Brownstoner Reader Survey 2015 Results

Earlier this month Brownstoner asked you to tell us about yourselves and your lives in Brooklyn.

You also gave us some great feedback about how we’re doing — what you want to see more of (renovations, interiors and small businesses, among many other topics) and less of (bye bye, Brownstoner Pets…) — and we’ll continue to keep all of that in mind as we grow our editorial content.

We also heard your excellent feedback about our listings and Forum functionality, and it’s made us even more excited to share some important news: We’re gearing up to relaunch Brownstoner with a host of new features and upgrades that speak directly to what you want to see. (more…)

potty-caribou-041813Brooklyn parents are embracing “elimination communication,” according to DNAinfo, which involves trying to anticipate a baby’s or child’s need to use the toilet instead of relying on diapers. “Sometimes the thrill of being able to go outside and pee is just what [babies] need,” said Sarah Longwell-Stevens, a postpartum doula who leads meet-ups on the topic at Greenpoint’s Caribou Baby store. A Brooklyn factory makes split pants that make it easier for babies to go diaper-free since they don’t have to remove layers of clothes. The practice can help cut down on the number of diapers to wash, but can also lead to lots of spills and mishaps, said some parents. “I kept seeing him leave a trail of pee,” said one parent of her son, whose terrible diaper rash led her to try elimination communication. “The dog looked at me and said, ‘This isn’t fair. Why can he do that?'”
Parents Ditch Diapers for Au Naturel Toileting Trend [DNAinfo]
Photo by Amy Zimmer for DNAinfo

A report on the rental market in Manhattan and Brooklyn by real estate firm Douglas Elliman was released today and it found that the median rental price in North and Northwest Brooklyn was $2,572, essentially the same as it was this time last year. The rental price per square foot ticked up just 4.6 percent over the year. According to the report, this may indicate a period of slower rental price growth ahead. Studio apartments took the biggest hit, with the median price falling by 5.5 percent, possibly because some of these tenants are leaving the rental market to become first-time buyers. One and two bedroom apartments saw modest gains. The largest jumps were for luxury apartments: the average price and average price per square foot were both up 12 percent over this time last year for those units. And Brooklyn, even these tonier neighborhoods, remains a significant bargain over Manhattan with an average price per square foot of $35 compared to $50 in Manhattan.

The Elliman Report: Manhattan and Brooklyn Rentals
Sorry Brooklyn Rents Still Cheaper Than Manhattan

Today the Brooklyn Community Foundation released a civic engagement report examining the trends of voter participation, campaign donations, charitable giving, religious affiliation, and community service in the borough. There’s a lot of good stuff in the 23-page report, but here are a few interesting factoids:

  • According to CouncilStat and 311 calls, Brooklyn residents care most about housing, transportation, and noise levels.
  • There are approximately 400 neighborhood and block associations, recreation and sports clubs, youth clubs, garden clubs, and other community service organizations in the borough.
  • One in five employed Brooklynites works in either the nonprofit or public sectors.
  • Borough Park and Flatbush/Midwood residents gave the highest contributions as a percentage of income to charity. Greenpoint and Sunset Park rank lowest.
  • One in five adults who live in Brooklyn is not eligible to vote due to non-citizen status; in Community District 7 (which includes Sunset Park), it is nearly 40 percent.
  • 71.6 percent of Brooklynites are affiliated with the Democratic party, 9.2 percent with the Republican party.
  • 63 percent of Brooklynites are affiliated with a religious congregation.
  • Brooklyn residents are the most generous in the city, contributing a greater proportion of their income to charity than any other borough.

The average price for a rental in Brooklyn in September was $2,548, according to a new report from Prudential Douglas Elliman that covers the rental market in North and Northwest Brooklyn as well as Manhattan. (The median wasn’t far behind, at $2,350.) That works out to $29.68 per square foot, vs. $52.60 in Manhattan. So despite precipitous climbs of late, rents even in the most gentrified areas of Brooklyn still come in lower than those of Manhattan, in case you’ve been wondering.  (more…)

Slate has taken a look at Brooklyn artisanal manufacturing and pondered whether it could spread throughout the U.S. and revive our economy. The article notes two special conditions in Brooklyn that have fostered this new type of production: a local support infrastructure of shared kitchens, food blogs and markets such as Smorg; and a big pool of high-end consumers who can pay high prices for top quality goods. To go mass market, or at least nationwide, these businesses would have to grow big and Whole Foods-like, perhaps losing some of their specialness. But it is possible, as Whole Foods has shown. Even if they don’t go mass, if the nation winds up with a lot of small producers, that’s a good thing, the article concluded. Meanwhile, Forbes considered the other side of this equation in a story called “The Hollow Boom of Brooklyn: Behind Veneer of Gentrification, Life Gets Worse for Many.” (more…)

Sociologist Richard Greenwald charts the rise and fall of Brooklyn cool in The Atlantic Cities. “All this talk about Brooklyn dying as the epicenter of hipsterdom worries us,” he writes. “Many who once celebrated the borough are now questioning its status, such as artist James Kalm and the author Robert Anasi.” First it happened in Greenwich Village, then Harlem, SoHo, Tribeca, the Lower East Side, and now it’s happening to Brooklyn. Though to be fair, he adds, the Brooklyn “of culture and arts, where novelists sit in cafes; the Brooklyn that Colson Whitehead wrote about in 2008” does not encompass the whole borough but only a few neighborhoods, “while the rest are absent from consciousness.” (According to him, by the way, these neighborhoods are: Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Fort Greene/Clinton Hill.) His conclusion: This is the natural lifecycle of neighborhoods (even if in New York it seems to happen at warp speed), and regular people will continue living their lives as they always have. What do you think?
The Lifecycle of a “Cool” Neighborhood [Atlantic Cities]

