those very “expensive” neighborhoods in the suburbs have already had their bubble burst – you can get a large house for 700k with all the character of these old DP houses. Sure – taxes are higher, but alot of that goes towards schools.

    If you could afford living in Brooklyn and raising a child – that’s fine. But to overextend yourself to a point that making 250K is “middle class” just so you can live in a 2 million dollar brownstone and drag your kid around to brunch on the weekends sounds selfish to me. Having a child is about sacrifice, if you could live in a suburb with better schools, cheaper housing and a commute less then an hour then why do so many people have this “Brownstone Brookyln or bust” attitude?

  • East New York

    “i stand by my belief that i am a middle class person living in the suburbs of new york city.”

    Or, you could be described as a broke, indebted man over age 30 sharing a rental in “trendy” Park Slope. I mean, based on your own description.

    “we are so primative as a peoples it’s not even funny.”

    Speaks for itself….

    “Where did you think hip-hop originated? Midtown. You can’t get more urban than that.”

    You’re 100% wrong. Rap music, break dancing and MC’ing – the primne elements of hip hop – were born in the BRONX, not “midtown.”

  • rf

    I raised a child (now 13) on an income well below the median. It can be done but it’s tough. We’ve been lucky to find decent public schools where she’s learned and thrived, but I think that just as important is that she’s grown up in a place with diversity of many kinds–racial, class, economic diversity–and much less of the mommy-buy-me’s that suburban kids express since she’s always had friends from families that had less than we do.

    Sure, she’d probably get a moderately better book-learning education in Scarsdale than she will at Brooklyn Tech or Edward R. Murrow High School, but I believe (and SHE BELIEVES) that she is getting a more well-rounded education in NYC. And the street-smarts and independence that come with her metrocard are priceless.

  • dirty hipster, I think you missed my point. I’m suggesting that true middle class parents (or families with $100,000/year incomes, NOT $250,000) should be looking in neighborhoods where you can buy a family-sized apartment or home on that salary, and improve the schools there. That is exactly what happened in the 321 and 29 neighborhoods. In fact, not all that many middle class families I know have a “Brooklyn or Bust” attitude — I wonder how many true middle class families you know. The ones I know have found affordable housing (which sometimes means renting) and have worked to improve the local elementary schools where they live. If they can’t continue to find affordable housing in an acceptable school district, they move to the suburbs, just like you suggest. But don’t kid yourself — the parents that are middle class aren’t moving to subrubs where a house “only” costs $700,000 (with another $20,000/year in taxes) — they are moving to affordable suburbs with decent schools that yes, are exactly on par with the decent elementary schools in Brooklyn. That was my point. On whether a $250,000/year income is middle class — I agree with your point that it is NOT.

  • > born in the BRONX, not “midtown.”

    I was hoping that was a joke.

    Boogie Down Kips Bay!

  • benson

    “Oh come ON. Here we go again. There are zillions of affordable places in New York City, from the Bronx to Queens to the upper part of Manhattan to the lower part of Manhattan to areas in Brooklyn and Staten Island that are affordable to families making $80,000 to $150,000 a year, where you will not be killed, and where the elementary schools are decent (you do have to test into a magnet school for junior high and high school)”

    Mopar and all;

    The fact that these areas are affordable to the middle class doesn’t make them desirable to them. I’ll use a specific area that I am very familiar with: the western part of Gravesend, where I grew up (which is is distinctly more modest than eastern Gravesend, where the Syrians live in the mega-million dollar homes).

    If one were to walk down many of the streets of western Gravesend (say, around Ave.O and West 5th Street), one would find many nice, modest one-family homes that have recently been sub-divided into 3, sometimes 5 apartments that now house immigrants. As the older residents move away or die off, more and more homes are converted to such a state. When these homes are converted, the front lawn is usually paved over to make way for cars. This transformation is taking place in vast swaths of Brooklyn and Queens that you mention above.

