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Gentrification. Other people’s parenting. What more kvetch-worthy topics could a Brooklynite ask for? This week, a Next City article brought them together in a novel way, claiming that Park Slope parents’ anxious hovering can be blamed on gentrification.

“The most notorious urban helicopter parenting cultures have emerged from the most rapidly gentrifying areas,” writes Kathryn Jezer-Morton. “San Francisco and Brooklyn, two places where the cost of living has spiked especially dramatically, have become well known for their anxious, well-intentioned moms and dads.”

But can Brooklyn helicopter parenting really be blamed on gentrification?

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eric adams

After confronting problems with bad landlords and tenant harassment, at a pair of hearings earlier this month, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, in an article in City & State, tries to take on gentrification.

For well over a decade people in Brooklyn have been complaining about it, hoping for it, praising it and condemning it — and moving in and out of Brooklyn because of it. Just about everyone has a different definition of what it is, what causes it, how it changes neighborhoods and whether it is good, bad, inevitable or some combination of all of the above.

That’s Adams above, flanked by tenant advocates, announcing the hearings last month. One more is scheduled for July 26 (you can read all about it here).

Adams singles out four issues he says amplify problems associated with gentrification:

Tenant Harassment
The first is criminal harassment of tenants in an effort to empty units so the landlord can take advantage of rising rents. After an outpouring of horror stories from tenants whose landlords had denied them heat, hot water, or sanitary living conditions at the hearings he hosted earlier in the month, Adams is referring cases to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and to the state attorney general’s office for prosecution. (more…)

standupbedstuy flier

This morning one of our readers tipped us off to these fliers that were stuffed in car windows and stuck on front doors throughout Stuyvesant Heights in Bed Stuy. The fliers use racist imagery of watermelons and fried chicken, presumably to paint the investors who are buying up property in the neighborhood as racist. And they urge homeowners “Shut it down Bed Stuy by any means necessary.” Presumably that means not selling their homes to investors.

Our reader thought the fliers might be a response to New York Magazine recent story that revealed the real estate business practices of a racist landlord-investor. He described replacing black renters with white ones and speculated black property owners in Bed Stuy would start “dumping” houses to buy in East New York. (more…)

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We’d like to ignore New York Magazine’s article, “I Put in White Tenants’: The Grim, Racist (and Likely Illegal) Methods of One Brooklyn Landlord,” but people keep emailing us about it, posting it on Facebook — and it’s now “most read” on the magazine’s site.

The article is a Studs Terkel-like stream-of-consciousness 1,600-word quote from a racist Hasidic landlord who describes a variety of questionable and sometimes outright illegal money-making real estate schemes, from buying deeds on lis pendens property to driving blacks out of rental property and replacing them with whites. A sample quote:

The building was full of tenants — $1,300, $1,400 tenants. We paid every tenant the average of twelve, thirteen thousand dollars to leave. I actually went to meet them — lawyers are not going to help you. And we got them out of the building and now we have tenants paying $2,700, $2,800, and they’re all white. So this is what we do. My saying is — again, I’m not racist — every black person has a price. The average price for a black person here in Bed Stuy is $30,000 dollars. Up over there in East New York, it’s $10,000 dollars. Everyone wants them to leave, not because we don’t like them, it’s just they’re messing up — they bring everything down. Not all of them.

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your____neighborhood

Seattle-based arts production company Forward Flux Productions is presenting a night of performance and art about gentrification. Called YOUR [____] NEIGHBORHOOD, the event will mark the completion of a 21-day artists residency called collaborate:create, which brings artists together across many disciples to create new works on socially relevant themes.

There will be a range of works ranging from dance performances to multimedia installations that all explore the theme of gentrification. A related show by the same name took place last week in Seattle.

The exhibition will be held at contemporary performing arts nonprofit Center for Performance Research at 361 Manhattan Ave in Williamsburg on Sunday, May 17, from 6 pm to 9 pm. RSVP here. Tickets are $15 and must be paid for at the door, but organizers also recommend an RSVP.

Image by Forward Flux via Center for Performance Research

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It’s not your imagination: The birthrate is soaring in affluent areas of Brooklyn — the brownstone belt — and decreasing in less well-off areas of the City, according to recently released statistics from the City’s Health Department analyzed by The New York Times. As New York City becomes increasingly expensive and inhospitable to the middle class — another twist on de Blasio’s tale of two cities — the birth rate is highest among the well-to-do and the very poor, with middle-class areas registering the lowest birth rates. As the Times put it:

New York has turned into a playground of the more literal kind, with a child-centric ethos bearing well-established variants of urban nuisance: stroller gridlock in gentrifying areas, car services that cater to five-year-olds, sidewalk whining that in some cases becomes its own source of noise pollution.

Brownstone Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and the South Bronx have the highest birth rates in the city. Brooklyn Heights and the Upper East Side lead the city in multiple births. Bayside Queens has the lowest birthrate. (more…)

367 7th Avenue

Since the 1970s, the storefront at 367 7th Avenue in Park Slope has been shuttered. In January of 2014, the whole building was on the market, asking $3,499,000.

