Business Insider recently took a look at how cities are divided by class, focusing particularly on New York. A Pew Research Center report found that residential segregation between upper and lower-income households was up in 27 of the country’s 30 largest metro areas. And the number of middle-income neighborhoods had declined. New York, like many cities, has seen a loss of middle-income manufacturing jobs while low-paying service jobs and highly paid knowledge, professional and creative jobs have grown. The result is a city more divided by class than in previous decades.

On the map above (unfortunately there is no way to zoom in further), the areas in purple are occupied by creative and knowledge workers who earn an average of $87,625. Though they account for only 36 percent of workers in the metro area, they made up over 80 percent of those in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill–some of the highest concentrations in region. Some of the area’s highest percentages of service workers were also in Brooklyn in Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Carnasie as well as what it calls Bedford/Clinton Hill and several parts of East New York. Service workers earned an average of $34,241. Working class employees made up 16 percent of the region’s workforce but none of the top locations were in Brooklyn. In fact they were all in New Jersey. Said the author: “While our cities may be increasingly diverse in terms of nationality, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, they are becoming ever-more divided by class. These mounting divides threaten both their underlying economic dynamism and potentially their social and political stability as well.” What do you think? How important is class diversity to the health of Brooklyn?

 

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That’s what urbanist Joel Kotkin, author of The City: A Global History, suggests in the NY Observer. We might want to look, or look up to, San Francisco for its survivalist instincts and a model of “what we could evolve into.” Here’s more:

You have to remember there’s a huge group of people in San Francisco who bought their homes when they were affordable. Then there’s a population [that's] there for the San Francisco experience. Think of the country—there’s this country and then there’s these giant theme parks; and one is New York and one is San Francisco. … You go there; it’s a phase of your life. You live there for five years, 10 years. But then most people either don’t do well enough to stay, or get tired of it at some point and leave.

Hm. Is that what will happen?

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Since 1940, “white flight” has affected the city’s demographics, not to mention its real estate market; every year, the population of white, non-Hispanic residents in the inner city decreased. That is, until the turn of this century. The NY Times reports that since 2000, 100,000 non-Hispanic whites have returned to the city, and half of that increase occurred between 2006 and 2007. Experts call the shift a “harbinger of racial equilibrium” and a testament to “diversity and ethnic heterogeneity.” For some, of course, such shifts signal an undertone of gentrification; it’s not always good news. And some of those folks returning from the ‘burbs work in the financial industry, lured by family-friendly, high-end projects that are sometimes seen as gated communities within the city; no one’s sure if they’ll stay as the economy sours. Still, the census findings reveal a strong city — stronger, in fact than some of the suburbs. The percentage of folks paying more than 30% of income on rent/mortgage dropped in NYC; it rose in the suburbs.
White Flight Has Reversed, Census Finds [NY Times]
Photo by thunderhoof

gotham-04-2008.jpgIn the new issue of Metropolis, Karrie Jacobs pens an interesting piece about how big-city mayors in the U.S. “have emerged as a sort of government in exile, putting forth a remarkably progressive, and occasionally visionary, domestic agenda while the federal government has been AWOL.” Here in New York we know all about having a mayor who thinks big, but Jacobs hardly mentions Bloomberg. She concentrates, instead, on Martin O’Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, who spoke about how forming a response network to address emergencies like terrorist attacks or natural disasters was a job best handled close to home, since Washington “will be thirty to forty years catching up with this reality,” and San Francisco’s Gavin Newsom, who talks about green initiatives for his city and says, When you’re going to get serious about addressing the issues of global climate change, it will be happening, by definition, in urban cores…We’re basically following these UN environmental accords and doing it in the absence of leadership from our states and respective federal governments. As we look forward to a new administration, Jacobs concludes, our future president should take note that cities are no longer something to be fixed, but should be acknowledged as planning leaders, “not only to give them the succor they’ve been denied in the past eight years but also to learn from them how this country can once again move forward.” Isn’t it pretty to think so?
Like Urban Renewal, Only Backward [Metropolis]
Photo by Just-Us-3.