    I am not knocking immigrants, but I am saying that such an environment is NOT attractive to many middle-class folks. I travel around the country alot on business, and the point of this article is dead on: you cannot help but notice what your middle-class dollar can buy in other cities, and what it can buy here. I think most folks understand that when you move to NYC you are not going to get a suburban environment, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept living in the arrangements I just described.

  • I don’t live in a million-dollar Victorian home. I live in a co-op. There are lots of apartments available in buildings such as mine (1818 Newkirk) for anywhere from $250K to $400K. Someone in my building just sold a 1000-square-foot co-op for $309K. 1825 Foster Ave is a nice building and so are the buildings on E. 18th and E. 19th, all near the Newkirk B/Q stop. Along Cortelyou you’ll find lots of co-op buildings, rental buildings, and more on Argyle and other streets with prices that are much more affordable and offer more space than in the Slope or brownstone Brooklyn.

    So it is possible to find relatively inexpensive housing along a subway, near restaurants, and a short bike ride or jog to the park for New York’s “middle class,” whatever that is.

    Trust me, after looking for an apartment for my wife and kid in Park Slope for years and not seeing anything big enough for the three of us, the choice to move to Ditmas Park was a no-brainer.

  • Benson, I know someone who bought a brownstone on the upper west side of Manhattan, 80s near CPW, in the early ’70s. Their description of the house and neighborhood at the time (dozens of people living in it, using the public hallways as toilets) is not pleasant. You seem to be denigrating any neighborhood that isn’t already gentrified and expensive as unacceptable, and yet the nicest neighborhoods now would never have become that way without lots of middle class people buying in them.

    Of course you aren’t going to get the same size house as you might somewhere else in the country, but that doesn’t mean your alternative can’t be a perfectly nice place to live.

  • benson- we are all immigrants (except for native Americans). I found your post amazingly biased and insofar as cementing over for cars- isn’t there some law that states new housing must have room for off street parking? I see it all over my neighborhood and Bed-Stuy. I’ll also point out- as a child of immigrants- that immigrants have contributed much to the economy of the city and indeed this country. I’m guessing you also find the new Berlesconi law in Italy quite attractive with its legalization of neighborhood vigilante groups and hoping we’ll pass a law like that here.

    I’d also like to point out that many immigrants are working incredibly hard and making very good money for their efforts (I don’t think they came here for the cement yard.)

  • so i read the article and i’m still looking for a coherent thesis. doesn’t seem to be about saving the middle class, but about the middle class saving the “city.” author seems to be concerned about people leaving core cities for non-core cities, not about the importance that the middle class stay in “the city” as opposed to suburbs of cities. moreover, he’s really focused on the cultural consequences of the lack of diversity and the lack of families in the core city, which i get. but as far as economic consequences, is there really a difference between the middle-classer who rides in on the B train or the staten island ferry from the one who comes in on the metro north? especially if, as he suggests, the “urban neighborhoods” develop into job centers as well? they’d be that different from “true” suburbs – why? – because you’re paying NYC taxes?

    and you all can debate all you like about what incomes make someone rich, but this article IS talking about lifestyle and cost-of-living, and subjective emotional lives (whether people feel the city fosters their ambitions, whether they feel part of a community or not, whether they feel they’re getting the services they deserve). seems that in the author’s view, unless you fall into the group of people he finds “constipated” (young, rich, empty-nesters), if you’re a family it doesn’t really matter whether you’re actually middle class by some absolute measure or just feel and live like you’re not one of the “constipated” classes.

  • benson

    CGfan;

    I’m not discounting the possibility that some day Gravesend and other areas like it will again become middle-class. However, all I ask is that folks recognize the following:

    -unlike the UWS or other “Brownstone” areas,the housing stock in areas like Gravesend is “meh”. I’m referring to the areas of the city that were developed between WWI and WWII. The housing is of a decidely lower caliber,both in terms of the aesthetics and the quality. Unlike Brownstones, these homes were built for folks of modest means.

    -the trend is going the other way for these areas, at least for now. Immigrants can no longer live on the lower east side,and they are slowly getting priced out of other close-in areas like Washington Heights and Red Hook. Where to go? The areas of which I speak.