It turns out the building belonged to a reclusive artist, Leo J. Bates, who used the retail space as his studio, a story in The New York Times over the weekend revealed. The neighborhood changed dramatically over the decades, but still the space remained locked.  (more…)

tim okumura pink elephant speaks

Artists and photographers who were part of the 2010 exhibition “The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks,” will gather at the Brooklyn Historical Society tomorrow to discuss what it means to be a working artist — and maybe a gentrifier — living in the borough today. Dexter Wimberley, who curated the show at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, will lead the discussion.

Panelists will explore “how they’ve survived (or thrived) in the years since the exhibition, and share how their art has been influenced by the rapid changes in the borough,” according to BHS. Artists Oasa Sun DuVerney, Nathan Kensinger and Sarah Nelson Wright will speak, as well as MoCADA director James Bartlett. The free panel will run from 6:30 to 8:30 pm tomorrow evening at BHS, and tickets are available here. Above, a painting by Tim Okumura from the exhibition.

Photo by Tim Okumura for Fort Greene Focus

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Crown Heights has shed its past association with riots and now stands for the real estate boom, according to a story in am New York. The story described soaring prices for homes and other trends familiar to readers of this blog, such as new apartment buildings being built from the ground up and landlords buying and selling existing apartment buildings in remarkable numbers:

Meanwhile development has surged. Crown Heights had more apartment-building transactions between October 2013 and March 2014 than any other neighborhood in the city, according to Ariel Property Advisors. The average condo price rose to $748 per square foot from $521 between 2012 and 2014, and land prices soared to $178 per buildable square foot from $94.

But development has brought displacement, the story said. Do you agree with MTOPP President Alicia Boyd’s estimate that 30 percent of longtime residents have left in the last two years?

Crown Heights Real Estate Continues to Boom [amNY]

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We read with great interest in the Daily News that prices are so high now in Bed Stuy, investors are fleeing the area, which means it’s going to be easier for regular people — that is, owner-occupants — to buy there. The story didn’t quote any actual investors, though, so we spoke to a few.

Their take? We are entering the next stage of gentrification and prices are still increasing. Investors are not pulling back, and properties are not sitting on the market. (One source we spoke to had just sold one $2,100,000 property a few weeks ago and has a closing date for another $1,850,000 property next week. A commercial broker was prepping for a Bed Stuy closing later this morning.) But buyers are getting smarter, said one.

Here are a few representative quotes:

“The real story is that owners/brokers are pricing things 30 to 40 percent higher year over year so they aren’t selling! But anything that’s about 10 to 15 percent higher then 12 months ago sells like fire. Prices are still up 20 percent year over year on any asset type!”

“There are bidding wars on every house! Investors didn’t pull back! It’s the opposite! End users became savvy and are bidding on houses that are in the need of work!

“Bed Stuy has a bigger pool of buyers for all asset classes than ever before.”

And here is what Alan Dixon, head of one of the biggest Bed Stuy investors, had to say. (Dixon is Managing Director and CEO of Dixon Advisory USA. Part of a publicly traded Australian company, Dixon buys, renovates, and holds to lease out, not flip.) (more…)

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The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is getting pushback from employees and pols over growth plans they say are cutting out longtime local, black supporters — in particular, its plan to open an outpost in One John Street, one of the very swanky new condo buildings going up in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Higher admission fees (they have nearly doubled, from $5 to $9) are also unpopular, reported The New York Times, and the racial diversity of the staff has declined dramatically, among other things. Here’s a sample snippet:

“How are you going to service there when you can barely staff your own building?” said Anne Smith, a former public relations manager at the museum. “Why has there never been a satellite office for black communities, Hispanic communities?” Ms. Smith complained that an administrator had lamented that events at the museum had too much of a “local feel,” and asserted that managers wanted to market to predominantly white, upscale Brooklyn neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

The Crown Heights museum, over 100 years old, was hard hit by the downturn in 2008 and is trying to fix its balance sheet. Meanwhile, the demographics in the area are changing, according to census data: From 2000 to 2010, the last year it’s available, whites increased 89 percent while blacks decreased 15 percent, the story said. What do you think the museum should do?

With Expansion, Brooklyn Children’s Museum Is Accused of Forsaking Its Community [NY Times]

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City Planning Tuesday revealed more details of the mayor’s plan to rezone East New York and Ocean Hill in two environmental impact statement documents. By changing commercial-only zones to mixed-use and allowing slightly taller and denser buildings than what is there today, as well as making investments in the area such as streetscape improvements, the rezoning could bring new life and retail to the area and improve public safety.

We were pleasantly surprised to read the details of the plans, because they sound as if they will work. However, still missing is a crucial detail: We still don’t know the percentage of affordable units — and the plan could be put into action as soon as April!

As we and others have said, mixed-income buildings could have the unintended consequence of pushing up rents in the general area, both because the “market rate” units will be high for the area and because most of the “affordable” units will also be beyond the reach of most current residents. The more “affordable” a development is, the less likely it is to spur gentrification. Many new developments in the area for years have been 100 percent affordable (that is, subsidized), such as the Nehemiah houses, Spring Creek, and Gateway Elton II.

Some details of the plan: (more…)