Brooklyn was ranked the No. 2 most expensive place to live in the U.S. in the quarterly Cost of Living Index by the Council for Community and Economic Research, a Washington-based research group. First is Manhattan, followed by Brooklyn, Honolulu, San Francisco, San Jose, Queens and Stamford, Conn. The report ranks 300 urban areas weighted according to different types of costs for “mid-management households” — in other words, professionals and managers, according to a story on the report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In New York City, the biggest and most important cost is housing. In Alaska and Hawaii, it’s food. Other costs considered include utilities, transportation and prescription drugs. Housing in Brooklyn costs more than three times the average; a city with average housing costs would be a place such as Erie, Pa., or Charlottesville, Va., said the Eagle. “We are mindful that Brooklyn must never be a place of only the very rich or the very poor,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz to the Eagle. Does the report sound accurate to you? Do we need more affordable housing in the borough?
Expensive Brooklyn! Boro Ranks No. 2 in U.S. [Brooklyn Eagle]

The Real Deal closely examined the factors promoting and retarding the expansion of national chains into Williamsburg in its September print issue, although it didn’t dig up any definite new names. “Pricey condos and rentals are now filling up with wealthy families, who in turn are attracting high-end retailers,” said the article. Increasing density, which is bringing more foot traffic to stores, and skyrocketing residential rents also appeal to national retailers. As has already been reported, Midtown Equities and other investors are developing the $40 million, 150,000-square foot complex at 242 Bedford Avenue between North 3rd and North 4th streets, which will open in 2014 with a Whole Foods, Citibank, New York Sports Club and luxury apartments. That deal, signed in March, has prompted other big retailers to eye Williamsburg, according to brokers. As has already been rumored, J.Crew and, now, “notable restaurants” are reportedly considering 247 Bedford Avenue, across the street. Williamsburg Cinema, the new movie theater going up at Driggs and Grand, will show mainstream films on its seven screens with 1,000 stadium seats, according to The Real Deal. Furniture stores are also looking into the area, claimed one broker, since all the new arrivals need to kit out their pads. But, a serious drawback is the lack of large spaces for big-box stores. Most retail footprints in the area measure 20 by 100 feet. Nonetheless, retail rents are rising on Bedford Avenue, from about $100 a square foot 18 months ago to $150 a square foot. Retail hotness is also drifting southward. “The South side is now starting to see the rapid restaurant and bar growth that first characterized North Williamsburg’s rise,” concluded The Real Deal.
Mainstream Brands Look for Foothold in Brooklyn’s Hippest Neighborhood [TRD]
Photo by nrvlowdown

The New York Times took a look at all the changes coming to Fulton Mall in downtown Brooklyn. The takeaway: National discount stores such as H&M, Century 21 and T.J. Maxx are a step up from the mom ‘n’ pop sneaker and jewelry stores that have dominated the area for years. The latest retailer to sign is furniture chain Raymour & Flanigan, set to open a 28,000-square-foot store at 490 Fulton Street in February. For anyone worried about displacement of lower-income shoppers, politicians and developers said, the changes reflect a return to the area’s original character.  “In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Fulton Street was a retail environment for people of low income, people of middle income and people of high income,” Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz was quoted as saying. “Then, over the last many years, Fulton Street no longer offered a shopping environment that represented Brooklyn’s diversity. Finally, we are going back to the future, if you will, going back to what Fulton Street used to be.” What do you think of the changes?
National Retailers Discover a Brooklyn Mall [NY Times]
Photo by wallyg

Not all of Brooklyn’s old factories have been turned into luxury condos; some still operate as factories, but on a smaller scale. Custom, niche manufacturing is thriving in Brooklyn, said The New York Times. From fresh bread to custom props for photo shoots, if speedy delivery and skilled workmanship are important, it is better to locate in Brooklyn than China. The executive director of the research institute Center for an Urban Future, Jonathan Bowles, said he is optimistic about this “revival of entrepreneurial manufacturing.” However, artisanal manufacturing employs only a fraction of the workers mass manufacturers do. The Navy Yard, for example, last year rented space to 275 businesses employing 5,800 people vs. the 15,000 employed in 1959. Nonetheless, the loss of factory jobs has slowed in Brooklyn. Between 2009 and 2011, Brooklyn lost just 1,205 manufacturing jobs. What do you think? Will artisanal pickles and custom furniture save our borough?
Small Factories Thrive in Brooklyn [NY Times]
Photo by wallyg

By the time the troops came back from World War II, the modern kitchen was one of the most identifiable indicators of American middle-class life. Inspired by a combination of functionality, smaller spaces, modern appliances and good old American salesmanship, the homemakers of the late 1940s were barraged with choices galore, all inspired by European Bauhaus design. These kitchens were streamlined, like the new cars and new everything coming out of the post-war years. (more…)