    -there is a limited supply of folks who are willing to be “middle class pioneers”. The city has had a remarkable run in this sense. I too remember what the UWS was like when I was a teen (I used to hang out there a bit). Will this trend continue? I’m not so sure, given that Wall Street’s golden days are over. Hopefully it will, I’m just not so sure.

  • benson

    Bxgrl;

    Oh please!!! OK, you’re right:I am a closet fascist for having written that a person who has worked themselves up the socio-economic ladder might want a better living arrangement than being next to an illegal conversion in which an 80 year old frame house has been chopped up into 5 apartments. Yes, you are also right that in my writing this, I am putting down hard-working immigrants.

    I need to be shipped off to a political re-education camp.

  • Sure there are families that bought when houses were cheap in DP, but many families have paid a hefty price tag for their homes in recent years. It takes deep pockets to buy a home in DP AND maintain it properly. The houses, when they sell, are generally purchased by the upper middle classes. Families that fall into the middle class bracket opt for the coops and condos. Almost all are refugees from more expensive neighborhoods.

    Schools? I found this comment interesting, to say the least, “being the best school in nyc is like being a gold medalist in the special olympics. i realize there are some prestigious charter schools – and I went to college with some of those kids, and was not at all impressed as a whole.”

    I sent my older child through arguably the best public elementary school in Brooklyn. She was a straight A student. I always felt she was getting a top notch academic education. We moved out of the city (not be choice), to a northern suburb with scary-expensive school taxes. My jaw dropped when my middle school daughter confessed that the work was harder here, the lessons went into greater depth, the teachers expected more, and that she in fact, had to “catch up” in certain areas… Another thing I’ve noticed is that the schools don’t spend weeks, even months, prepping for state exams. One day max.

    To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the difference to be so dramatic. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting it at all…

  • I have to disagree with you Montrose. The majority of the houses in Victorian Flatbush are still owned by middle class families. People who are civil servants and other jobs described by Back40 which would land us squarely in the middle class. We do have wealthier families who’ve purchased homes in the last couple of years above the million dollar mark but block by block they are few. The kids who live in the big houses play with kids who live in both co-op, condo and rental apartments in the small parks, at each others homes and in school. There is probably more interaction now among people from various socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds now than there ever was in 1955. There is an overall friendliness also found in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, that give this neighborhood a hometown feel that that transcends the “Our Town” look of the area.

    As far as maintainence is concerned, any house can be a beast if you don’t take care of problems as they arise. Unfortunatley for many of our elderly neighbors, these houses or any house can become too much for them to handle especially if they don’t have family and friends to help them out. These were many of the people who made off with a million dollars when they sold their homes to people who could afford to restore them. A win for all concerned.

  • Benson – apparently if you mention “immigrant” and “not desirable” in the same sentence, regardless of the context, you’re automatically labeled as xenophobic.

    I completely agree with what you are saying.

  • dittoburg

    As a recent immigrant (13 years) I must say I can’t abide neighborhoods where people pave over the front yard. Nor where people build a house that fills up the whole lot and squishes out the garden. Ugh.

  • benson- because you assumed all of these are illegal immigrants and implied that immigrants are not desireable. You did not say “illegal immigrants” and since you’ve made comments about immigrants before I took it in context. I grew up with an extended family- in a 4 room apartment. my father was the patriarch of the family and if you didn’t have a job or a place to stay, he opened our home. Many immigrants still do the same- and in this day and age the strength of family ties is even more crucial.

    If you want to blame anyone- blame the greedy landlord who has no qualms about cutting up a house to squeeze every last dime out of it. Oh wait- you also think property owners should be entitled to do anything they want with their property.

  • “If you could afford living in Brooklyn and raising a child – that’s fine. But to overextend yourself to a point that making 250K is “middle class” just so you can live in a 2 million dollar brownstone and drag your kid around to brunch on the weekends sounds selfish to me. Having a child is about sacrifice, if you could live in a suburb with better schools, cheaper housing and a commute less then an hour then why do so many people have this “Brownstone Brookyln or bust” attitude?”

    Ok dirty hipster, i must assume you do not have children. 250k, does not hardly buy you a 2M brownstone. i live in bedstuy, and bought before the boom and before having children. i had alot more money before the kids came along. i did not pick up and move to be in PS 321 zone. i couldn’t afford to even if i wanted to. all of my friends, including myself, have 2 income households, make between 150k-250k (only a very few at the higher end) we live mainly in bedstuy and all paid 600k or below for our homes. again we are not rolling in the dough! we have mortgages, childcare, cars, living. take 1 vacation a year. we are not going to brunch and living in 2M brownstones – we are surviving.

    MM – i get your point but we are talking about middle class, not how poor folks get by, so we should get over it. that can be said about anything on this website. i.e. HOTD, why not put some low income houses? i would think that most people are on this website b/c we have similar values and are in silimar financial situations. not that we want to say ‘poor us’ they are always people who are better or worse off in every situation. i think your comment is irrelevant to this discussion.

  • Achiterrorist, I had the complete opposite experience with a student who moved from a suburban area into one of my NYC classes. I guess it depends on where you live in the suburbs. All suburban schools are not created equal either. I would suspect that a student in a northern suburb where the taxes are scary expensive would do better than a student from an area of the suburbs where the taxes were not as scary.

  • benson

    Bxgrl;

    Stop putting words in my mouth. You speak of comments that I’ve made before regarding immigrants. Please produce these comments to support your assertion. Otherwise, I would kindly ask you to argue your case on the basis of statements made here, and stop making assertions about me that are not supported by anything I’ve written.

    Futhermore, I did not assume anything. The 5 family illegal conversion of which I write happens to be right next to my father’s house. It was an illegal conversion done by an immigrant who bought the place and chopped it up. Furthermore, because it was an illegal conversion done by hack contractors, the building’s electrical system was substandard and started a fire, which spread to my father’s home. My parents, both in their 80′s, had to leave their home for 2 months so that their apartment could be put back in place.

    If you think that such an environment is fine for someone in the middle class, well good for you. I and many others don’t, and if you want to state that this makes me the next Mussolini, so be it.

  • Chaka, that’s my point… I didn’t want to believe that you get what you pay for (generally speaking) when it comes to public school education. I thought what we had was equal to anything to be found anywhere else. It wasn’t. And it was in to way the fault of any of the wonderful teachers my children had.

  • dittoburg

    bkny – I’d like to see 250K buy a 2M brownstone! Perhaps DH hasn’t heard the recent news about unstated income mortgages and the subsequent worldwide economic collapse.

  • benson – i understand, get what you’re saying and agree. i am middle class and that doesn’t mean i should live ‘anywhere’. i grew up in bk and it is very sad that the very areas that my friends grew up in are so unaffordable. we want to live in brownstone brooklyn b/c it is where we have roots and where our family ties are – not b/c it’s ‘trendy’.

  • sixyearsandcounting

    RF: “she’d probably get a moderately better book-learning education in Scarsdale than she will at Brooklyn Tech or Edward R. Murrow High School”

    As a teacher at one of the aforementioned schools, I respectfully take issue with this! Our students can take on Scarsdale’s kids any day of the week. So too can our teachers take on Scarsdale’s teachers. Your daughter will do just fine at almost any school, especially if she’s independent and motivated and you stay involved.

    Rf, you do mention the well-roundedness and diversity of Brooklyn’s schools compared to suburban schools. I agree with you on that. The non-book learning that takes place in high school is in many ways more important, and more lasting, than the content learned in homework, exams, and so on.

    I wish I had time to read the rest of this, but I’m on my lunch break. Will comment later, as it’s about my neighborhood.

  • “You’re 100% wrong. Rap music, break dancing and MC’ing – the primne elements of hip hop – were born in the BRONX, not “midtown.”"

    I think you misunderstood. The point was that many out of towners and transplants have this preconception that every cultural thing happen in Manhattan. It was a sarcastic question.

  • BTW – The Ramones are from Forest Hill Queens.
    (for those that did not know the Bowery comment was also being sarcastic)

  • Now who’s putting words in who’s mouth, benson? I’m certainly not arguing that such things happen, ust the way you made it into a generality. You’re the one who brought up Mussolini- not I.

  • You can get a great education in NYC public schools – I’m not saying it’s impossible by any stretch of the imagination, but you need your stars to align: bright kid, motivated kid, tests well, gets into the best selective schools… My child cleared all these hurdles… And she’s the one telling me that the education she’s receiving in the suburbs is more rigorous… As for street smarts, cultural opportunities, these are things that are compromised once you leave the city, no doubt. My child makes it very clear that she misses the freedoms, the excitement, the diversity, not to mention the good eats.

    But what if your kid isn’t the brightest? The most motivated? Doesn’t have any earth shattering talents? Is intimidated by public transportation when he or she is only eleven years old and has to commute 45 minutes to MS? And you can’t drive them there because you have a job to get to? Or you don’t have a car? What if your kid has a cold the day they have to audition for that coveted MS place in the drama dept at Mark Twain or whatever? Or if they’re having an off day and miss the cut off for a G&T program by one point? What if they don’t qualify to take the test for a G&T program? What about these kids? What sort of education do they really get? Even PS 321 spent an inordinate amount of time prepping for State tests. Time that could be used for more creative/rewarding learning. Time I bet most teachers wish they could get back.

    I’m not griping about my experience with the system. My kid was smart, not to mention lucky, and I made getting her into (and getting her to) great public schools a part-time career… We didn’t choose to leave Brooklyn in search of better schools or better anything… We had no choice. Perhaps this is why I shake my head and am so dismayed to hear my child say that, from an academic perspective, things were not as wonderful as I thought they were.

  • bkny, if we are having a discussion about what constitutes middle class, and someone is complaining that they can barely make ends meet at over 6 figures, then the situation of someone who used to be considered “middle class” at $39K is as relevant as anything else here. Your dismissal of “poor folks” to this discussion is part of the problem with this entitled bunch. While many here may make well over 6 figures, there is a sizable portion who do not, including myself. We also share in caring about our brownstone and historic communities, our schools, and quality of life, etc, etc. Our problems and concerns are the same as those making more money. If you have a discussion of middle class concerns, and can’t include teachers, office workers, nurses, and others who don’t top off over 6 figures, what kind of “middle class” is that?

    Chaka, I’m sure you are correct, as you live there and I don’t. My remarks are based on the newer folks moving into those large homes, most of which sell for upwards of a million. I’m glad the majority of Ditmas is still the old “middle class”.

  • East New York

    I was educated in NYC schools, and according to the standard mentioned here would be considered “rich,” although I certainly don’t feel wealthy, particularly in comparison with the TRULY wealthy folks (CEOs, celebrities, high-level sales professionals) I’ve encountered as a journalist. I would call myself middle class, but that’s such a abroad and subjective term that it’s almost meaningless.

    The quality of an education depends primarily on the student’s personal interest in learning and parental involvement. One can acquire a good education at almost any school if the person is determined to learn and receives the appropriate support.

  • MM – nurses usually make 70k and that nurse could be married to an office worker making 80k – putting them right at 150k, that is not so ‘well off’ to me. usually both indiviuals do not make over 6 figures but combined with income, bonus or side hustle, many, many folks fit into ‘middle class’. i fit the ‘numbers’ but based on my life style and struggles, i would definetly say that i am lower middle class, not working poor and not upper middle class. i can’t afford a home in DP. i am trying to save for my children’s future so i can’t spend all of my discretionary funds ‘brunching’. 6 figures is pretty easy to come by for 2 people, 2 parents making 50k-60k each. these are not folks that can afford these homes. that’s why i say middle class in nyc is easily 150k-250k, not that i’m entitled at all. it just is what it is.

  • dittoburg

    ENY – I’d agree with that with the caveat that the school one is attending must also have the power to separate, or expel, continually disruptive pupils. The absence of that can really bugger things up.

  • East New York

    Yes, ditto, I agree with your statement.

  • Agree with Southbrooklyn and ennulator.

    Density and immigrants are characteristics of New York City. Naturally you’re not going to live like a Texas oil rancher here no matter how many millions you have. That means no car and less space per person. Also — gasp! — people from all over the globe.

    All we are arguing about here is the change in some Brooklyn neighborhoods from working class to elite. And also, to some degree, the end of racial segregation. I may move to Bed Stuy soon because my income is similar to the people living there even though my skin color is different.

    I am not under any illusions that prices in Park Slope are “unnaturally” high because I, a white person who went to college, cannot afford it.

    All this talk that middle class people cannot raise children in New York City is total bs. You can buy a very large three-bedroom, pre-war walkup in Queens in a very safe neighborhood with very good elementary schools for $350,000. Actually, probably less now. You will be living with people from all around the globe — some of them with more advanced degrees than you. IMHO, this make the area more rather than less desirable.

    Quite a few families in New York City make do by living in three- and four-room walkup railroad apartments even though they may have three or more children. This has been going on for generations, obviously, from the Lower East Side at the turn of the century to Carroll Gardens in the 1950s to Bushwick now.

  • sometimes (and i know ill get rocks thrown at me for this) but i wish families stayed out of nyc and left it for singles < 40.

    *rob*

  • dittoburg

    Mopar, get with the new yardstick. The highest average household income group in the US are asians, not whites. It doesn’t mean spit that you can’t afford PS.

  • dittoburg

    Upon reading in my own post it comes across as smartarse. I didn’t mean it that way.

  • Having lived in a Victorian Flatbush historic district for almost 30 years and sent 2 kids through PS 217 and one through Murrow HS, the other in Midwood HS, and been able to compare their school experience with their cousins in the “upscale” suburbs, I can say that we’d never leave here. The mix of housing stock, the old and new neighborhood businesses, the mix of people, and the lack of ostentation, even among those of us who live in (formerly!) million dollar Victorians, is unmatched. It’s the kind of neighborhood where your the haircutter, pharmacist, wine store owner, and hardware store greet you by name; where you can have a house with a driveway, backyard, know all your neighbors (some of us have each others’ keys!) have neighborhood picnics, parties and baseball game trips, and still be a half hour from Union Square on the subway.

    We can debate middle class forever. My neighbors are teachers, physical therapists, school principals, lawyers, artists, social workers, architects, doctors, etc. No Wall Streeters that I know of, no bond traders, no hedge fund managers, no Fortune 500 CEO’s. I consider this a middle class neighborhood based on how we live and who we are.

  • Evfred, the times, they are a changing… I can think of half a dozen wall streeters including hedge fund guys (and one gal) in the nabe now… You got in when the middle class could buy into DP (30 years ago!), as did a lot of the people you seem to know. I love the variety of DP, too… But, I hate to tell you – only those with deep pockets have been able to buy in, renovate and maintain over the past 8 years or so… Oh, and those who made money in the housing market and were able to trade up from an apt. in the Slope to a house in Victorian Flatbush… And a few with (modest) trust funds come to mind as well… We have a log of dear friends in Victorian Flatbush who have been there for a decade or more, but to be honest, none of them could afford to buy a house there now. Like PS 30 years ago… A middle class neighborhood, gentrified and co-opted by the upper middle class.

  • Arch, you’re absolutely right. Right now, people that have been living here more than 10 years vastly outnumber more recent newcomers, but most of them would not be able to afford their house today. So it’s a stable, middle-to-upper income area that will be slowly changing as the older cohort moves on eventually. Might take quite a while though, because once you’re here you don’t want to leave.

    But I want to comment on one line from the article: “The old families were moving out, and newer ones were not replacing them.” What does this mean, that there were empty houses all over the place?